Job Advice

Useful LinkedIn tips for college students

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October 20, 2010
Recently I participated in a Career Services Advisory Board meeting for Butler University where the group discussed hot topics in career planning for college students beginning their Indianapolis job or internship search.  There was a lot of interesting discussion and I could share millions of the thoughts and ideas that were expressed, but I thought I would keep this post focused on one portion of the meeting which I feel was most applicable to all students, no matter where you are in your search.  The topic was the use of LinkedIn by college students to aid in their Indianapolis job or internship search and where we, as employers, feel students are really missing the mark. 

As hiring trends continue on the path of employers using LinkedIn to not only find talent but to also promote their company brand, it is extremely important that students put adequate effort into their personal brand through LinkedIn.  The overall consensus of the group was that most students are not focusing their efforts correctly when building their profiles and trying to make connections, especially with those people that work for a company they’re targeting.  Therefore, the employers in the room helped develop a list of items that the Internship and Career Services office would be working with students on every time they met with them.  Below I have outlined some of the main points that were discussed:

  • Your Profile: Make sure that your profile is as close to 100% complete as possible. If you are simply listing your name, the university you are attending and your major, you’re not doing yourself justice. Make sure to list relevant school activities and organizations that you are involved with to prove that you have been doing more than attending class, eating and sleeping.  Have a couple of other people review your profile for completeness and grammatical errors. 
  • Profile Picture: If you are going to post a profile picture, make sure that it is extremely professional. Remember, this is not Facebook, it is a much more professional social media outlet. Don’t post a casual picture with you in a Purdue t-shirt (which, as a Boiler fan, is hard for me to say) and jeans outside of your apartment. You need to be in a business suit with a professional backdrop. Ideally it would be best if you can post a headshot picture taken by a professional; however, we do understand that not everyone has that at their disposal. 
  • Invitations to connect:  The majority of our time was spent on this topic and how most students mistakenly leave a bad impression by simply sending the general LinkedIn message of, “I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn”. This is especially bad when you are trying to make a contact within a company you’re targeting in your search and that person doesn’t even know you.  As employers and professionals, we consider that spam. In addition to that, why would they want to make an effort to give you additional information or even offer an informational interview with their company if you can’t take the time to send a well thought out, tailored message?   
  • Recommendations: Make sure that you are getting recommendations from reputable sources that can speak intelligently about you as a working professional. For example, if you are part of an on campus organization, don’t have your group’s president write a recommendation about your work as the secretary. It is going to carry much more weight if you have a recommendation from the faculty advisor of your group. This is someone that is in a professional role and can truly attest to your capabilities from more of a “management" perspective. A side note to that is that you should not just send random, blanket e-mails to your connections asking for a recommendation. Either reach out to the person(s) you would like a recommendation from via a phone call or a separate personal e-mail, not sent through LinkedIn.   You want them to know that you would really value their individual recommendation. 

I know a lot of this can sound like basic common sense, but overlooking any of the above items can put a stop to any strong connection you may be attempting to get. When used appropriately, LinkedIn can be one of the best tools for anyone in the Indianapolis job search.