Get connected to your future – get LinkedIn!

social media 2I’ve blogged before on the value of using social media in general, and LinkedIn and Twitter in particular, in you career research and planning. And students have posted on their experience of how beneficial they’ve found this approach in their job search.

LinkedIn is a tremendous resource, both for putting yourself ‘out there’ and marketing yourself to employers and also for researching:
◾potential organisations you might work for in the future
◾career paths of professionals who are working in the sector(s) that you’re interested in.
◾what Edinburgh graduates are doing now…….

……for example – I used the network > find alumni tabs to discover that there are over 76k Edinburgh alumni on LinkedIn, (3600+ who studied English, 2500+ studied psychology and 2280+ studied philosophy and religious studies ) – what a rich network available to you!

And in case you think LinkedIn is just for ‘businesses’, this is what a recent PPLS grad now working in the health service and charity sector had to say

‘Social media sites are good to connect with professionals and charities who are already in the field and can give you useful hints or tips’

However, sorting out your on-line presence to make it work for you effectively can be daunting. That’s why we invited Charles Hardy from LinkedIn to deliver a workshop to careers staff on making effective use of LinkedIn for career research and job-hunting, and below I’m passing on his hints and tips on making the most on your LinkedEd profile.

So if you think your online presence needs a makeover, follow his advice and make sure you make the right connections with your LinkedIn profile.

Building an effective profile

Charles talked first about the important of identity and thinking carefully about how you present yourself on your profile so that you can be found when people do keyword searches on the site. Your name, photo and headline enable you to be identified so you should use these to best effect. Enter your name, without adding your qualifications at the end, and this will enable you to be found easily and you should add a professional photo to your profile as evidence suggests that people are more likely to want to connect with you if you provide a photo. Keep it professional though – no cut outs from group photos or pictures of you socialising (keep that for Facebook)!

Your headline statement automatically defaults to your current job title but Charles explained that you can edit this to ensure it has maximum impact, so if you’re a current student you could amend this to state the types of role(s) and sector(s) you’re interested in. You also have the option to add a summary statement at the top of your profile and this should be a short ‘elevator pitch’, around 3-4 sentences about you. When you’re writing your summary Charles suggested you imagine you’ve gone to an event and ended up sitting next to the head of an organisation you want to work for – think about what you’d want them to know about you and use this as the basis for writing your summary!

Charles also talked about some of the other aspects of your profile that can help to push you up the search results including languages, if you have them, as many recruiters search the site on languages, along with adding skills and getting some endorsements for those skills. If you’re a student you could start collecting endorsements from some of your peers, if you have worked with them on projects as part of your degree programme and you should also consider approaching previous employers (from your part-time work, summer jobs, internships, volunteering etc) to ask them to write you a recommendation that can add value to your profile (Charles suggested that it’s ok to get endorsements from fellow students but recommendations should come from employers).

Building a network

Charles then went on to talk about the second aspect of LinkedIn – networking. When you’re building your network you should think broadly and not just in terms of the present but also the future and who could be useful to you in a few years’ time, so it’s a good idea to connect with your fellow students now as who knows where they will end up – they could be useful to you in a few years’ time, and vice-versa! You should also consider joining some of the professional groups on LinkedIn for the sector(s) you’re interested in, not only because this will start to extend your network but also because recruiters search groups. Thinking about your headline and summary statement will help here if you’re a student, so that you can show LinkedIn group managers that you have a genuine interest in the sector, if you’re trying to join a closed group where your membership has to be approved. When it comes to networking it’s not just about how many connections you have but how many connections your connections have too (as you’ll be able to see their profiles too), so also think about whether you can identify people in your network who have a large number of their own connections as this can also enable you to expand your network.

If you do identify someone you’d like to connect with that you don’t know or who you don’t know that well, then always personalise your message when you send an invitation to connect with them, so that you can provide some context about why you’d like to connect. If you’re going to do this Charles recommends going to their profile page and then clicking on the invite to connect button using a desktop PC as you can’t personalise your message using the LinkedIn app or by doing this from other pages of the LinkedIn site.

Researching companies and professionals

Finally Charles talked about knowledge. Not only is LinkedIn a platform for you to put yourself ‘out there’ but it is a tremendous resource for career research too ( I did a bit of this above with my research into Edinburgh PPLS alumni and where they are now). Many companies and organisations now have company/organisation pages on LinkedIn which you can follow for news updates and possibly job vacancies too and you can also start to investigate some of the company employees to see what sort of experience they have and potentially identify other companies in the same sector that might be worth exploring too. This is why it’s worth thinking about how you can expand your network as you might be restricted in what details you can see about other professionals on the site. You can see full information  – career path to date, where and what they studied etc – about your first and second degree contacts (your own connections and your connections’ connections) but beyond that it becomes more limited (although you can start to use search engines in combination with LinkedIn to get more information on these people if information is restricted).

Charles also showed us the relatively new university pages on LinkedIn, which again are a great resource for researching what Alumni from your university are doing, and their career history for browsing sectors, employers and even looking at what graduates from specific degree programmes have done after graduation

(eg for PPLS grads, top sectors for:

  • psychology grads –  education, research, healthcare, consulting, HR;
  • philosophy – media and communications, education, research, consulting;
  • English – media and communication, education, marketing, research, sales….).

These pages have a huge amount of data on graduates  – you can search to see what sectors, locations and employers graduates have gone into after leaving university for further inspiration.

And finally

A couple of resources that you can use to help with building a profile and using LinkedIn effectively:

http://university.linkedin.com/linkedin-for-students.html – site containing loads of tip-sheets including setting up a profile and some short video clips on using LinkedIn effectively.

http://students.linkedin.com/uk – microsite for UK students featuring video clips and advice from UK students.

So thanks to Charles for a great workshop – and you can follow him on Twitter @charleshardy.

Time to work on my own LinkedIn profile I think!

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