LinkedIn is a powerful website for students to develop a distinct professional identity.
For those new to the site, here is a quick LinkedIn 101:
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 100 million users. It lets you create a profile that highlights your work experience and lets you stay in touch with people you meet at networking events, conferences, and throughout your career. Importantly, most people you meet in the professional world will look you up on LinkedIn, so having a good profile is crucial.
A lot of students I talk to struggle with LinkedIn, since they are still in school and don’t have a large professional network yet. Here are some simple reasons why it is worth spending an hour or two to build a good profile, and how you can use it effectively as a student.
LinkedIn Can Be Your Bruce Wayne:
When you are looking for jobs or internships as a student, you typically have your foot in two different worlds. In one you are a college student still exploring coursework, social scenes, and more. In the other you are a young professional, developing confidence about your future and how your skills can make an impact in the career setting.
Just like Batman needs Bruce Wayne as an alter ego to keep a low profile during the day, it can be extremely powerful for you as a student to build a distinct professional identity online while you search for internships and jobs (and even beforehand). LinkedIn is one of the best places to do this.
Over 70% of employers Google search applicants before hiring them:
One of the most important reasons for having this is that most employers are going to Google you, and for most students the very first result on Google for their name is going to be their Facebook account. This isn’t the end of the world as you can keep a lot of your Facebook profile private – but you will look much better if instead you have something that shows that employer why they should hire you.
LinkedIn is well optimized on Google and frequently shows up in search results before Facebook (for example if you search my name Nathan Parcells LinkedIn shows up first, followed by another blog I write for, and then Facebook). In your account you can link to projects you have worked on and further distinguish yourself from other candidates.
Be Proactive with It:
A good online professional profile is also a powerful tool for reaching out to employers. With a LinkedIn profile that links online to your blog, past work projects, and other professional materials you should start showing it off to employers. You can include it in your resume. You should add professors and other professionals you meet to your LinkedIn account. You can even send messages to alumni and other people in your industry to try and engage them for interviews and other job conversations.
I know a lot of students are frightened about what employers may find about them on the web. Don’t be – create materials that you want them to find and you will be ahead of the curve.
Nathan is co-founder and Director of Marketing at InternMatch.com. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Nathan joined long-time friend and co-founder, Andrew Maguire in starting InternMatch to build a better way for students to find interesting internships. Nathan has spoken at Stanford, University of Washington, and countless other west coast schools on how to find the right career and stand out in a tough job market. Nathan enjoys meeting new people, the challenges of startup life, and helping students navigate their future — feel free to email him internship or any other questions firstname.lastname@example.org.