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How University Students Can Use LinkedIn to Develop Career Opportunities

How University Students Can Use LinkedIn to Develop Career Opportunities It’s never been more important for today’s students and graduates to use tools like LinkedIn for their career development.

The opportunities that lead to career success are in more places and connected to more people than ever before. Even as the world of work has been drastically transformed by cultural, societal, and technological trends in the last 10 to 15 years’ education has changed very little in the past 150 years.

Education is not keeping up with the realities facing students, and students are letting themselves down, even when they have more options than ever before to learn and succeed outside of formal education. At the same time, less graduates are getting the jobs they truly want and feel like they deserve. If LinkedIn is the number one place for career opportunities why aren’t students and graduates using it more effectively? Where is the disconnect?

LinkedIn is perhaps one of the least used and understood social media platforms by students and young adults between the ages of 18 – 25. I believe this comes down to the combination of three main objections from this demographic:

  1. We don’t think LinkedIn is for us.
  2. We don’t have time to use LinkedIn.
  3. We don’t know how to use LinkedIn.

Getting Students Started on LinkedIn

Some of the biggest barriers for the use of LinkedIn by this demographic is the clear lack of interest and confidence. When a young person visits LinkedIn for the first time they don’t usually feel like they fit in, and with good reason. The vast majority of LinkedIn’s membership is composed of older and more experienced professionals.

This is not the place that caters to a student or young graduate looking for immediate gratification as many other apps and services provide. A professional brand and network are things that take time to develop, especially at the very beginning, and you never stop nurturing it no matter how experienced or successful you are.

How University Faculty Can Encourage Students to Use LinkedIn:

  1. Encourage students to go to linkedin.com to register if they haven’t already. It’s free and only takes 5-10 minutes. At this point students, shouldn’t worry too much about what they put on their profile as they can always come back once they understand more about LinkedIn. They can start by filling in the basics and perhaps even connect with some fellow students and people at the university.
  2. Visit the LinkedIn for Students page to get an overview of what the tool can do for students and graduates. A range of different resources are available from tip sheets to videos covering the most important topics for getting started on LinkedIn.
  3. Encourage students to visit your university page on LinkedIn where they can discover career insights from your alumni – where they live, where they work, and what they do. This is one of the best groups of people to start with when students need inspiration on LinkedIn that they can easily identify with. It’s also usually the group who is most likely to accept connection requests and respond to student messages on LinkedIn as long as they’re customized and written professionally. This is a great confidence booster.
  4. Use LinkedIn’s advanced search filters to find people, jobs, posts, companies, and groups that may be relevant for your students. This will highlight the vast amount of learning opportunities available from what you will see on profiles, articles, career pages, company pages, and interest groups covering a vast range of topics. It also gives students an opportunity to spot valuable industry influencers and important trends happening in those industries they’re interested in.
  5. Finally, ask students to choose an update or article on LinkedIn related to their area of study and/or professional interests by searching under the ‘Posts’ filter. Once they do this ask them to like, comment, and share the update with their LinkedIn network. They should consider following and connecting with the author/source if they’re interested in what they have to say.

LinkedIn Videos to Help Inspire Students

You’ll notice many articles out there concentrate on building your LinkedIn profile, networking effectively, and publishing on LinkedIn but many of these simply don’t appeal with students and young graduates who don’t have a foundation to build upon. Your first objective is making students feel like they belong on LinkedIn. Here are some videos I like to share with the students and universities I work with in the UK (you can find hundreds more on the LinkedIn YouTube Channel):

Help students feel like they belong on LinkedIn

“To help students feel like they belong on LinkedIn you need to guide them through LinkedIn based on their personalities, interests, skills, values, ambitions and needs. There is something there for everyone if you know how and where to look.”

Create a Daily Habit with LinkedIn

Another objection to using LinkedIn is that there simply isn’t enough time to use it with everything else that university staff and students are expected to do. It’s much easier to follow existing curriculums, assessments, and degree plans than to try something new.

Before one of my workshops I was shocked to hear from a career services representative that the reason they didn’t run LinkedIn workshops is that these would be too time and labor intensive. What I could tell from looking at her almost non-existent LinkedIn profile is that she clearly didn’t understand or care about LinkedIn, most likely both. What kind of career services example is that for students?

Many universities see LinkedIn as something in the periphery of their realms that doesn’t need to take up valuable time from lectures, studying, and exam preparation.  To make matters worse this reinforces the assumptions of students that LinkedIn isn’t for them and that it takes too much time and won’t help them in the short-term.

Recommendations:

  1. Students and graduates should be spending a minimum of 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn. Why 10 minutes? It gives them just enough time to do one thing that enhances their professional brand, for example – liking, commenting, or sharing an update, sending a few connection requests, following new influencers, or completing one section of their profile. That’s nearly 5 hours a month, 2.3 days a year, that will completely transform the way students approach career development on LinkedIn. It’s easy to set reminders and to schedule this but it would be even better if it was built into a course. It would only take a few days of workshops to do a year’s worth of learning! I’m sure many students are spending much more than that on Netflix these days.
  2. Another way to think about this is the time that students are already spending looking and applying for jobs, preparing their resumes, and attending mock interviews. It’s unbelievable how much time and effort students and graduates still dedicate to traditional ways of searching and applying for jobs and then end up frustrated because what they experience fails to meet their expectations. What if you told them that they could spend less time, be more focused, and have a bigger return on their investment by using LinkedIn? You would be saving them countless hours, pointing them to the most relevant people and jobs, and showing them a much better way of increasing their success of getting the career they want, not just a job.
  3. Finally, one of the best ways of handling the time objection is to ask students to take a leap of faith on LinkedIn. What is one of the coolest things that could happen to you on LinkedIn? This is where I challenged a group of university students to get out of their comfort zones and dream big. Go and try to connect with the top influencers in your industry, try to schedule a call or coffee with a professional or leader you admire, publish your first article on LinkedIn and try to get hundreds of new followers, or research company insights and connections and use them to rock your interviews. The most fulfillment I get from my workshops is seeing students surprise themselves when they redefine what they can achieve through small actions on LinkedIn.

Realize how this can change the course of your life.

“The question of how much time do I need to spend on LinkedIn becomes irrelevant when you discover doors you didn’t know existed and realize how this can change the course of your life.”

Learning How to Apply LinkedIn Beyond the Basics

Learning how to use LinkedIn is the most challenging aspect for universities and students. It’s not because it’s a complicated tool. It’s because it requires a shift in mindset and a different set of skills from what you would expect to need for academic success. Even once you realize that LinkedIn is for you, and you make the time for it, you still need to apply it in the best way possible. It’s easy to get discouraged if you expect quick results.

Recommendations:

  1. Students should look up their LinkedIn score, or officially known as the Social Selling Index, to see how they’re currently doing based on four categories – professional brand, find the right people, engage with insights, and build relationships. Everyone who is registered on LinkedIn can access their score here and see what each category means. This was created by LinkedIn Sales Solutions for their sales customers but it can apply to anyone. It’s a useful metric to help you understand the type of activities that form the vast majority of how you will use LinkedIn. Everyone starts with a low score but luckily it’s refreshed every 24 hours so you will constantly see how your small actions are helping you improve in each of the four categories.
  2. There is a great article called 10 Tips for Students and New Grads on LinkedIn that will help students focus on the essentials of their professional brand. Every student and graduate should spend time completing each of the sections discussed in that article as they form the foundation of success on LinkedIn.
  3. Finally, if you really want to go beyond the basics then students and graduates need to be publishing their own articles on LinkedIn. This is the biggest challenge for even most professionals and many have never attempted and will never attempt to publish their own articles. Finding your voice and sharing your ideas is one of the best ways to get noticed on LinkedIn beyond your profile or your updates. It’s also the best way to reach hundreds and thousands of people who could potentially lead to amazing opportunities. Direct your students to visit the LinkedIn Student Publishing page to get tips and guidelines. Here’s a good article on this subject from LinkedIn’s editor called Here’s What I Tell People When They Ask How to Crush it as a LinkedIn Writer. There is something truly spectacular that I’ve seen with the students who publish on LinkedIn – most of them are the most active on LinkedIn and have eventually received internships and job offers within months of implementing these strategies. One student who attended one of my workshops and implemented these strategies received three highly coveted internship offers in the banking and financial industry.

Help your students and graduates understand who they are and who they want to become

“Help your students and graduates understand who they are and who they want to become and they will naturally learn what matters to them through their use of LinkedIn.”

I hope this has helped you see the immense opportunities that LinkedIn can offer universities and students. Whether you’re an educator, student, or a parent this can be applied by anyone who believes that education and career development needs to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Let’s prepare for the careers of today and tomorrow.

If you know of a student or university that could benefit from this article, please share it with them.

Miguel Angel Garcia Miguel combines his love for travel, learning, storytelling, innovation, and entrepreneurship to deliver a high-caliber service as an InStruct Program Manager, in the Customer Education Operations team at LinkedIn. Responsible for running, evolving and scaling the existing LinkedIn Sales Navigator InStruct program globally, Miguel’s main goal is to inspire his customers to exceed and redefine their standards and expectations.

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