Although I have written about using social media for professional pursuits before, I would like to take a minute to emphasize LinkedIn as a way for seniors to energize their job searches. Believe it or not, connecting with people on LinkedIn can be a fast track to finding businesses and job opportunities that match your career goals.
LinkedIn offers students a medium in which to create professional online profiles and internet reputations, research company pages (that align with industries of choice), and reach out to experts in various fields for advice and assistance. This online social network of companies, professionals, and job seekers is more advanced than a regular job board because it puts your connections to work, providing the tools to reach out, degree by degree, with the connections of your connections for mutual benefit. In using LinkedIn to your full advantage, you may be able to research your dream job and company, reach out to contacts within the organization, apply online for a position, and obtain job referrals all on the same site. With over 60 million users, LinkedIn may be your best (and most convenient) bet to quickly make connections in your field of interest and find a job.
As some of you are not yet on LinkedIn, I will explain the basics. LinkedIn also offers tutorials on their website for students and first-time users, so as to make the process as easy as possible.
There are a few basic steps to entering into the LinkedIn community, the first and foremost being building a professional profile. All LinkedIn users, like Facebook, have a personal profile that advertises your professional information to other users. However, unlike other social media sites, LinkedIn is not a place to constantly update your friends about daily situations or to add photographs from parties and gatherings. Think of your LinkedIn profile as something you would be proud to show an employer and co-workers, and a place that adequately summarizes your career path so far. You should add a professional-looking photograph, an eye-catching header, and a strong summary statement that is concise, specific, and pointed towards your accomplishments and future aspirations. You can build your profile using information from your resume. Once you are more experienced with the site, you can begin to request/add recommendations from past employers and friends who have worked with you and know your strong-suits. And finally, you should begin to incorporate your LinkedIn account into other aspects of your professional life, such as you email signatures and resume. LinkedIn offers an excellent video tutorial displaying good examples of photographs, headers, and summary statements to get you started: http://learn.linkedin.com/students/step-2/ You can also check out Career Services’ guidelines tailored to Princeton students: http://bit.ly/auZjCm.
Once you have created a profile, it is time to start researching your career interests. Since LinkedIn is a database of the career paths of nearly 60 million users, you can begin by searching for people with careers in which you are interested, such as marketing or journalism. By typing “marketing” or “journalism” in the keyword section of the advanced people search, you can generate a list of professionals who have those words in their profile, and see if you are connected through your network or share any LinkedIn groups with them. When you click on one of the profiles, you can see their educational information, as well as all of the past internships and jobs he/she might have held to obtain his/her current position—essentially a career path laid out. You may get inspired by his/her career path, or you may find it beneficial to start joining some of his/her LinkedIn groups to meet other professionals with similar career interests, as well as participate in industry discussions. Finally, you may also start looking at the individual’s company page to begin building a strong list of companies for which you may wish to work. Again, check out LinkedIn’s tutorial to see a specific example of a search and its results: http://learn.linkedin.com/students/step-3/
Since over 70% of jobs are found through networking, LinkedIn is the perfect site to begin building your professional network. Even though seniors may be new to the workplace, LinkedIn is a place where you begin building contacts, despite not knowing people directly. You can start off by adding your friends and family by going to the contacts tab and searching for them. Once you have connected with the people you know directly, you can begin to tap into their professional networks for your own benefit. You should also join Princeton’s Alumni Group by searching in the group directly tab. Here you can meet alumni in diverse fields who are interested in connecting with other industry professionals and working with recent graduates. Reaching out to these group members, keeping up with your current contacts, and customizing your “request to connect” message will help you build a pool of relationships that you can use in a job search. http://learn.linkedin.com/students/step-4/ Also, see Career Service’s suggestions for building a network: http://bit.ly/ibzDn1.
When you are ready to reach out to your network and begin your search for a job, LinkedIn is a good place to send contacts a friendly message detailing your goal of finding a job in a specific industry, and asking for both advice and help in learning about job opportunities at their respective organizations. You may want to ask your contacts to keep an eye out for job listings on their various LinkedIn group pages, while you check out the “jobs” tab to search for postings in your area of interest. LinkedIn allows you to see which of your contacts works for the companies with the job postings, so you can ask your contact for help, referrals, or further connections when applying. To see templates for reaching out to your connections, as well as how-to instructions for looking up job postings, watch the following video: http://learn.linkedin.com/students/step-5/
Finally, should you have success in your search and land an interview; you can use LinkedIn to research the people who will be interviewing you. You can study the LinkedIn company page for information like mission statements and general information, industry knowledge, competitors, insider secrets, and ongoing updates to help sure-up your interview answers. And of course, you can go to Career Services to practice an interview set-up before the big day. http://learn.linkedin.com/students/step-6/
As you can see, I have made a pretty powerful argument for joining LinkedIn and beginning to build your network as you search for job opportunities in the “home stretch” between now and graduation day. For more information, visit Career Services’ Social Media Page (http://bit.ly/9y0Fvk) and come connect with me on LinkedIn.