In a moment of indecision about whether I should add another major to my mix of studies, I decided to reach out through LinkedIn to a group of professionals in my industry. I posted a discussion explaining my dilemma and requesting advice and professionals’ thoughts on the issue.
I knew LinkedIn provided opportunities to network but I never realized its true potential until then. I received so much support and advice from professionals who had been in my shoes before and were genuinely trying to help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life and how I could get there. I even had an informational interview with one of the professionals I met through this discussion.
A lot of feedback I’ve gotten from students around campus is that they know they should have a LinkedIn profile but they have NO idea how to use it. Here are four tips to help you get more out of your LinkedIn profile. (For LinkedIn basics, check out the CCO’s LinkedIn Networking Page or our blog post, LinkedIn: an interactive resume)
- Connect with people you know OUTSIDE your major/industry
Even if they are simply a social contact, connecting with someone on LinkedIn adds everyone they are connected with to your network. You have no idea who your friend may know unless you ask, but who has time to map out a list of every person your acquaintances may know in your industry? LinkedIn does this for you, so take advantage of it.
**As always, you should be personalizing your invitations to connect to let people know what your intentions for connecting are.
- Join groups targeted toward your industry of choice AND participate in discussions
Joining groups will also expand your network exponentially. However, joining a group is not enough, you should participate in group discussions and be active in a group to benefit from the wealth of knowledge they can contain. You can ask professionals and other students in your field about industry news and your career path. Discussions in professional groups can be incredibly beneficial.
**You never know who you’ll meet—you could be connected to someone fantastic through a group whom you never would’ve had an opportunity to meet before!
- Did a professional help you out in a discussion? Did you like something they posted? Use that as a segue to connect!
If someone says something you think is awesome, or that helped you out a ton, don’t be shy. Ask to connect and, if you feel comfortable, ask for a time they could talk to you on the phone (like an informational interview) about whatever the discussion was about. You could gain a new mentor out of the situation.
**Again, make sure to personalize this invitation to connect and explain your reasons for connecting with this professional. They’ll be more likely to accept if they understand who you are.
- Use the LinkedIn Today news feature to stay up-to-date with industry news
You can personalize what news LinkedIn suggests to you by industry. For example, I have Public Relations Industry, Marketing Industry, Business Industry, Advertising Industry, Higher Education and a few blogs selected to receive news on in my profile. You can click through each industry and see the top headlines every day. It’s a great way to stay “in the know” with your industry even if you aren’t working in it yet.
**You may impress your next interviewer with your current events knowledge of the industry. I know I did at my summer internship!