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Too frequently students’ scramble around at the end of their degrees to urgently craft their CVs and cultivate the networks necessary to get themselves into employment.

Don’t fall into this trap. You should try to get ahead of the game and take the simple step of setting up a LinkedIn profile in your first year.

LinkedIn is a platform that enables you to create a positive online presence to showcase your skills and experience to potential employers. However, before you get started it is important that you spend some time thinking about your professional image and understand how you can make the most of LinkedIn.

The basics

Getting the basics right is the first step along the way to using LinkedIn to catch the eye of potential employers.

Profile picture

You should have a professional looking picture rather than a fun ‘selfie’. A photo completes the profile and enables viewers to get a snapshot of the person. Avoid having anyone else in the photo, wear something smart and have a neutral background.

Identify your industry of interest

This will help tailor the type of information you receive on LinkedIn and ensure that it is relevant to your planned career path.

Review your profile carefully

Make sure your profile is current and complete. Take the time to check spelling and grammar. You want to make a positive first impression and mistakes demonstrate that you do not have an eye for detail.

Follow the networking rules

This is not Facebook so be mindful of how you communicate with people on LinkedIn, your tone, the information that you share and how you approach potential contacts is important and can impact how successful you are in developing your network.

How LinkedIn can support your career

Once you’ve built your profile you should start exploring LinkedIn’s different functionalities to help you learn more about the sector you want to work in and to build networks within it.

Initiate and develop your alumni network

Your peers are your future network. You can use LinkedIn to track the progress of each other’s careers and maintain contact with people who you may end up doing business with in the future.

Make contacts with people in your chosen sector

Explore sectors that you are interested in working in. Are there any alumni from your current institution already working in this sector and would it be appropriate to make a connection? Try attending industry events as this can be an opportunity to make introductions and start to network.

Don’t just ask for favours

People are unlikely to respond if your first message is to ask them for a job. It may be more appropriate to ask them for insight or to find out how they developed their career.

This approach is more subtle and demonstrates that you want to learn. The potential bonus is that you might be on their radar when a future opportunity comes up.

Research organisations that you are interested in working for

Most companies have a LinkedIn presence so this can be a good place to start your research. You can look at the profiles of people who work for the organisation, which can be of value if preparing for an interview.

Understand what employers are looking for

You can search or browse job vacancies to get an understanding of the skills and competencies that employers are looking for. This is a good way of finding out what skills you may need to learn in order to progress down your chosen career path.

Join groups that match your career interests

If you are interested in a specific sector you can join groups on LinkedIn to learn about the latest issues and insights that are happening within it. You can also ask questions to members of the group, which might help you establish relationships and develop your network.

Make the most of your work experience

It is important that you regularly revisit your profile when you have completed an internship or developed your skills through volunteering and other work experience. The contacts you make on these placements become part of your network and they may even endorse your work.

List achievements, skills and competencies developed throughout your degree

Not only does this ensure that you reflect on your experience and identify the skills you have improved but it also highlights your strengths to potential employers.

Employers want to understand what you can offer their organisation and what you have done whilst studying for your degree.


23rd October 2014

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