Eight ways students can get started on LinkedIn

By Hannah Schmidt
Credit: LinkedIn
In an age where Twitter and Facebook dominate the social networking scene among young people, many students have ignored LinkedIn. They see it as a place for established professionals, not 20-something job seekers.

Here's some advice: Don't be one of those people.

LinkedIn is a gateway into the professional world. When you update your profile with internships completed, skills learned and degrees earned, you expose yourself to thousands of employers. It's not difficult and it doesn't take long -- but your profile won't fill out itself. Below are eight tips I've learned from professors and from a tutorial given by a LinkedIn employee that I've incorporated into my own profile. 

1. Get an account

This is the easiest tip out there. You might ask: Do I really need another social network with another password to remember and more notifications popping up on my phone? That's your call, but keep in mind that LinkedIn has the unique position of being a solely professional network. You can find jobs on Twitter and Facebook, but you're going to have to look harder than you do on LinkedIn.

Also, as ONA Mizzou social media coordinator Bridgit Bowden mentioned in a previous post, many employers are Googling potential employees after scanning their resumes. If you're LinkedIn profile is fully built, it could land at the top of the search-results page.

2. Ensure your profile photo is professional

This is common sense. Employers don't want to see a picture from your Friday night on the town. Have a photo-savvy friend take a high-resolution photo of you dressed in clothes that fit the job you're seeking. You also want to make sure it's only your face in the shot; don't attempt to crop others out.

3. Include a detailed summary section

If your profile were a news story, this would be the lead. Your summary sits at the of your profile and allows you to immediately draw employers' interest. In a few sentences, tell people about yourself, explain what kind of position you're seeking and describe how your experience qualifies you.

Brevity is key here. The rest of your profile can go into more detail about your education, skills and past positions.

4. Include your current and past jobs under the experience section

LinkedIn has a brilliant online-resume format. In the experience section, you can explain your responsibilities at past jobs and provide work samples in the form of files and links. This feature is especially critical for media professionals, who more than anything else will be judged by living examples of their work. Also, check for paywalls. If some writing samples are on sites available only to subscribers, go back and save PDF versions to attach to your profile.

5. Connections, connections, connections

Despite its professional focus, LinkedIn is still a social network. Instead of friends or followers, though, you have "connections." The more you have, the more exposure your work will get.

LinkedIn allows you to connect with people you know and people you don't know -- but you might be asked to enter a person's email address before you can send an invitation to connect. It's generally good to connect with people you have worked with, but also consider connecting with people active in the industry you want to enter. When you do this, make sure to tailor the message on your connection invitation. You don't want to send a generic one.

Not everyone will accept your connection request. Some users only connect with people they can vouch for from a professional standpoint. Don't be discouraged if this happens. Everyone uses LinkedIn differently, and you won't know until you try. 

6. Add specific expertise and skills

Having a robust skills section is a definite way to stand out. That's because LinkedIn allows you to be ultra-specific -- for example, "Final Cut Pro X" instead of "video editing." What's more, your connections can endorse your skills, enhancing your credibility.

7. Join groups

LinkedIn has open and closed groups. Anyone can freely join open groups while you have to request an invite to join closed groups.

Groups are a great place to connect with other professionals in your field. In addition to sharing job openings, members will seek advice and discuss current industry news. Chiming in on these conversations is an easy way to get noticed. (Journalists should check out the group LinkedIn for Journalists.)

8. Keep your profile current

Your profile should always reflect your current position and highlight your most impressive work. How can employers evaluate your experience if they can't see all of it?

And we're not just talking about college students

LinkedIn is also starting to cater to high school students who, starting Sept. 12, will be allowed to view university pages. These allow prospective students to learn more about the majors, notable alumni and locations of universities they're interested in. You can learn more about this on the LinkedIn blog.

Finally, if you're looking for more ways to freshen up your LinkedIn profile, check out these tips from Mashable

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