How To Use LinkedIn Effectively
LinkedIn is an amazing resource for students and graduates as much as it is for working professionals. But few people actually know how to use LinkedIn effectively to harness its full potential. This guide will help you make the most of your LinkedIn profile, whether you’re a high school student or a recent graduate looking to create professional connections for the first time.
As with any social media platform of this nature, LinkedIn is only as useful as the information you put on it and the way you use it. To benefit from its basic functions, your profile needs to be kept up-to-date regularly to reflect your CV. And it’s best to visit the site regularly to maximise its value as a networking tool and to make sure you’ve responded to all your notifications.
Here is a guide to using LinkedIn at different stages of your academic and professional career.
What is LinkedIn?
In case you don’t know, LinkedIn is the largest social media platform dedicated to professional working relationships. There are currently more than 260 million monthly active users on LinkedIn, across every single sector of employment from financial asset management to primary schools to international relations.
LinkedIn is a place to connect with potential employers, as well as to keep in touch with your current network of peers and colleagues. It allows you to ‘Connect’ with individuals and ‘Follow’ companies and organisations that you are interested in.
It can be used to seek out new job opportunities and reach out to people that you otherwise might not be able to contact freely. But it can also be used simply to share thought-provoking or relevant material, such as articles or news that people in your chosen industry or network will find stimulating. LinkedIn is really what you make of it; the more creative and purposeful you are with how you use this tool, the more useful it will be for you.
How to use LinkedIn as a student
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, don’t worry! There’s little need for one before you reach the stage of building a career network. Starting university or college is a great time to start thinking about this.
Create a profile when you arrive at university, and start connecting with existing friends and family to kick off the growth of your LinkedIn presence.
Creating your profile
There is an art to writing a good LinkedIn profile. It’s a fine balance between selling yourself effectively and not coming across as too arrogant! You should include details of your education, such as the high school you went to. Note down your memberships of societies at university that you feel are relevant or demonstrate a particular skill set that you have developed. Remember to include any impressive awards or positions of responsibility, for example if you won a regional debating competition, or were President of the Student Union.
On your profile, remember to add a short summary of your key personal characteristics in your ‘About’ section. For instance, you could start by listing your qualities; are you flexible, responsible, creative, driven or entrepreneurial? You should also include a short summary of your values (i.e. how you approach your work) and what you love doing.
As with any social network, whatever you put on the platform and the way you interact with others leaves a digital footprint. So, naturally, you should be conscious about presenting yourself professionally. Keep in mind that a potential employer is going to see it! First impressions aren’t everything, but when it comes to an online profile, they are important. So think about ways to make your profile photo look professional. You don’t need to have a professional headshot of you wearing a suit, but bear in mind that it shouldn’t be an instagram snap of your latest holiday.
Interacting with your network
Interacting with your network is the best way to maximise the benefits of LinkedIn, even if you’re still a student.
Try to ask someone relevant to write recommendations for you and ‘endorse’ the skills you have listed on your profile. This is particularly helpful coming from previous managers, e.g. if you have done an internship, work experience or a summer job.
When interacting with pages and companies on LinkedIn, prioritise the pages of relevant organisations that you have been part of already. Don’t forget pages like your old school, your current college and perhaps any company that you have a personal connection with. From there, you can broaden your reach to companies that you would like to work for in the future, or businesses that you are keen to learn more about.
Finally, you can use LinkedIn most effectively as an active networking tool. This means actually interacting with people on the site! For example, if you go to an interesting talk at university or a public event, and you want to form a professional connection with the guest speaker or lecturer, don’t be afraid to search for that person on LinkedIn. Send them a message to thank them for the talk, and keep the window open for future communication. You’re always more likely to get a connection in response to something that you have already been part of.
How to use LinkedIn as a graduate
The ‘great unknown’ after graduation can be a source of stress for many students as they approach the end of their undergraduate studies. There is no need to panic if you graduate without knowing what job you’re going to do next. Plenty of students are in the same situation, and with today’s job markets and the wide range of options open to you, it’s no wonder that many people are unaware of their next step. LinkedIn is a great resource, free and readily available for you to use.
If you are actively looking for a graduate job, LinkedIn can boost your ability to connect with great opportunities and kickstart the career you’re looking for. You just need to know how to use it strategically and effectively at this stage.
Finding jobs on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is great both for finding out about potential opportunities and doing background research on employers that you are looking at.
Most employers will post updates about current or future openings on their LinkedIn pages. Keep a close eye on these developments, and find out about the application window and requirements of any position you want to go for. It is also a good idea to like and follow that page, to make sure you don’t miss any new updates.
You can even show recruiters that you’re open to job opportunities. On your profile, this option shows up regularly and you can control which recruiters can see that you’re open to jobs. You’ll also be able to set up alerts via the jobs page if you know what sort of job you’re looking for. You then get a targeted jobs page, based on your preference and emails with new job postings, so you could be one of the first to apply for it.
To stand out from the crowd, you may want to connect with the person who is hiring for the position you’re applying for (if that’s clear) on LinkedIn when you apply. If you don’t know the name of the person who is hiring, you can still benefit from interacting with the company’s overall page. For example, start commenting on or sharing their news or articles related to their work.
When making an application, make sure you have read the company’s ‘About Us’ section on their LinkedIn page. This will often explain their company values and what they look for in employees, to help you figure out how to write a great cover letter.
If you’re struggling to find opportunities on LinkedIn, start by looking at a company that you would ideally love to work for, but who may not be hiring at the moment. Then have a look into the organisations or people that they follow or interact with regularly. This might give you some new ideas or introduce you to a role that you hadn’t previously considered.
Think of LinkedIn like a web of connections. So even if one company doesn’t work out, you might be able to connect to another great one, just by looking at their profile or researching into a person whose career you admire.
Strengthening your profile
As a recent graduate or young professional, now is the time to strengthen your LinkedIn profile. Your aim is to make yourself seem like an attractive candidate for potential employers. Make sure to keep your profile regularly updated with all of the soft skills you have gained recently, and follow pages of interest in your chosen sector.
Your profile ‘headline’ should also be updated to reflect your current situation. For example, it could say ‘Recent graduate in… looking for…’ or ‘Graduate looking for… jobs’.
It helps to interact with relevant posts in your feed to build up your activity history. This shows a level of engagement which is impressive. To boost your profile even further, you could blog about topics related to the sector you want to work in via the LinkedIn article function.
How to use LinkedIn to progress in your career
The beauty of LinkedIn is that it has benefits for everyone, from job-seekers to CEOs.
Tracking your progress
The key at this stage is to be active. If you do something fun, interesting or impressive that is work related, don’t hold back! Post a short update on LinkedIn, and add a photo or a relevant news article if you can. This shows people not only that you’re invested in your career, but that your work really matters to you and you are excited to share it with others.
If you can, ask your most influential or impressive contacts to write recommendations for you. And be disciplined about keeping up with forming connections on LinkedIn with any new contacts that you make, even if you’re working at the same company.
Keep an eye on the updates that are posted by companies you like, and don’t be afraid to make approaches even if they aren’t currently hiring. Companies are constantly on the hunt for great talent. So you never know where your LinkedIn connection might take you.
Utilise your network!
Finally, people love the chance to give advice. If you need suggestions or career advice and you trust your network to give you a good response, post a question asking for it! People are often ready to give input, and it can be helpful to rely on the advice of people with more experience or longer careers than you.
- Check out this guide to improve your social media career networking game
- Have you got an internship this summer? Read our Ultimate Guide to Summer Internships to find out how and why you should consider looking for one!
Follow us on LinkedIn! On the Oxford Scholastica Academy page you’ll find interesting articles relating to subjects you might be studying, and more information about our summer schools in Oxford. You should also remember to add the Oxford Scholastica Academy to your profile in order to join our alumni community.
Master new skills to put on your LinkedIn profile
On our two week summer courses for ages 12-18, you’ll be stretched to develop important skills outside the limits of the classroom. Based in Oxford, our summer schools exist to help you discover your own strengths in a subject you’re passionate about and support you in preparing for further studies and an exciting career.