Connecting with LinkedIn

When you’re looking for a job or internship, searching employment sites should not be the only action you take. It’s important to use all the tools in your arsenal, and that includes online networking.

One of the most underutilized resources available to you right now is LinkedIn, a free professional networking website that boasts a membership of 85 million people in 200 countries. The premise behind LinkedIn is that “relationships matter,” and to back this up, the website allows you to create a network of professionals to connect and build relationships with. This can be helpful when you’re looking for work and even more broadly when you’re unsure what you can do with a particular major.

Here are four easy ways to maximize your use of LinkedIn:

  • Create a complete profile. Your profile is your face on LinkedIn, and you want to be sure to include all relevant information about your work experience, academic background, specialties and interests. If you’re looking for a job or internship, use this space to highlight the key skills you bring to a position. You can also complement the text in your profile with a professional photograph.
  • Connect with people you already know. With 85 million people on LinkedIn, it may seem overwhelming to find people to connect with. The best way to start is to invite people you already know, including current and former co-workers and supervisors, classmates, faculty and staff members, and even members of your family. When you’ve connected with a former colleague or supervisor, consider asking them to recommended you and your work. You can also do the same for them.
  • Join groups to widen your network. Using the groups feature is critical to your success on LinkedIn. Start by conducting searches of organizations you’re affiliated with. This can include a search of “American University,” your former employers, volunteer groups, professional associations and others. Review the group message boards and post a message yourself to become engaged with fellow group members.
  • Make new connections. Once you join groups, you can search for members that have a professional background that you’d like to learn more about. The best way to start this conversation is to invite them to connect with you. In your invitation be sure to send a professional, tailored message that identifies what you have in common and why you’d like to get in contact with them. This could be something as simple as pointing out that you both attended AU and that you’re interested in learning more about their organization or the career path they’ve taken. Do not explicitly state that you’re looking for a job or internship in the invitation; instead, ask if they would be open to sharing their advice in an informational interview.

LinkedIn offers a series of student checklists to help you use the website. If you’re feeling stuck or unsure of what to include on your page, model the profiles of your mentors or others that you look up to. And consider connecting with your Career Advisor to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in the Career Center and in the job market.

*NOTE: Some information adapted from the LinkedIn press website.