Yesterday, Cornell’s Arts & Sciences Career Services department held its second LinkedIn workshop in the past three and a half months. The turnout was great and students seemed to get a decent amount out of it. I think workshops like this show that Cornell’s Career Services department is doing a good job of keeping up with the times. While emphasis is often put on having the “perfect” resume, or practicing for an interview, tools which make those things easier, like LinkedIn, are often overlooked. It’s amazing to me how many students are not on LinkedIn (and part of the reason why I decided to start the Cornell Social Media Club). It’s not that students don’t understand the importance of networking, it’s just that they aren’t aware of how to use all of the tools at their disposal. This is why it’s necessary to have sessions purely devoted to creating, maintaining, and successfully utilizing a LinkedIn profile.
From Paper to Digital
Traditionally, stress has been put on the paper resume, but in today’s world, almost everything is digital. Whether you like it or not, you have some sort of online presence. This can be through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc., but people can find information about you online if they want to. And guess who wants to? The company that you want to work for. Giving people one place where they can go to find your portfolio, just makes their job easier. One of the best ways to do this is probably through a personal website, but if you don’t have the resources or time to put together a site, a LinkedIn profile is a great alternative. It’s one place where you can go beyond the restrictions of a paper resume. You can summarize your career, life, and/or personal goals, and give a much more detailed explanation of what you’ve done in your professional career. It’s also a great place to link to other sites where you maintain a presence (Twitter, a blog, etc.).
Showing Your Human Side
Having an online presence to show to potential employers or just people you want to connect with is a great way to show your human side. This is something that can be extremely difficult to do through a paper resume. It has been done in some very creative ways though. The Internet makes it much easier to show multiple sides of who you are. You can show your professional experiences through text on your LinkedIn profile, but then also link to a blog, Twitter, YouTube channel, Shelby roll, etc. It’s a great way to say, “Yes, I have lots of experience and I work hard, but I also like to have fun and do other things besides work,” which can be tough to say on paper. There are also less restrictions in terms of length (especially if you generally stick to a one page resume). It’s also really easy to show off your work. Did you have a blog post featured on a prominent news site, do you write for the school paper, did you make an awesome web app? These are all things that are super easy to link to from a LinkedIn profile. Showing what you’ve done is much more impressive than describing it, and your projects often show who you are and what your interests are. Make sure you’re showing your human side.
Building and Maintaining Connections
“People love helping students.” You’ve probably heard this before, and from my experience, it’s definitely true. People are often more than willing to help students. They’re even more willing if they’re an alumnus of the school that you’re going to. They’ve been in your shoes and understand what you’re going through. In my opinion, LinkedIn is one of the best ways to connect with alumni, besides face-to-face interaction. The ability to join groups and search by company, industry, school, and keyword makes it extremely easy to meet people who are doing what you think you might want to do with your life. While I don’t suggest connecting on LinkedIn with people you don’t know (especially not with the generic LinkedIn connection request message), there are many other ways to connect with alumni. For example, try looking them up in your school’s database of contacts and send them an email. LinkedIn amplifies the power of a school’s network, and can lead to great opportunities. Remember though, ask for advice, not jobs.
I could go on and on about LinkedIn and maintaining your online web presence/portfolio. I think it’s extremely important, and I’m glad that Cornell Career Services thinks so too. Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for students using LinkedIn.