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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Column: Facebook for Grown-Ups

My friend Jacob Frank is probably the most LinkedIn-savvy person I know. The senior American studies major has had an array of internships in public relations and sports marketing, including a summer internship with the National Football League. Part of his impressive resume can be attributed to the professional social networking website.

“It’s very important to reach out to recruiters on LinkedIn,” Frank said. “I also use it to keep in touch with people I’ve worked with to maintain connections.”

Last year, when he was interested in a PR firm, he messaged a recruiter, saying, “I’m really interested in this type of position, is there anything else I should know about?” It turned into a back-and-forth e-mail conversation, and the recruiter asked for his resume directly. By taking an active role in the job search and bypassing the HR Black Hole (see last week’s column) Frank expedited his own hiring process.

At the end of his internship with the NFL last summer, Frank also made sure to connect with everyone on LinkedIn before leaving New York City. “I wanted to make sure that people knew who I was and would remember me by seeing me on LinkedIn. It also kept me up with promotions and changes that were going on in the office while I was in California,” said Frank. His effort in maintaining his network proved its worth when he was invited back to New York last month for a one-week internship to assist with the NFL’s 2011 Draft.

I’ve mentioned LinkedIn in past columns, and it made me really happy that people were signing up and sending me requests to “become a connection,” LinkedIn’s equivalent of “Add as Friend”. If you are a college student serious about developing your future career, you should definitely be on LinkedIn. 

The website was started in 2002 and currently boasts its status as “the world’s largest professional network with more than 100 million members in over 200 countries.” Roughly one million new members join LinkedIn every week. A couple of weeks ago, LinkedIn went public and it stocks soared, hinting at the importance and value of the social medium.  

There are a myriad of benefits to being a young professional on LinkedIn. You can connect with friends, colleagues and supervisors, and use their connections in searching for job opportunities. A professional LinkedIn profile can boost your online presence, perhaps canceling out the damage from your Facebook profile.

LinkedIn is also a great job search tool, and more recruiters are relying heavily on the website, going away from traditional sources like Monster.com. Another benefit is that if you want to work for a specific company, you no longer have to wait around for them to recruit at your campus. LinkedIn users can “Follow” company profiles to interact with company representatives and take a more active role in networking and getting hired.    

Don Quinby, a 2004 graduate of UC Davis Graduate School of Management, is another LinkedIn success story. He was interested in a job at Dolby Digital, so in addition to submitting an application the regular way, he looked to his LinkedIn connections. “I found a friend of a friend who worked in accounting,” Quinby said. “I didn’t know her, but we spoke about Dolby and connected. She referred me to the hiring manager and helped me stand out through the referral.” Quinby currently works in the Financial Planning Analysis Group at Dolby. “You just never know what kind of connections you might find on LinkedIn,” he said.

Signing up for LinkedIn is super easy. The harder part is filling out your profile and finding (and maintaining) your connections to fully take advantage of the site. 

A 100 percent complete profile is more likely to come up on searches, so list detailed previous experience and education as best you can. State your summary/specialties tailored to the specific industry you’re interested in. Finally, get a recommendation from a former supervisor or colleague for each of your past jobs or internships. (Tip: the best way to get a recommendation is to write one for someone else!)

Another valuable tool is the Groups feature. “It’s the number one thing I use on LinkedIn,” said Frank. “There’s a lot of valuable information you can learn from reading message boards and seeing what people have to say.” Joining professional groups also displays them on your profile, indicating your career interests to viewers. It can also help in finding informational interviews. 

LinkedIn is like Facebook in that there’s potential for stalking, or the “professional” version of creeping. When Frank landed an interview with YouTube, he looked up his interviewers on LinkedIn. “I read up on their background and their interests, and I tried to tailor my responses toward that to make a connection,” he said.

I’ve also personally used LinkedIn to stalk, I mean, research recruiters at companies I’m interested in. Many of them post their contact information (another way to avoid the HR Black Hole), and if you’re interested in an internship, you can usually identify the “College Programs Recruiter” by looking at their connections. 

LinkedIn is like six degrees of separation on crack. I’m always amazed at the random connections I find (Barack Obama is my third-degree connection – maybe I can send him my resume). Social media is going to have a huge impact on the way our generation finds jobs. Get a head start and begin building your profile.

JENNIFER KIM hopes that these columns have been helpful to you. She will continue to write about career development at her blog, careertalkwithjen.wordpress.com. If you get stressed about the job search process, know that you aren’t alone! E-mail Jen at jsnkim@ucdavis.edu.

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