In a few years, perusing through the job experience and education of complete strangers may be just as exhilarating as clicking through friends’ photos on Facebook.
The same way that Facebook profiles can help to find out more about where an individual fits into any given social scene, LinkedIn profiles have become a way for both companies and those entering the job market to see where job-seekers might fit in the professional world.
“Most of the students I talked to about LinkedIn have never heard of it, or have created an account but haven’t really started using it,” said Lisa Sanders, a program coordinator at the UC Davis Internship and Career Center (ICC). “I stress that it is a really helpful research tool. Nobody has time to do an internship in every interest that they have, and LinkedIn provides a way to find and reach out to people who are well established in any field of interest.”
Users can create a profile on LinkedIn free of charge. Under the “Experience” tab, users input information about their past jobs, creating a virtual resume. Education history, recommendations from past employers and a personal “summary” can also be included.
The site also allows users to include personal websites, Twitter accounts, phone numbers and photos.
Through the “Connections” feature, users are matched with others who have similar jobs. The “Groups” feature allows users to search for and join professional groups, providing a forum to ask fellow members questions about their shared professional interests. Job openings, with personalized recommendations for each specific user, are regularly posted under the “Jobs” tab.
Sanders, who is a group manager of the UC Davis ICC LinkedIn group, suggested starting by searching keywords relevant to personal experience and interests. From there, students can join groups and expand their network of connections beyond just people who they know.
Sanders can review any messages students are drafting to their connections or scan through a student’s profile to make them more comfortable with how it appears. This way, students can build professional interaction skills over their time at the university, ensuring that they will be fine-tuned by the time they are seniors and are searching for the big jobs.
“The job search process is very isolated. You start to get inside your own head,” Sanders said. “The first job out of college especially comes with a lot of pressure. The more you start to connect with people, rather than the impersonal postings, the better you’ll feel about the process.”
Even students with little to no professional experience can benefit from using a LinkedIn account.
“I thought I needed to have a complete resume,” said Chelsea Dass, a first-year anthropology major. “Right now I only have a high school diploma. But now I can see how exploring possible careers on LinkedIn can help, especially since I don’t know exactly what I want to do. I’m really interested in talking to people and seeing what their jobs are like.”
Even though many students like Dass are currently searching only for part-time positions, it doesn’t hurt to start developing a “professional branding” for yourself as early as possible, Sanders said.
“If I was an employer with a stack of resumes in front of me, I would Google each of the names and see what comes up first,” Sanders said.
“If you have a Facebook page come up and your information isn’t set to private, then that becomes the first impression. LinkedIn changes that and makes it so that the first thing that employers see is a resume.”
Program coordinators at the ICC such as Sanders are available to help students figure out how to use the site and take advantage of its features.
“It seems daunting, but once they get started, students are surprised at the responses they get,” Sanders said. “People don’t create accounts unless they are interested in participating in the networking process.”
Justin Forth, a UCD alumnus who graduated this past June with a degree in international relations, utilized his LinkedIn account to its full potential and landed a job in San Francisco’s financial district.
“[The groups] were key to LinkedIn job searching,” said Forth in an e-mail interview. “The groups open you up to thousands of people you have never met, but tie you together based off of one unique similarity. These people will occasionally post job offers, which gets you directly connected to an employee that can pass your resume straight to the top of the list.”
Forth’s participation on LinkedIn not only ensured that somebody would be waiting for his resume on the other side of the process, but gave him a competitive edge above the other candidates, as his reaching out demonstrated both initiative and drive.
“If you get your name out there and don’t give up, the interviews will come,” Forth said. “I had 15 interviews and three job offers in a two-week period because of this method. I used the UC Davis connection the most — there are over 200,000 UCD alumni all over the world. That is a huge network.”
By forming relationships with individuals already employed in different industries, students can explore career paths and take note of the steps that someone holding a particular job took to get there.
“It’s not as if you are presenting yourself as a finished package. It’s an opportunity to take initiative and participate in networking,” Sanders said.
To learn more about how to create and utilize a LinkedIn account, drop by the Internship and Career Center, located in South Hall.
LANI CHAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.