As Northeastern students, we are faced with the challenge of making career choices as young as 18 years old – happy adulthood! Besides the standard checklist that comes with job searching—write a resume, create a cover letter, clean up your Facebook and get rid of any pictures featuring a red cup—we have another less clear-cut task to complete. The catchphrase is drilled into our heads from every direction: network, network, network! But how?
The answer is LinkedIn, the site students and graduates alike turn to to build profiles advertising themselves to future employers, seek out job opportunities and network with industry professionals. But for college students who are accustomed to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the transition to a professional site can be daunting and confusing.
Craig Bettinson, director of cooperative education for the College of Arts, Media and Design, laid out the best ways to utilize LinkedIn, emphasizing that it is a space to put forward a professional image online.
Bettinson described the site as an extension of a resume, which is typically whittled down to one page. In an online setting, Bettinson said, students can include as much relevant information as they want. “It really gives you that added space and that added ability to show off multiple sides of yourself as it relates to your field of interest,” Bettinson said. He encouraged students to post classes they have taken, grades and extra curricular activities or other abilities, and to take advantage of the “skills and expertise” section.
When it comes to networking on LinkedIn, Bettinson’s advice is to “tread lightly.” All too often, he said, he sees students reach out in the wrong way and turn off people who could otherwise be important connections. The most commonly committed networking crime he has observed is students and graduates directly approaching someone on LinkedIn and asking for a job. “It’s sort of hard for them to take it at face value and say, ‘I have no clue who this person is but, hey, I’m going to go ahead and get them a job,”’ he explained.
Instead, act online as you would in person. Bettinson offered the example of what a student would do if their dream employer walked past her in person, which would likely be to talk to and get to know him before throwing a resume in his face.
The best way to network, according to Bettinson, is to go through a second-degree connection, meaning connect with a friend of a friend. He also said joining groups can create a connection between a student and people in the same field of interest, generating open forums and the opportunity to connect with either everyone in the group or individuals within it.
Elizabeth Correnti, who graduated from Northeastern last spring, utilized LinkedIn to find a job after graduation by connecting with everyone she had worked with while on co-op, checking on positions daily and making the most of the connections she had. She said she thought of her LinkedIn as her “employable brand.”
When a public relations position popped up at a tech company called EMC, Correnti jumped on it immediately and sent her resume and cover letter in early. She also used her professional network to find a connection who knew someone in the public relations department at EMC, which got her resume sent to the top of the pile. After a series of interviews, Correnti was presented with a job offer just three to four weeks after that initial step.
“I think what made me successful was a mixture of finding the job on LinkedIn and always checking, being persistent with LinkedIn and then reaching out to my own network,” Correnti said. “There is only so much you can see about a person from LinkedIn or their resume, so it’s that personal contact, knowing someone who knows someone is also an important part,” she said.
The breakdown of LinkedIn tips from Bettinson and Correnti:
- DO have a profile picture. It should be professional headshot of only you; no awkward arms around you from the person that was cut out. It makes you more personable and memorable to future employers who interview multiple candidates.
- DO keep up with what people are doing, industry news and company updates. Comment on articles and postings to remain relevant on the homepages of employers.
- DON’T send your resume to people you don’t know, or ask them for a job without getting to know them first.
- DO try to connect with professors, but don’t be offended if they reject your request. Some professors prefer to keep their accounts just for personal social networks.
- DON’T request people who you’re not sure would want to connect with you—they have the ability to reject your request and flag your profile, making it harder for you to request connections in the future. If you must contact them, use email.
- DO connect with a potential employer who you clicked with, and who wants to stay in touch to consider you for potential jobs.
- DON’T request to connect with employers who you interviewed with if you did not get the position and you did not get good vibes from the employer.
- DO get familiar with the refresh button when job searching on LinkedIn. Log on often to see job openings when they are first posted to get your resume in early.
Kelsey is the Bon Appetit Editor for Woof Magazine, and is a third year Journalism student with a minor in International Affairs. In addition to Woof, her writing has been published on the Shoebuy.com blog, The Fashion and Retail Society of Northeastern’s blog, and on the New England Newspaper Press Association’s website. Kelsey is an aspiring fashion and lifestyle writer (with her own blog- see a pattern here?), and has a serious infatuation with fashion magazines, The Coveteur and anything Christmas related. Her proudest moment was being tweeted back by Glamour Fashion, and she performs at NU basketball games as a member of the Northeastern Dance Team.