LinkedIn for Students – It’s Never Too Early to Start

We are asked to speak about social media, specifically LinkedIn, at least two or three times every month.  Some of our speaking is fee based and some we do for no cost as a way to give back.  I specifically have a heart for helping students.  I have spoken at Rockhurst University, the Bloch School of Business and just last week Avila University.  After doing the presentation at Avila, I realized that we had not written an article about the power of LinkedIn for students getting ready to graduate!

If you think about it, your professional career has been influenced by two major factors.  Your skill set and who you know.  Pretty simple concepts, but powerful in its simplicity.  You learn something new every day, increasing your skills, and my hope is that you have a solid work ethic that allows you to apply those skills to the task at hand.  As you are learning, you meet new people almost every day as well.  Your boss.  A new client.  A new vendor. A new neighbor.  A new instructor.  The list goes on and on.  Think about how many people you interact with on a weekly basis.

I usually speak to classes of Juniors or Seniors in college who are gearing up to find their first job.  My message to these students is that LinkedIn is a powerful way to have an edge over other people fresh out of college looking for the same job.  Do you remember spending a lot of time and energy on your resume, and buying the thickest stock paper to print your resume on?  I believe that the smart HR and recruiting people are quickly looking to LinkedIn for more information on potential candidates.  How much more professional would a resume look if it had a link to a great looking LinkedIn profile?

Granted, someone coming out of college is probably not well connected to the business community in their area yet.  That said, they have a bunch of professors that they learned from… many of the instructors I have met are well connected in the community, usually in the niche of the topic they are speaking about.  These include strong fields like information technology or marketing.  So students can link in with their professors as a start.

My encouragement to students is to change their mindset immediately and start treating each new relationship as a potential long term relationship.  Think of knowing someone for 25 years professionally and all the opportunities that can spin out of that relationship.  Definitely take the time to get a feel for each person, whether or not you like them and see them being a good influence on you personally and professionally.  If they pass that test, Link In with them!  You never know how that relationship will help down the road.  The relationship is a two-way street, potentially benefiting either side.

As we continue to train organizations to use LinkedIn to grow their business, influence their peers and communicate more effectively, I realized that the challenges facing a student graduating from college and trying to find a new job are very similar to the challenges facing a salesperson at a company that is trying to find new clients to work with.  It takes a strong skill set or product and a vast web of relationships that can help you get the word out.  LinkedIn will help you in your efforts to create that trusted web of relationships that will be with you for many years to come.  There is no better time than right now to adopt the habit of connecting to people that you know, trust and respect through LinkedIn.

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