Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why you should use LinkedIn BEFORE graduation

Working in the Career Center at my university, I have found many peers have never heard about LinkedIn, let alone used it. Many students don’t see its value and think waiting until after graduation to join will work.
However, joining LinkedIn before graduation can benefit students during their college and professional careers.
LinkedIn offers an easy way to break the professional networking ice.
Each social networking tool out there — from Facebook to YouTube — has its own unique purpose. For LinkedIn, that purpose is meeting, networking and communicating with other professionals with whom you’ve got something in common. Many students don’t want to feel left out of the social loop by not using Facebook. Similarly, not using LinkedIn means students will be left out of the professional loop.
LinkedIn contains fewer 18 to 24 year olds than other social networking sites.
The average age for the LinkedIn audience is 45. To college students, this might seem intimidating. However, this means joining LinkedIn gives students and younger professionals an edge over their similarly aged peers who have comparable experiences.
LinkedIn makes it easier to find internships or jobs while in school.
One day while browsing LinkedIn I noticed one of my connections (a former professor) knew someone who worked in my field within my somewhat small hometown. I asked my connection to introduce us. One thing led to another and after some conversations, I landed a (paid!) freelance summer gig at a couple of local newspapers. If it weren’t for LinkedIn, I never would have known that common connection existed and, most likely, would never have gotten the job.
LinkedIn helps students build and maintain professional networks efficiently and effectively.
While it’s always good to ask contacts for a business card, if you forget, you can go home and look them up on LinkedIn. I did this at a conference I went to last year. I met some wonderful students but none of us had business cards. Instead, we knew names and connected with each other on LinkedIn after the conference.

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Ruth A. Harper, an Integrated Marketing Communications graduate student at St. Bonaventure University, has a LinkedIn profile. She also blogs and tweets.

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