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Starting a new social networking site can be very intimidating. It took me a while to get used to Facebook, back in the day, and I’m still not 100% sure what the point of Twitter is. So, I feel your pain and your agony every time you hear or read about LinkedIn being the “biggest thing since Facebook.” Why bother? You already have 1,000 friends and 1,500 pictures and you have plenty of people following all of your tweets. You feel pretty well established. And I’m sure you don’t have time to learn how to use yet another social networking site and I’ll admit I’ve been skeptical, too. So, I did some research to just how effective this whole LinkedIn thing is, and here’s what I’ve found.

Why?

LinkedIn makes you more accessible. Think about it. How many times have you met someone in class, downtown, at a football game, and instead of exchanging phone numbers, e-mails, or addresses, you say “I’ll Facebook you.” Now, you can do the same with employers. Afraid e-mail may take too long or a phone call may be too personal? Tell them you’re on LinkedIn and if your profile is up to date and extensive, they’ll be impressed.

LinkedIn is another place to look for jobs. People don’t realize that LinkedIn is also a job bank. Some companies post open positions on their profiles, and if you’re connected to them, you’ll have a much better shot at not only hearing about the opening, but securing it. This is another great reason to keep your profile up to date and detailed (incase these companies seek out potential employees via LinkedIn).

It can help preparation for an interview or Career Fair. Lots of companies put information about their company, their positions, and their openings on LinkedIn. It’s also a great way to get to know a company more extensively before you head into the interview. Be sure to mention that you’re connected to their company on LinkedIn and maybe ask if that is a good way to contact them after your interview or networking event. This will show them that you’re interested in the company and that you’ve taken steps to do work above and beyond.

Still not sure why you should LinkIn as a student? Hear it from someone else: http://aceonlineschools.com/why-students-should-be-on-linkedin-sooner-rather-than-later/

How?

LinkedIn is your online resume. If you have a LinkedIn profile, chances are that employers are looking at it. Not only are they looking at that profile, they’re probably also looking at your Facebook and Twitter accounts. So keep your profile (all of them) up to date, professional, clean, and detailed. Also, keep in mind that LinkedIn is a great way to improve your results when you Google yourself (LinkedIn usually shows up before Facebook when you Google yourself). Here’s a great article on how to optimize your Google results for employers.

Build your basic network. Start by connecting with the obvious people in your professional and personal career. Don’t be afraid to connect with family members you think may help you in the long run, (I just connected with my Dad the other week). If you run into someone at your job or internship, don’t be shy! Also, join relevant groups, post on discussion boards, leave recommendations. Dive in and get your name out there! A solid foundation is the key to success.

Jazz up your profile. Make your descriptions and summaries engaging. Don’t think that you need to be short, choppy, or over-professional. You WANT people to read it and you want what you’ve said stick out.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from former employers, current employers or clients/customers you or your company may have dealt with. For more information on how to make your profile work for you, check out this article.

Keep an open-mind and don’t give up! Social networking profiles take a little bit of time and effort, but this is one profile that will definitely pay off. Good luck!

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