LinkedIn - A Beginner's Guide

LinkedIn is like Facebook’s sensible and slightly disapproving older brother. It is an ideal way to represent yourself in a sensible light online and an ESSENTIAL student and graduate career tool.

It is THE professional networking site and an excellent weapon in the battle to secure graduate employment. It allows you to connect with professionals, find out about jobs, companies and people you are interested in, join groups and participate in discussions. It's used to present a fantastic online version of yourself for potential employers to see.

Getting started

1. Create your profile.

It’s worth taking time over this as this will be your face to the LinkedIn world. Some key pointers to bear in mind:

● Complete your profile fully. Leaving parts out is akin to sending off an incomplete CV or covering letter.

A complete profile contains: 

● Your industry (this can be the industry you are hoping to go into).
● Your location
 An up-to-date current position (with a description)
● 2 past positions (these can be voluntary/paid)
● Your education
 Your skills (a minimum of 3)
● A profile photo 
● At least 50 connections (more on this later!)

The great thing about LinkedIn is, just as with Facebook, it’s easy to have a good ol’ stalk. Have a nosey at other student and graduate profiles to look for inspiration! 

2. Personalise your profile.

 - You can choose a headline which will come up under your name on your profile and when people search for you.

● Use the university/course you are a student or graduate of as a basis for your headline. Never (EVER) say you are unemployed, instead choose an ‘aspirational headline’. Something like ‘Edinburgh Graduate - Aspiring Marketer’ or ‘Economics Graduate looking for opportunities in Accountancy’. It's much more upbeat!

 - You have the option of writing a summary at the top of your profile (similar to the summary at the top of your CV).

● Make it short and punchy. While experienced professionals will use this as a chance to talk about their experience, as a student/grad keep the focus on your goals, what you want to do and why. It’s a great place to inject some personality too so don’t feel the need to be too prim and proper.

 - When you've finished, get someone to proof-read your profile. Much like your CV, spelling and grammar mistakes on your LinkedIn profile are two major ‘no-no’s!

 -  Keep your profile from looking static. If you’ve accomplished something else recently, be it a new internship or qualification, or something smaller, whack it on there and show-off!

 -  LinkedIn profiles have a swanky new upload feature which enables you to show off other bits and bobs too, meaning you can upload presentations you've done, videos you've made and essays you've written. It's a great way to show evidence of all your skills. 

Ok so the profile is done. Hurrah! Now you can get socialising! There are two ways to start doing this:

Add connections

1. Connect with as many people as possible

There are a loads of people on LinkedIn, a 10th of the UK's population in fact, so there are bound to be people you know knocking about. Start by connecting with them. Find and connect with friends, professors or tutors, any colleagues or anyone who has supervised you in the past, classmates, anyone you meet during an internship, at a careers fair or interview etc.

2. Only add people you know

That said, you don’t have be their best mate. If you’ve met them once, if you’ve had a conversation with them in a Linked In group, or if they are a friend of a friend it’s OK to connect.

3. Send them a personalised message

When you connect, you get the option to customise the message you send. The usual ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’ is a little vanilla. Particularly if you don’t know someone too well best practice is to change this, make it more personal and, most importantly, put the reason why you are asking to connect.

Follow companies and join groups 

Search for companies you are interested in working for; they are likely to have a LinkedIn company page. Follow them and you’ll be kept up to date with their latest news and opportunities. Simple.

Joining groups and participating in discussions is a great way to expand your network. You can invite group members to connect, get access to news and opportunities that may not be put elsewhere and, by participating in discussions, establish yourself as knowledgeable or interested in a certain topic or issue. There are over 1 million groups on LinkedIn- the most useful for students and grads will be:

● Graduate job groups like ours - Graduate Jobs and Internships (yes we know, shameless plug)

● Sector groups related to your career interests (e.g. Finance, Marketing or Environmental Work)

● Alumni groups of your School/Uni

● Geographical networking groups (eg. Manchester)

● Also have a search for employers who you are interested in and see if they have groups which you can join

The most useful groups will be those that have active members - i.e. people interacting in the group. Have a look on the group statistics in the ‘More…’ tab which gives info about demographics, growth and activity of the group.

Et Voila! There is your crash course on LinkedIn. You have absolutely no excuse not to be on it now, so get cracking with that profile!

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