It’s Time to Make Those Important LinkedIn Connections

By Gabriela Paterson | March 8, 2021

LinkedIn has become a place where college students go to feel like they are doing less than everyone else. It seems like every other post is about someone getting a new internship or a new job, and it’s hard not to compare yourself if you’re not in the same position. How are they finding these jobs? Why am I not getting them? Am I falling behind?

Believe me, I’ve been in that position- it can be tough. However, I’m here to tell you that LinkedIn can be a place where you do more than just watch people brag about their accomplishments. This platform is the perfect place to start building professional and academic connections, which will eventually lead to those job opportunities you were jealous of just months before.

It’s all about learning how to effectively network on LinkedIn. Many college students don’t actually know how to do this, and assume that “connections” are synonymous with “contacts.” Your goal shouldn’t be to send as many requests and have as many contacts as possible; if you are not putting in the extra effort to ensure that these contacts are relevant to your career interests and then reaching out appropriately, their connections become a meaningless number on your account.

So, how do you actually network on LinkedIn?

Update Your Profile
This may seem like incredibly basic advice, but it is one of the most forgotten about aspects in online networking that can either make or break an important connection. Employers see your profile before they know anything else about you; this is your first impression so you need to guarantee it’s a good one. You can do this by making sure your employment history is updated, your profile picture is a professional-looking headshot with a neutral background, and your headline accurately reflects your current employment status.

You also need to make sure that your summary does more than just show that you are looking for networking opportunities. Almost everyone on LinkedIn is, so it’s important to have a summary that makes you stand out. Add descriptive words that are relevant to your industry (e.g. project management, non-profit) so that employers immediately know what you’re interested in. Write a short introduction that includes your major(s), career interests, academic year, and university. All this does is ensure that your profile attracts the right attention from the people you want to reach out to. Show that you’re worth connecting with!

Find Your Perfect Connection
It’s important to strategically choose who you want to reach out to rather than sending requests and messages to everyone you can find. There are multiple different ways to go about this.

First, you can enter the field relevant to you in the search bar and click on people, which will filter it down to individuals who major or work in that industry. Find someone who WORKS in the field and holds a position that you are interested in- this is the kind of person you want to reach out to!

You can also search for a specific position that you are interested in, select the first few people who show up in the results, and go to their profiles. There you want to look at their about and experience section, where you will copy their role/responsibilities in a separate document. After doing this, look over all the specific experiences that you can apply to yourself and condense them into keywords. This shows you exactly what they look for in employees and what they do on a daily basis. Now you can reach out to recruiters, hiring managers, or just workers in your desired field and use those keywords/experiences in your first message to them. While this process is a little convoluted, it will ensure that you look like an extremely qualified candidate with the right skills or experiences for a SPECIFIC position or company.

A third option is to search companies that you are interested in. Click on people and then filter it in a way where you have common ground. This can look like a university/school, connections, interests, or even just a city, but it is important to make sure that there are some similarities you share. This allows you to reach out to them with a personalized message and connection that will automatically pique their interest.

Send a Direct Message Worth Reading
Once you find who you want to connect with, it is time to actually reach out. Too many times students create a generic, mass-produced message that they send out to every potential networking connection. More times than not, people can immediately tell when someone does this, which lessens their chance of replying and connecting with you.

This is why it is so important to personalize each message to the individual person or company that you are reaching out to. Don’t be too generic or casual- this is still a professional message that is meant to show that you are genuinely interested.

A good message opens with a brief introduction and agenda- let them get to know you! This makes the message seem more genuine and allows them to emotionally invest in the conversation. Afterwards, bring up common ground or something specific about the company that will let them know you have done your research. These small details will make you stand out even more and also make the person more interested in networking with you.

Once your message and request are accepted, it’s time to make that networking connection official. Maintain the conversation and try to move it to a phone/video call, or even a coffee date. This will make that LinkedIn request a long-lasting networking connection that you can always rely on. LinkedIn is overlooked in how it benefits college students; it is a great tool that allows students to expand their professional network without leaving their bedroom, and now you have the power to use it to your networking advantage.

If you are seeking assistance with your LinkedIn profile, please reach out to us at sphcareers@umn.edu.

Good luck!

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