Creating and fostering professional connections, or networking, is widely considered the most effective way to land a job. Based on data that suggests more people find employment than there are positions publicly available, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that 70% of jobs are found through networking.
What’s more, LinkedIn—the online social networking platform for professionals—is changing the networking and recruiting landscape in just about every industry. In a 2013 survey of nearly 1,900 employers, 97% said they actively use LinkedIn to recruit new hires. Now becoming a resource for everything career-related, employers believe a LinkedIn profile is essential for every individual. For college students especially new to the professional world, LinkedIn can be the gateway to making new connections, finding a career path, and, most importantly, to cinching job opportunities and interviews.
Mastering the art of networking is a long process that takes work and dedication. Spend the time cultivating relationships and you will eventually build a strong professional circle that may open doors to new opportunities down the road. To learn how to use LinkedIn as a networking tool and career builder, follow the advice of NerdScholar’s college career experts.
1. Build your LinkedIn before your job search begins.
Students who are active on the online networking platform during college will be better equipped for the job search when they graduate. Making connections and asking people for career advice will help in your job search later on, says Patricia Simpson, director of career services at the University of Illinois. “It helps to start the networking [and] connecting process before the student has a real ‘ask’ to make of an alum or other connection.” Simpson adds that “most people love to offer advice” and are more likely to help with your job search once they’ve gotten to know you.
By having a LinkedIn profile, Simpson says, students will “have many more resources to draw upon once they’re doing a job search than they would without LinkedIn connections.”
3. Connect with people on LinkedIn as soon as you meet them.
Because networking is important to a person’s continual professional growth, Bob Franco, senior assistant director of career services at Seton Hall University, says students should make it a routine to build connections on LinkedIn as often as possible. Connecting right after you’ve met someone will ensure they remember you. What’s more, he says, “people will appreciate the invitation.”
Franco recommends this approach for all connections a person can possibly make. “Students should be linking to professors, internship supervisors, individuals they meet at networking events and, maybe most importantly, to each other,” he says. “Linking to other students clearly has long-term benefits in that, at some point, these students will be managers and executives—getting connected to them early may be one of the most important things to do.” When your professional network is limited, Franco advises students to connect with professors and faculty members that may be able to expand your number of secondary contacts in relevant fields.
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