11 May Six LinkedIn Networking Tips for University Students
Before you know it, you’ll have just graduated from school, and be on your way in planning your next steps in life. A lot of positive opportunities await you, yet, as always, uncertainty looms over your head. All of a sudden you’ve got a difficult job market to navigate, which has now tripled in difficulty as a result of the current state of affairs in the world, and the damage won’t be going away anytime soon. Having graduated at such a tumultuous time does not help the situation.
Nevertheless, you’ve made a LinkedIn – either by yourself or as a recommendation by a professor or a friend – but you’re not exactly sure how to leverage it to land a job in your field, or a job in general. So many job listings are posted every day, but within hours you see that there have been more than 500+ applications submitted. You continue to cold apply and rarely hear back.
Arguably the greatest function of LinkedIn is the ease at which it allows for you to network. Yet, you’re not exactly sure how to go about it, or why a complete stranger would even give you the time of day.
It’s actually not as difficult as it may seem.
I went through a long period of unemployment post-graduation, partially due to the pandemic, but more importantly as a result of improperly searching for a job. Through my extensive use of LinkedIn, I finally landed a job, not only in the field that I wanted to be in, but also with an international company that reflected my interests and exactly what I had been looking for.
I picked up a few key things along the way, and seeing that another pandemic-graduating year will be coming out of school shortly, I wanted to share a few LinkedIn networking tips that will help open doors and lead to potential job opportunities down the road.
Put your areas of interest in your profile header
To start, don’t put anything like “[industry] student at…”, “Recent Graduate” or “Looking for work in [field]”. As nice as people can be, they can also be quick to pass judgement. If you reach out to someone and they see “Looking for work in …” as your profile header, it can appear as though you’re reaching out solely to ask if there’s an opportunity available for you, and they can easily disregard your connection request.
Also, while it may seem that putting the #OpenToWork photo frame would be a good idea, it’s not. It’s proven to retract from profiles rather than assist in a job search (see Forbes article).
Instead, you can simply toggle the OpenToWork button to “On” in your settings, which only recruiters on LinkedIn can see, and not anybody else.
It’s much better (not just for outbound networking, but also for recruitment) to have a few of your key interests – the job field(s) that you’d like to get into – in your header, that way the person with whom you wish to connect will immediately see that you share similar interests, and your profile will also rank higher in keyword searches (it’s all about that SEO).
As an example, my profile header reads “International Education | Intercultural Communication | World Languages”.
Have a “30-second sales pitch” in your profile summary
Do you know what is the average time that people spend reading a profile summary on LinkedIn?
Most people won’t take the time to read through a lengthy summary that rambles on and doesn’t really say much outside of what’s already displayed on your profile.
Throughout the entire process of crafting a CV/resume (or creating your LinkedIn profile), applying for jobs, the interview stage – and networking – you are basically a sales rep, and the product that you’re selling is you. Most professional interviews start with “tell me/us a little bit about yourself”. Keep it short and concise. Design a 30-second sales pitch (yes, time yourself while reading it out loud) that highlights the most important points about yourself, a quick run-through of your experience, and the soft skills that you bring to the table.
You can say a lot about yourself in 30-seconds. When written out, it doesn’t look like a giant chunk of text, which means that people are more likely to take the half-minute to read it. Additionally, as your profile summary is direct and immediately “hits the ground running”, it intrigues people to continue reading beyond the average six seconds.
This is arguably the most important LinkedIn networking tip.
Do not cold request someone to connect with no context at all. They don’t know who you are and have no obligation to connect. There are enough people who spam and solicit through LinkedIn, so the last thing that you want to do is miss out on a key connection by giving the wrong impression.
LinkedIn allows you to send a maximum 300-character personalized note when sending someone a connection request. Use it. Give a very brief introduction of who you are and why you wish to connect, and thank the person in advance for (hopefully) connecting. It shows that you’re respectful of them and their time and that you have a genuine interest in connecting with that person.
“Hi [name], I hope all is well. I’m interested/passionate about [industry] and for this reason I wanted to connect with you. I hope you will accept. Thank you in advance and take care! [signed]”
To make the connection even more meaningful, you can ask if the person would be willing to share their professional experience with you, either via LinkedIn messaging or possibly even a video-call.
“Hi [name], I hope all is well. As an [industry] enthusiast, I wanted to connect with you to learn more about and the field, and was wondering if you would be able to tell me about your experience, at your convenience. Thank you in advance and take care! [signed]”
Generally speaking, understanding that you may not have all of the time in the world (nor the people with whom you connect) try to do this with people whose profiles truly interest you – people who are in/held positions that you would like to be in one day.
Ask them about themselves: how did they get to where they are today? What steps did they take? Do they like their position/the field? Where do they see the field going in the future? What advice do they have for you?
They may share knowledge with you that you would never be able to find through your own research. They may also keep you in mind if a job position at their/a connection’s company is posted in the future.
Optimize your keyword searches
So how do you find these people? You’ll need to optimize your keyword searches.
Aside from simply plugging in a few keywords related to your job field or what you’re looking for, LinkedIn offers so many different ways to refine a keyword search using filters, from location to sector, current or previous company, and even primary profile language. These filters can play a crucial role in building a valuable network, all depending on what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking to make a move to another city or internationally, then the location filter will allow you to refine your search and the algorithm will present you with profiles that reflect your keyword + location. Add a specific company that you had in mind, then the search becomes keyword + location + current company, and so on and so forth.
Without filters, the search can become too broad and you could be left wasting time looking through profiles that don’t necessarily resonate with your ideal search.
Leverage your alumni network
This could be a sub-point of the previous point, but I wanted to stress it as I’ve seen it fly under the radar for too many people. While it can definitely vary depending on the size of the school that you went to, if possible, leverage your university’s/college’s alumni network on LinkedIn. This is another filter offered in the search bar on LinkedIn, and it can prove to be vital.
In addition to sharing similar career interests with a complete stranger, if you both went to the same school, that’s already a valuable connection and a great way to break the ice (you can even include it in your personalized connection note).
Who doesn’t love to reminisce a little about their experience at university/college? Even if you don’t/didn’t particularly like your school, alumni networks are quite strong in general, and [most] older alumni enjoy giving back and helping younger alumni, especially when they share similar interests and experiences. So connect with your fellow alumni!
Trust the process
As a last LinkedIn networking tip, I couldn’t help but add a philosophical cliché, although it’s very much-so true.
Building a strong and valuable LinkedIn network takes time. It takes time to get to know people, and it takes time for people to take time to speak with you. It takes time to break into your field after graduating – it’s common for people to spend 6 months to a year (often longer) trying to get their foot in the door. And that’s in a normal time period.
You can get ahead of all of the others graduates who are vying for the same position as you, but cold applying all day long, by focusing on developing your LinkedIn profile (your profile dashboard gives you a badge based on how developed your profile is, and provides you with suggestions to level up) and optimizing the search tools that LinkedIn provides to build your network, that can in turn ease your job search and lead to real opportunities in the long-run. If you start the process well before graduating, then you’re further increasing your chances of post-graduate success in the job market.
There have been numerous “LinkedIn Success Stories” – people who leveraged LinkedIn to land that job – and there will be many in the future. There’s nothing stopping you from becoming one of them.
Author: Matteo Talotta