Social media that works for you
It might be that you’ve just graduated or that the idea of approaching your final year is making you think about what’s going to come next. Or maybe you’re considering graduate opportunities, summer internships and doing what you can to begin shaping your post-university career. You might be well-versed with Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, but LinkedIn may just be hovering around in your peripheral vision. Perhaps you’ve set up a profile already, but it’s lying dormant and underused. Because let’s face it, LinkedIn is many things, but it’s not much fun. It’s not where you go to see a string of photos of friends embarrassing themselves and each other, or to pass round the latest and greatest viral video.
Looking through your homepage on LinkedIn, (if you’re not doing it right, that is) is like the worst staff meeting EVER. It’s full of professional backpatting, and the most flagrant and obtuse display of credentials and achievements that you can hope to thumb through during a toilet break. But used well, LinkedIn can really become a very useful and active partner in the shaping of your future career. Now that most companies have a very active LinkedIn presence (it’s the third most visited social media network, after Facebook and Twitter) it’s a great place to focus on your interests in a way that could hook you up with future employers.
What’s it for?
For a moment let’s pretend you’ve not heard of LinkedIn at all yet. It’s basically Facebook but it operates in a purely professional realm. It puts the emphasis on the networking of the social network; it’s about making professional contacts and reinforcing those you’ve already made. It’s to see who your existing contacts know and who they might be able to introduce you to, and slowly but surely, it’s becoming a really useful, and potentially quite exciting, tool for job hunting. Many companies are advertising positions on LinkedIn and you can apply to these directly through your profile. Not only that, but recruitment agencies and headhunters are on the prowl for people who fit their spec for vacancies. If you use your LinkedIn profile well, the chances are your next job may just come to you.
Your profile isn’t just your profile; it’s your online CV. Present it well, as you’d like to put yourself across to future employers. This doesn’t mean be drab and serious – nobody wants to have dull colleagues – but it’s not the best place for wacky profile shots. Like the picture, the tenor of your profile should be professional, for the most part, but also engaging.
One recently added feature called Resume Builder takes all the information from your profile and, using one of several available templates, turns it into a PDF version of a CV. How good is that?! I for one hate the constant CV updating, the writing in of dates and responsibilities and grades, and to have something which does it for me is a dream come true. However, it’s not perfect yet. I think it’s a shame that you can put things like interests, causes and volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile but these don’t (at the moment) show up on the CV. Also, it’s very literal in the translation of your profile to a CV so make sure you check the formatting thoroughly. I’m not sure that this tool is quite well developed enough to *completely* make CV-writing a thing of the past, but with a few tweaks it may well be. Basically, what I’m saying is don’t rely on it 100% just yet, but keep checking back for updates.
Active profiles will attract the most attention, but remember to keep any posts you make relevant to your fields of interest. With the feed becoming more similar to your standard Facebook view with our trusted friends “like,” “comment” and “share” accompanying each post, people are getting frowned upon for sharing more trivial posts, those that are more suitable for a Facebook feed and that detract from the professional focus of the site. To post a cheesy and emotive career-centric motivational quote may just make the grade, but to post statuses on evening-time escapades and videos of babies giggling … well, it’s just not good LinkedIn etiquette.
Putting yourself out there
The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can really interact with and immerse yourself in the field of employment that you’d like to move into. You want to work in TV? Well, there are many ways on LinkedIn of connecting with people who already do.
Whilst some people may allow you to “connect” with them without , others you may be able to “follow” instead. There is nothing stopping you – depending on their account settings – from directly contacting potential employers or people who you think might be a good connection for you – but be careful as LinkedIn doesn’t approve of people being too trigger-happy with the connect button. You’ve only got a limited number (albeit 5000) of times you can connect with people, and you’re encouraged to only connect with people you actually know… but you can try circumnavigating this with a polite message about your interest and the reason for your connect request.
Another way to connect with people is to find and join groups that are relevant to your targeted area; again, using TV as an example, you can search in the Groups section for TV or Television, or be more specific such as TV editing, TV production and so on. There will be a number of groups that are designated as only for established professionals, so if that’s not you yet, use the tools to refine the search to open groups only. There’s no harm done by requesting to join the closed groups, though. You’ll also find in most groups that there’s some sort of thread on which those who are happy to make new connections can say so, providing an arena for new, off-piste connections.
Finger on the pulse …
Yet another way to immerse yourself in the professional world of your potential future peers is to use the section of LinkedIn that’s called Pulse, which is currently nestled under the “Interests” tab. Pulse is a publishing platform that’s a relatively new feature, and it acts simultaneously as a place to blog and get your own thoughts and ideas published as well as reading a vast array of articles written by other LinkedIn members in addition to articles from online news sites. You can tailor your Pulse feed to your interests by choosing relevant topics to follow. LinkedIn have their own selected board of “InFluencers” who used to be the only LinkedIn members who could contribute to this section of the site, but now it’s open to anyone and it’s a really great tool to get to grips with. By posting thoughtful pieces of writing on Pulse, you exponentially increase your reach on LinkedIn; you can, again, really increase the attention you get from others in your field of interest. And this works – a friend of mine has recently started publishing short articles and as a result, she’s actually getting more recruiters contacting her regarding potential employment opportunities.
Using LinkedIn well really is about being a go-getter – the contacts are out there and this network brings them all much, much closer. It’s a great time to sign up as well, as LinkedIn is developing new features all the time and amongst the current 350 million members, you’re bound to make some great new links and you could find your life as a graduate gets off to a great start.