Employers don’t expect you to have lots of relevant industry experience while you’re still studying – but they do expect you to have LinkedIn. Employers use the professional social network to search for potential employees and to research and vet applicants.
“It’s never too early to start building your professional presence online,” says Karen Cavanaugh, Career Development Manager at the Careers Centre. “From your first year of university, your LinkedIn profile can include extracurricular activities, volunteer work, casual work and study related projects.”
“This shows employers that you have transferable professional competencies, like communication skills, a collaborative approach and the ability to take initiative.”
You’d never create a Facebook, Instagram or Tinder profile without a photo or with a rushed bio – but these steps are often missed on LinkedIn.
Ask a friend to take a professional-looking headshot for you. LinkedIn users with a photo receive up to 21 times more profile views and up to 36 times more messages. You should also spend some time perfecting your profile information – and make sure you ask someone to proofread it for you!
“Build a focused LinkedIn profile including a customised headline and a concise summary connected to your future career goals,” says Karen. “Make sure you include keywords relevant to your targeted industry so that you show up in search results.”
When it comes to making connections on LinkedIn, start with people you already know and gradually add more contacts as you meet them.
“Start building connections on LinkedIn with fellow students, employers, colleagues, volunteer and extracurricular contacts – your current connections can introduce you to their relevant networks,” suggests Karen. “Remember your classmates are your future professional network.”
Recent graduate Nina Khoury (B. Commerce (Honours)/ B. Law 2016) agrees. “My time studying at the University of Sydney has given me so many connections,” she says. “The people I’ve met through my studies are my network, and I can say pretty comfortably that I can reach out to any of them to ask for tangible advice, assistance and support.”
If you attend a careers fair, employer information session or networking event, be sure to follow-up by sending a personalised invitation to the people you met, reminding them who you are and why you’d like to connect. Don’t send copy/paste messages asking for jobs; instead, take the time to talk to each person and ask them questions.
Not quite sure where your degree could lead you? You can use LinkedIn’s search function to research the career paths of alumni from your faculty or school, or of people in your targeted industry. Just remember that LinkedIn notifies users when you view their profile, although you can browse in private mode.
Karen also recommends joining industry discussion groups and forums, and following organisations or public figures that interest you. This will keep you up-to-date with industry news and show employers that you’re engaged and interested.
Use LinkedIn as a platform to create your own personal brand and portfolio. You can share blog posts, photo essays, assignments and links to your work online. This is one of the best ways to build your network. It keeps you fresh in the minds of your connections and allows second and third-degree connections to see your posts in their newsfeeds.
“If reposting articles, ensure you choose posts from trusted sources that demonstrate your professional interest and knowledge of your target industry,” Karen advises. “Choose quality over quantity – don’t post for the sake of posting.”
Not sure where to find quality content? Browse through LinkedIn Pulse for inspiration from the influencers and leaders.
Want more help? The University offers free careers skills workshops to support you in your job search, including workshops on managing your social media presence.