Date posted: 5/02/2016

How to better use LinkedIn

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Meet LinkedIn: The professional social network that is a little different to Facebook and Twitter. It's less a place to post selfies and more a place to develop professionally, search for jobs and grow your network. You can't afford to think of it as 'Facebook for old people'. The team behind LinkedIn have thought about you- the student - and how you can get ahead using the platform.

The resume that never sleeps

Your online resume is never off, so hiring managers, peers and potential employers around the world can view it whenever they wish. It's the first port of call for your professional brand and it will usually be the first result when someone Googles your name. You want your digital resume to be inviting, contain the right information and attract the right people.

First, you should have a photo - not something cropped from a night out, but something professional and appropriate. If you can't find a picture that says 'organised and employable', arrange to have one taken. The best choice would be a professional photographer - who will set you back about $200. If that's too steep, have a friend take a good-quality head shot for you.

With a profile picture, you are 14 times more likely to be viewed by others on LinkedIn. A photo makes you tangible and real to the prospective employer. They can see what you look like and how you treat the professional social network.

Don't skimp on your Summary

The Summary is a chance for you to stand out and show off your skills and personality. It 'colours in' your job history and lets you demonstrate your aspirations.

Spend some time thinking about the Summary because it needs to convey how awesome you are in 200 words or less. Try to create a narrative about your experience, qualifications and goals, but be concise. You want to get to your point quickly. Weave in your motivations, achievements and skills, while at the same time demonstrating what makes you unique. It sounds complicated, but if you take your time and mirror the profiles of the industry's leading people, then you'll have a great Summary in no time.

Keep experience relevant and fill out other sections

Not every single job you've had is relevant for your LinkedIn profile. The time you washed cars for summer holiday money probably doesn't show the professional skill set that hiring firms are after. Don't omit anything deliberately, you never want to be caught in a lie, or leave huge gaps in continuity. For example, it might appear as though you did nothing from 2010 to 2012 if your profile is vacant for that time. If you have produced any work that is available online, share it via your profile. Hiring managers and peers love tangible examples of what you've achieved.

Your extracurricular activity, such as volunteer work and internships, should always be included because it demonstrates you're a self-motivator and have on-the-job skills. Any awards or honours you received at university should also be included, particularly if they are related to your noteworthy grades.

Ultimately, don't be shy about what to include. The LinkedIn profile is quite literally a licence to show off.

Build that network

As many job opportunities aren't advertised and competition for graduate positions is fierce, it helps to have an inside track through your network. If you start diligently building your social network today, who knows what opportunities could become available to you down the road. Do you know someone at a Big Four firm? If you do, ask them for a LinkedIn recommendation, as it's sure to carry a lot of weight with the hiring manager.

Join Groups that interest you and that could help you network and learn. Is there a Young Professionals Group in your area? Or perhaps there is one that focuses on an area of business you'd like to specialise in. Join them! Once you join, make sure your profile is well represented. Start participating in Group conversations and asking questions, people will be extremely happy to share with a curious student. When you send a connection request, make sure the request is personalised and references something you've seen online, for example, "I learnt a lot from your presentation at the XYZ Conference, and I was hoping to connect so I could learn some more".

LinkedIn is a powerful career development tool and you're never too young to start using it. Get out in front of your peers and start building the ultimate profile now.