Using LinkedIn for Your Career Discovery and Development
LinkedIn is the premiere professional social media site, with around 450 million users across the globe. It can be a great resource and marketplace for career launch and mobility. You may think of it as the ‘buttoned-down’ version of Facebook. You can communicate and reach out to others in your field—and those just starting out–and find out about career opportunities and who’s hiring in them. You’ll want to make use of it as soon as you can, so you should create a LinkedIn profile during your first college year, if you haven’t already.
Anyone around the world can view your profile, so you’ll want it to reflect what you know and want and the skills you have to offer. Once you’ve completed your current resume, you can set about creating a LinkedIn profile.
Begin with a photo. Always make it professional and smiling. And watch the background. A profile with a smiling photo is 70 % more likely to be read. And a smile shows you’re likable.
Create a headline that can showcase your skills, specialty, or targeted job. “Honors Computer Science student seeks coding career,” or “International Affairs first-year student enjoying data analysis.” If you seek a position, state it. If you’re having success with a certain study at school, let your readers know about it.
Avoid the dumb stuff. Minimize the use of words like “motivated,” “creative,” “analytical thinker,” “problem solver,” “driven,” and so on. You get the point. If it sounds like an overused buzz word, it probably does to everyone else.
Add media any time you can. HotLinks, PowerPoint, presentation videos, project videos, and animation are just some of what you can use. Not only is media more fun than text, it has energy, which you want to make use of.
Highlight projects. You’ll have many over the course of your college career and beyond, so use them. Projects provide evidence you can do the job. Many of you will have good ones already from high school, so you can highlight a project you’re proud of on your LinkedIn profile.
The focus of your LinkedIn profile is the Summary, which is about two to four paragraphs in length that states what you know, what you’ve been doing, what skills you’ve learned, what you’re good at, and how you’d like to find a purpose for it all. But, as a first-year college student, you may not have much of that. So here’s a suggestion: Paste in sections or excerpts of your resume instead of writing a more bio type of summary. In another year or two, you can craft a Summary like the ones you see for more experienced professionals on LinkedIn, but right now, use that resume you’ve worked so hard on.
Build a network on LinkedIn, connect with people you find of interest or in your field, and engage your new connections. You’ll be hearing the word “network” used a lot as a verb, so you should start networking now. It will help you with your career launch.
Add your LinkedIn URL to your email signature line. It will generate interest.
Join and participate in LinkedIn groups, such as Georgia Tech Alumni, or industry groups from your concentration.
Crafting that Pesky Thank you Note
Armed with your new resume, you just might want to immediately wade into the world of career events, career fairs, employer information sessions, or alumni-student professional nights sponsored within your major. You’re more ready than you think, so give it a try. After you’ve introduced yourself (a sample script for you to adapt follows on the next page), you should be able to engage a recruiter or alumnus/a in conversation. If that happens, be prepared to ask good questions, listen to the responses, and respect that person’s time. If you make a good connection, he or she might ask for your resume, so they can take it back to the company with them. You should then ask for their business card. After you leave, you might want to take notes about the exchange. Then, the next day, craft a thank-you note. An electronic one will be fine.
A thank you note needs to be brief and cheerful, with just a bit of specificity. The note accomplishes three goals: reinforces your name to the recruiter; reminds the recruiter what you discussed, when and where; and provides satisfaction through its expression of gratitude.
Write out a thank you note every time you work with a recruiter, hiring manager, or professional. And it is especially important to do so right after an interview. If you get into the habit of crafting these notes now, it will be second nature to you by the time you begin the formal career acquisition process.
Usually, these notes are only a few sentences. Example:
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me at the Georgia Tech Career Fair Monday, September 3. I am especially interested in your [company name goes here] because my coursework in logistics means I can help with your new supply chain initiative. I know you met a lot of students that day, so to refresh your memory, I’m the one who spoke about my logistics role volunteering with food distribution for my local community food bank. I’ll be applying for an internship with your company through CareerBuzz, like you suggested, and hope to join you.
Thanks for talking to me and my classmates during your information session at Georgia Tech Tuesday night. I learned a lot about how I can use my ME coursework and expected degree to become a consulting intern with you. I’ll be following the application steps you outlined and look forward to joining your team.
How to Introduce Yourself at a Career Event
So, you’re at a career fair and you’ve reached the front of the line to talk to the co-op or internship employer of your dreams. You know you only have about 30 seconds, or maybe a few minutes if you’re lucky, to make a positive connection. Or, you’re at a networking event where alumni are on hand to help you learn about their fields or help you pave a way into their organizations. What in the world do you say to these recruiters, alumni, or other potential windows to opportunity?
You should never expect a hiring manager, recruiter, alumnus/a or company representative to initiate conversation with you at a professional event. Instead, you will usually need to open with what is often referred to as an “elevator pitch” – a brief introduction of yourself and a conversation starter. This is one of the few things in the job search process that you’ll want to script and memorize rather than trying to improvise on the spot. Of course, when you do say it, you don’t want to sound scripted. So you’ll practice your script until it sounds natural.
Begin by using your resume to reflect on who you are, what you’ve done, what you’re looking for, and what you can bring to the company.
When you’re ready to use it, extend your hand, shake, then try something like this:
Hi, I’m [your first and last name here], a first-year student majoring in . (Could add GPA, if 3.2, or above)
I’m experienced with ___; (Defined area from your Core study/Major/Concentration/Minor)
knowledgeable about ___; (Tool, Software, and/or Equipment, Data)
interested in ___. (Aspect of Design/Process/Coding/Lab Protocol/something from Communication/Leadership, or both)
Are there opportunities with [company name] where I could make a contribution and learn more about working in your field? Or,
Do you have any opportunities for someone with my strengths? Or,
I’ve research [company name] and am particularly interested in what you’re doing in the area of [name a special initiative, product, or project] and am wondering what opportunities you might have for me.
Having a brief prepared “infomercial” about your work will help you grab the attention of the recruiter or hiring manager.
So, this section has been all about the communication aspects of your career process – telling others who you are, what you can do, and what you want through your resume, cover letters, LinkedIn profile and activity, thank you notes, and “elevator pitch.” No matter which form of communication you’re working on, don’t forget to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What do they need? What is likely to be relevant information to them? How can you make a difference at their organizations? If your written and spoken career-related communications, in-person and virtual, start from this perspective, you won’t go wrong.
All materials in this section are licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0.