The life of a college student can get pretty hectic! This past summer, I started my sophomore year at North Carolina State University. I was taking online classes for the first time, so that meant learning how to electronically submit assignments, schedule days to take tests, and manage my time to be able to get all of the extra work done.
Amidst all of the preparation, I completely forgot about all of the internship applications I had submitted in the spring, until I received an email saying I had been offered the position of editorial intern with the magazine Women Writers, Women Books. One of the benefits of interning for the magazine was guidance on developing my professional reputation, and the promise of a LinkedIn recommendation at the end of my term.
I have had a LinkedIn account for about a year, but I only really began utilizing it for social networking when I was accepted for this internship. My father originally suggested I create an account on LinkedIn, and it immediately appealed to me because it’s a site where I can post a professional profile of myself, including related experience and skills, without the extra features of Facebook (videos, games, etc.) or the mass following of Twitter. As I discovered later on, it’s also a great way to keep my recommendations from past employers and teachers in one place that’s easily accessible.
In using LinkedIn this summer, I have found it to be a wonderful tool for social networking and creating professional relationships with people who I may not necessarily have met in person. Each new first connection widens my network to include dozens or even hundreds of new people – first within the Raleigh area, then the state of North Carolina, and finally around the world, as I make connections with individuals in foreign countries like Australia or Japan.
Networking in this way offers exciting possibilities for my future career! Just think about it: every time someone connects with you using LinkedIn, your name shows up in their activity feed. That means any other LinkedIn user who looks at their profile activity or through their connections will see your name as well.
Although I have only been actively using LinkedIn for the summer, I have already discovered a number of benefits of being on the site. I’m pleased to say I have been able to connect with over 600 writers, authors, and editors, who have all been very courteous and helpful. Because I’m an aspiring writer/editor, I’ve tried to focus my connection requests within this industry and those that are related (such as marketing or communications).
Many have extended the kind invitation to contact them in the future if there’s anything they can do for me in regards to career opportunities, and a few have taken an interest in and requested more information about Women Writers, Women Books. It’s exciting that I’m not only building my own social network, but I’m adding value to myself as an intern by getting the word out about the magazine and its mission, and increasing traffic and submissions to the site.
Still other individuals have reached out to me asking whether I would be interested in writing blog articles or doing freelance writing for them. As I’m always looking for more writing experience and the chance to get my name out there as a writer, I gladly accepted the requests. Without the use of LinkedIn, I never would have stumbled across their blogs and magazines or been invited to submit.
Another benefit has been the chance to learn firsthand about different writing careers, so I can focus my job strategy. For example, technical writers have offered to tell me about the good and bad parts of their jobs, and whether they would recommend it for someone like me. They have given me tips and advice on the courses I should take and the skills I should develop in order to be competitive in the job market. As a college student with limited professional experience in my desired industry, the advice and knowledge of those who are senior writers and editors is very valuable.
Here are a few suggestions for students who are thinking about joining LinkedIn or have already joined:
- Don’t send random invitations. If you want to connect with someone who you don’t know personally, make sure they are within your industry (or a related one) and have a few shared connections with you. You may want to personalize your invitation as well, explaining why you want to connect with them and how you think the relationship can be mutually beneficial. It helps if they are located close to you geographically. Not only is it more logical, but I’ve learned that being in the same city as a new connection can prompt them to invite you to local related events – for writers like myself, these would be things like conferences, poetry readings, and open mic nights.
- Personally thank everyone who accepts an invitation from you. It doesn’t have to be a long message; a sentence or two is fine. Just make sure to let them know you appreciate the fact that they decided to join your network. People remember those who reach out to them above those with whom they’ve never spoken.
- Join groups! Joining a LinkedIn group can widen your network to include thousands of new people, as well as give you the opportunity to participate in discussions or promotions within the group. Many groups also offer postings about job openings or advice for those looking for a new position in their field.
- Make sure your display photo is professional, and your profile is complete and accurate. Even if you don’t have time to log into LinkedIn every day, try to update it whenever you leave a position, get hired for a new job, acquire a new work-related skill, or take more courses at school. That way whenever someone looks at your profile, they see the most current information.
I’ve found that many of my friends and classmates either don’t have a LinkedIn account or don’t really use it often. However, I recommend that every college student join LinkedIn, because it will help them build their social network and/or create professional relationships that may lead to a career opportunity down the road. I’m very pleased with how my own network has grown over the course of this summer, and I’m excited to think about my future career prospects. What advice would you give to a college student who is just starting out in building their LinkedIn social network?