However, one tool any student can use to start thinking about and planning for their future is an online profile. Social media is very important in today’s world, with regards to careers and connections, but how can one find the right social media outlet that will benefit them in the future? Facebook and Twitter can be too informal; blogs are fine portfolio-wise, but limit the amount of professional connections one can make through the site. So how can students create the right online profile that will draw professionals in? On LinkedIn, the task of developing this profile is simple.
The Student’s Life spoke with Jeff Watson, employer relationship developer at the University of Western Ontario’s Student Success Centre. Watson has experience working with recruiters and students, and he understands the importance of communication between both sides. He recommends that students create a professional identity through LinkedIn.
“A LinkedIn profile is helpful because it gives you visibility,” he explains. “It’s a great way to form an identity, a professional profile when you’re studying, and really start to craft your career. I strongly recommend that students create a profile as soon as they can.”
However, this profile isn’t meant to be a substitute for Facebook. Watson emphasizes the importance of keeping personal and professional separate, and gives some key tips on maintaining that division.
“A lot of students like to keep [Facebook] for their social lives. I would encourage them to protect that. If you’re going to engage with an employer, I would suggest going the more professional route with LinkedIn,” he says.
Status updates on LinkedIn are of a different genre than those on Facebook. “If you’re going to add [a status update] to your LinkedIn profile, does it add value to who you are as a professional and would your connections on LinkedIn care?” Watson explains. “[Updates should be] very professional minded: ‘I’m going to get training in first aid,’ or ‘I’m going to get training in public speaking.’ If you’re adapting a statement you would use for Facebook, it doesn’t really have a place in LinkedIn.”
Also, there are differences between how to approach it if you’re a first year student or a fourth year student. Watson was able to give advice on how to make the best use of LinkedIn depending on where you are in your academic career.
You can look up companies. You can look up people who work for them and look at what their educational backgrounds are, the things they include on their profile. It’s a great research tool.”
If you wanted to do an information interview with someone, and didn’t know where to start, you could research someone from a department and invite a dialogue through LinkedIn. People are more accessible that way.”
Watson also encourages that sending a message that is more personalized will have more of an impact. Rather than using the template for the InMail, customize your message and it will reflect your interest in the individual and that you took the time to get in touch with them.
Watson offers three final tips to make sure that you make the most out of your LinkedIn profile.
Write each section out in rough [before putting it in your profile], so that it’s something that you start and finish in a relatively short amount of time.
Commit to it and commit to doing it well.
Look at how others have constructed their profiles. Look at [people you know] who use it and use it really well.
Above all, keep in mind that this is a work in progress. Don’t be discouraged, though; it will grow with you. Watson says: “It’s a profile that’s going to change with additional training that you receive. It’s a great career development tool for any student.”