As Redbirds seek virtual tools to utilize for their career development, many have found LinkedIn to be an effective tool. In fact, nearly 120,000 users from Illinois State University are on LinkedIn today. The online network allows users to expand not only their professional connections with other Redbirds, but also share industry news and trends, showcase their professional experiences, and identify open positions for employment.

The Career Center provides the following suggestions to assist Redbirds with developing a strategy to utilize the tool and its connections for job search purposes.

Getting started

One of the best features of LinkedIn is that it enables you to set up a profile unique to your strengths, allowing you to brand yourself professionally to the rest of the world. To set yourself apart, include professional successes and milestones in your profile such as awards, volunteer work, organizations you were active in, and past work experiences and positions.

In addition, include a descriptive “headline” to promote your professional image. For example, a student looking for a job in accounting might have a headline set as “public accountant” or “finance expert.” Those who are currently employed may want to list their position and organization of employment (e.g., insurance agent at State Farm). Regardless of your employment status, it is important to have this headline specific rather than broad, so that others, particularly employers, know your interests.

According to Forbes Magazine (2016), “the biggest personal-branding mistake most job-seekers make is to brand themselves as a miscellaneous collection of experiences. When a visitor reads your LinkedIn profile, it is vital to tell them right away what kind of experiences you are looking for.” Having what you are seeking displayed as the first visual of your profile will make the job search much more effective.

Searching for positions

LinkedIn is simple to use when seeking employment opportunities. The “Jobs” tab located at the top of the homepage, allows you to search for open positions using filters such as location, interests, and salary. In addition, LinkedIn will also identify openings that are a close match to the content in your profile. Companies searching for talent often use LinkedIn because of the partnerships it creates between brands.

According to the Huffington Post article, “Rather than getting your message in front of one potential client, you can broadcast your message in front of hundreds if not thousands of targeted contacts that have already built trust with the businesses or person you are partnering with.” The same is true for recruiting methods. Organizations chose to post open positions on LinkedIn because it is well-known as a leader in the professional networking arena, and it reaches out to the 500 million LinkedIn users nationwide.

LinkedIn has the advantage over other social networking sites because it a dominant player in global recruitment. According to Time Magazine, “35% of (LinkedIn) users were between 15-34 years old, 40% were 35-54, and 25% were age 55 and over. Also, it’s user base is consistently growing–two people join LinkedIn per second, with recent college graduates representing the bulk of the site’s newest members.” With college graduates consistently joining LinkedIn, recruiters may refer to this information when posting job openings targeted to that population. This can be a big win for new alumni or those new to a profession.

Digital networking

While searching for jobs, LinkedIn is a great resource to utilize to network. The tool allows your connections to see any mutual ones they may have with you who, ultimately, may enhance your credibility. If an employer is looking over your job application and sees that you are connected with other employees in their organization, they might reach out and ask them for information about you. Networking has led to countless interviews and even job offers.

To expand your network on LinkedIn, add connections by sending them an invitation. Once the user accepts your invitation, they can access your profile and even endorse you for skills they agree you have. This further proves your credibility when employers look at your endorsements.

With each invitation to connect on LinkedIn, there is also the option to attach a note, otherwise known as “InMail”. This tool allows you to add a personal flair to your invitation that will set you apart from others in an employer’s network. For example, if you meet an employer at a career fair, you can look them up on LinkedIn and include a note thanking them for speaking with you and reminding them who you are. This extra touch really impresses recruiters, and having them in your network could be useful in the future, or even help you to identify other employment options.

Redbirds on LinkedIn

College graduates account for the fastest growing number of new people utilizing LinkedIn. Career Advisor Mark Fauble describes the value of connecting with other Redbirds, “Students can find ISU alums (using LinkedIn) to help them get started in their career journey.” Those connections may help a Redbird identify a position after graduation. “Since many employers look at where a candidate attended college, Redbirds are more likely to identify and relate to your educational experience and the University’s culture that you share in common, and want to help.”

Be sure to include any student involvement that helps showcase your skills to enrich your profile. Your involvement can include membership in a registered student organization, civic engagement and community involvement, and even part-time jobs that you may have had. These experiences are a part of being a Redbird and can help expand your profile, while serving as excellent talking points to share with employers to make the Redbird connection.

Social networking tools are here to stay. By using LinkedIn effectively, you have the potential to open doors for yourself during the job search. By branding yourself well, applying for positions identified by the tool, and connecting with professionals with whom you meet along the way, LinkedIn could serve as a valuable asset to your job search, and, ultimately help enhance your career.

If you need more information on how to utilize LinkedIn effectively for your career plans, schedule an appointment with your career advisor through Hire-A-Redbird or connect with the Career Center during virtual drop-in hours.

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