Improve your job search with LinkedIn

Social media is a young person's game. So why do so few engineering students and graduates use social networking sites to search for and get jobs?

My grandma never showed any real evidence that she could suck eggs. As a result, I've always wondered what useful purpose that phrase serves. In 1948, Charles Earle Funk wrote in Hog on Ice that the phrase meant ‘to offer advice to experts’. I think this is particularly pertinent when one is writing an article teaching students to use social networks! 

After all, the social media landscape was invented by students; from Mark Zuckerberg, who led the foundation of Facebook while at Harvard to Larry Page and Sergei Brin who co-founded Google at Stanford.

However, for every Zuckerberg, Page or Brin, there are thousands of engineering students struggling to get jobs, let alone raise millions from the IPO of their first global business. While this is more the result of the economy than a lack of social networking skills, there is evidence that social networking isn’t seen as a key way of getting a job by engineering students.

A recent IET survey found that most students regard social networking sites as unprofessional and thus not a good way of communicating with professional bodies and, by inference, the professional world.

This is an understandable viewpoint when job-hunting: you don’t want prospective employers to see those Facebook photos. However, the potential for finding employment on LinkedIn is huge. So, here are some essential guidelines to help you do just that.

How to make your profile look impressive

Just establishing a LinkedIn profile and waiting for the job offers to flood in won’t work. You have to be pro-active. LinkedIn provides a ‘completeness’ tool which helps you decide what information to input. It will tell you to add everything from academic and employment history to specialities and a brief summary of who you are.

You should make sure you include as much you can and that the text contains plenty of mentions of the kind of job you are looking for. Naturally, your profile photo should look professional – in it you should be wearing the kind of clothes you would wear to an interview.

Next, you have to put aside your inhibitions and get connected. There are options on LinkedIn to import contacts from every major Webmail supplier as well as Apple Mail and Outlook. You should invite everyone you know; fellow students, former teachers, lecturers, work placement contacts, friends and family. Then invite as many of these people as appropriate to ‘recommend’ you. A ‘recommendation’ is like a LinkedIn reference and will be one of the first things an employer looks at on your profile.

How to use LinkedIn proactively to contact employers

Once your profile looks good and your contact list is bulging you can take action to actually find a job. This is the point where all those contacts will come in useful. You see, you aren’t trying to get a job from someone you already know, but from someone that they know, or someone one of their contacts knows. For instance, as things stand, I have 134 contacts, which means there are 659,500 users within three degrees of separation of my profile. That is to say the people I know in turn know 7,200 people and those 7,200 people know the other 652,300. And I can ask to be introduced to any of these people at any time.

You can find people to be introduced by using the ‘advanced search’ function on the top right of the homepage. You can search by industry, job title, location, distance from you and much more. When you have used this function to find potential employers, it’s just a matter of asking the person you know, who also knows them, to introduce you. Ask away and you will find that people will bend over backwards to help you get your foot on the first rung of the ladder.

What’s the bottom line?

LinkedIn won’t get you a job by itself, but it is a great way of networking, just as you would network in the real world. The best advice I’ve ever had is that ten minutes applied research on any subject every day will result in you being regarded as an expert on it by the end of the year. This applies equally to social networking – ten minutes gaining contacts and asking for introductions a day could result in a huge network after 12 months. Imagine how many job opportunities there could be in a network of half a million people? That has to be worth learning to suck eggs for.

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