LinkedIn collegeI was in Dallas last fall and getting a lift from the hotel to a restaurant by a nice young man working as a bell cap. I asked if he was going to school and if so, what his plans were.

He explained he was graduating from SMU in the spring, but was struggling to find a job in his chosen field. I asked what he was doing and he responded that he was sending resumes to employers who had posted jobs at the school’s placement office.

He was depressed that he was getting little if any response. He had resigned himself to thinking with this economy that there would be 200 or 300 resumes submitted for every job opening.

I asked if he had used LinkedIn. He had never heard of it. My first thought was the school’s placement officer ought to be fired for not educating kids on how to network through the Internet. But we spent our next 5 minutes together with me explaining what LinkedIn is and how I’d use it as a student.

I ran across a couple articles this week in college newspapers bringing attention to the power of LinkedIn at least 2 universities. I trust college students and parents of college students (like me) will find the articles and my following houghts useful.

University of Portland (UP) Alumni and staff writer for the University’s student-run newspaper The Beacon, Rachelle Leduc (@rachelleleduc), talked with UP students and professors regarding the effectiveness of the site.

LinkedIn allows you to connect with friends and family you know and the professional contact they may have. Through the use of LinkedIn, you are also able to connect with people you may never otherwise have the chance to meet or ask for advice.

With more than 175 million members, students not using the site are left out of the professional loop. Connecting with professionals throughout your college career, not just as a senior pays dividends. Don’t hesitate to join the site because you are concerned with not having enough connections. Encourage friends to join. Reach out to professionals working in the areas you’d like to work. You will be surprised with how fast your network can grow. UP encourages all students to join LinkedIn and take advantage of all that it has to offer. Professor Elayne Shapiro says:

The reason is a) it’s a good source to look for jobs, b) puts a professional face and c) I can keep track of them when they graduate. Professionally, [students] need to know about LinkedIn whether they choose to be on it or not.

UP alum, Thomas Le Ngo (@thomaslengo), uses LinkedIn groups as a way to network with professionals.

LinkedIn is a valuable source of job opportunities, especially as the job market becomes more about who you know. Not only does LinkedIn connect you with professionals in the field, but it allows you to join ‘groups’ interested in the same business as yourself and seek advice or a possible interview.

The Students and staff at the University of Alabama are also relying on LinkedIn for job searching. Alabama student, Alexandra Ellsworth (@AllieMEllsworth), writing for The Crimson White, talked with members of the University community about their successes using the professional networking site. Gayle Howell, manager for the Career Center Satellite of the College of engineering shares one student’s story:

He updated his Linkedin file with the skills that he acquired with his summer internship and within two days of doing that, he got a call from Apple Computers. They asked him if he wanted to fly out to California for a job interview.

Howell added that according to the National Association of Colleges and Employees, 80 percent of all jobs are filled through networking.

I belong to Capstone Engineering Societies [LinkedIn] group, and that is the alumni chapter for this college, so there are a lot of alumni who have membership in that group. When I learn of a job that is for an alum, I post it in that group and only members of that group can see it.

I suggest college and law students use LinkedIn by doing a few of the following things.

  • Get a LinkedIn profile. It’s a de facto resume for business people and will show up at the top of the search results when someone searches your name – every potential employer will.
  • Work on your profile. A profile is much more than a standard resume listing education, jobs, and dates for each. You are given an opportunity to provide details on why this school, why this job, here’s what I learned etc. Weave a story of yourself, we’re all unique. LinkedIn will tell you as you are getting close to 100% completion of your profle. Look at my profile on LinkedIn. It may not be the greatest but I worked at it over a few ball games on TV.
  • Get recommendations on your profile. Not the one-click endorsements, but the recommendations that take someone a few minutes to write a few sentences or a paragraph. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t had a professional job. What about a professor who saw you apply yourself, your boy scout troop leader, your parish priest, a friend of the family’s, the manager of the grocery store or department store where you worked. All of these folks can speak to your character and work ethic..
  • Go to the advanced search on LinkedIn and start connecting with professionals and business people in the area you want to work. Dream big and reach high. People in high positions almost always give back. Ask them where they see opportunities. Ask them where they’d start if they were in your shoes. If they’re in your town or state, go see them for lunch or coffee. Tell them the truth – that you’re honored to get feedback and counsel from them and that you look at them as someone you’d like to become.
  • Start using a RSS reader to monitor sources and subjects (Google alerts) in the field you want to work in. Share some of that news in the area at the top of LinkedIn with a statement as to why you shared it. That news will be distributed to your network and cause LinkedIn to suggest to others with similar interests that they connect with you. You’ll be seen by someone with a passion as well as an intelligent agent who is funneling news and information to their connections.

Does this take work? Heck yes. But it’s the people who apply themselves and follow their passion who differentiate themselves from the pack.

Why be among the 99% of college students and grads waiting to get a response from an employer who’s been presented with 300 resumes.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Coletivo Mambembe.