So, hey there MIT students. Welcome back from that summer at an internship or trip abroad or service project or R&R at home! We hope you are coming back to Cambridge and campus well-rested and ready for another busy year here.
Even though you may just be getting back to campus, you also may already thinking about that next big opportunity, whether it is a volunteer role, an internship, or that first job you will land post-MIT. I would like to offer you some advice and support in that venture to land that next opportunity for yourself through the use of LinkedIn, which could be considered the Working Professional’s Facebook.
Yes, you can use social media to network and partake in professional development, and LinkedIn is one of the best resources out there to do so. According to Mashable, 37% of surveyed job recruiters find professional social networks an important resource, 90% of Fortune 100 companies use the network’s talent search tools to hire, and LinkedIn is one of the fastest growing networks out there.
Having a robust and engaging LinkedIn profile can be just as helpful as having an awesome looking and chock-full-of-content resume, so here are some thoughts on what you can do right now to stand out in the LinkedIn crowd.
Include coursework and extracurriculars.
If part of your curriculum in that class last semester included working with a company to address an issue they were facing, or case studies from your industry were included, talk about those experiences and what you learned from that process. If you are able to show off that you are learning in class in ways that would be beneficial to the company on Day 1, you are on the right path.
Think your time as President of the Underwater Basket Weaving Club was just for fun? THINK AGAIN! You learned some valuable skills in that role and organization – things like budgeting, team building, event planning, and crisis management. Having trouble translating your student organization or extracurricular experience into transferrable skills for your industry? Any SAO staff member would be more than happy to come present to your organization on transferrable skills or sit down over some coffee and chat about how Underwater Basket Weaving makes you a great Lead Researcher for that one company you are interviewing for!
Show off some of your work.
You can now add images and videos to your LinkedIn profile, so if you want to show off your research or that product you created from scratch, you can do it now on LinkedIn, which gives potential employers an even better sense of your abilities. Don’t be afraid to post your student organization or involvement media as well, whether it is a solo violin performance or that sweet poster you created for your student organization, do your best to sell yourself.
Ask advisors and professors for recommendations.
A little less demanding than a letter of recommendation, a LinkedIn recommendation from a professor who worked with you personally can take your LinkedIn profile to the next level. Asking for a recommendation on LinkedIn from a professor or advisor should carry the same weight as asking for a recommendation letter though – give them time to write it.
Connect with Industry Leaders.
As Mashable points out, “Don’t be intimidated by someone’s professional clout; reach out to people whose careers you admire, but be sure to personalize your request to connect.” Social media allows you to connect to folks at all levels and all over the world, so use that to your advantage, but don’t kill your chances by sending a LinkedIn invitation with their automatic generic message. Take the time to comment about the work of that leader in their particular industry and connect it back to your interests, so that you are selling yourself as a valuable connection, not a random click.
There are plenty of opportunities to use social media platforms to grow professionally and academically, beyond just LinkedIn and others like Facebook and Twitter. It takes some time and commitment to make it work, and if you use social media for professional development, go for it completely and don’t leave your social media presence 50% complete.
Your digital identity matters, and an incomplete professional profile on a social network could be looked at like a half-done resume or a cover letter plagued by typos. Take some time to really create a solid and engaging professional profile for yourself online, and if you take the time to do so now, you won’t have to rush as the job/internship search looms, and that makes a difference.