How To Use LinkedIn To Stand Out Among the Crowd: Professional Social Network Hacks That Work

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According to a recent Mashable article, 37 percent of surveyed job recruiters identify social (professional) networks as one of the most important sources for hiring. Additionally, 90 of the Fortune 100 companies use LinkedIn’s corporate talent solutions to find future hires. Whether you are about to graduate, just started classes, or are somewhere in between: you must seriously consider utilizing LinkedIn as a career tool!

I often have undergrads asking what the difference is between LinkedIn and Facebook, as they see it as ‘just another social network.’ That notion could not be further from the truth. Facebook is more about establishing personal relationships, while LinkedIn is more about conducting business.

Profile Basics

As you enter your profile details, do not think of your LinkedIn profile as an online resume, it goes beyond that. LinkedIn allows you to create a profile that can showcase projects you have worked on that relate to your career and goals. It also allows you to use keywords that align with what you currently do, what you have done in the past, and what you ultimately want to do in the future. Thus making you “findable.”

You can visually illustrate your skills with rich media, such as pictures, video, projects, or even a presentation you’re especially proud of. Include these if they are professional and relate to your overall goals and career aspirations. Help recruiters visualize what type of talent you bring to the table.

As you set up your profile, know you can come back and add to it and tweak it as well. Remember:

1. Post a photo! Use a professional headshot if possible.
2. Professional presentation is important on LinkedIn, but do not omit all of your personality. LinkedIn is a social network- creating personal connections is important. Also important is engagement and relevancy.
3. Consider your goals. Think long and hard on this as these goals will shape how you create and maintain your profile. LinkedIn offers some suggestions here. Are you looking for a job, are you creating a personal brand, are you making connections now for when you graduate and/or change careers?

By now I hope you see the importance of a LinkedIn profile. Take a moment to click on the hyperlinks within this post and bookmark them for later reading. A great article to start with from U.S. News that outlines some great tips can be found here.

Groups and Connecting with Thought Leaders

Not only does LinkedIn allow you to post your own profile, you can view others and connect. Unlike Facebook, connecting with folks you do not actually know is not seen as ‘creepy.’ It is a great personal branding tool for students to post relevant information, a photo, and interests, as well as connect with those in their industry. In addition, LinkedIn offers many groups that are industry specific that can be used as a sounding board, for advice and even support. For example, you may be interested in the SNHU Alumni Group or the Graphic Design Group. Search LinkedIn for your particular industry.

LinkedIn groups are a great way to engage directly with others in your industry and establish yourself as an active contributor rather than a passive spectator. Mashable suggests one of the best ways to get noticed is to participate in conversations and ask smart questions. Be professional and do a bit of research (or at the very least a Google search) before you ask a question.

Connect with your friends, current and past co-workers, professors and industry leaders; always remember you are judged by the company you keep!

Recommendations and Endorsements

A recommendation from someone in your desired field speaks volumes to your ability to stand out from the crowd. Seek recommendations from those who have a good sense of your work ethic and accomplishments. Those you ask for a recommendation will have to write a bit, so keep that in mind. Alternatively, an ‘endorsement’ is achievable with a simple click. Note it is common practice to reciprocate an ‘endorsement.’

Research

Always check out the pages of your targeted employers, or those you will interview with. By visiting company pages, you can conduct valuable research on the business, its policies and more. This kind of company research on LinkedIn can help keep you ahead of your competition. You may also discover an internship in your research. Several companies list these wonderful opportunities on LinkedIn.

Get Started: Focus on the value you bring to a potential employer.

The Huffington Post suggests that having a LinkedIn profile in an age of technology is absolutely crucial for college students. Utilize these (free) tools LinkedIn provides to brand yourself as the employee the company you want to work for will WANT. It does not happen overnight, but the connections you make will prove to be a great source of support, information and encouragement.

There are multiple tutorials on how to use LinkedIn efficiently for various purposes. Click and save to your bookmarks:

LinkedIn for Students

LinkedIn Guide and Checklist

Again, Be sure to click the hyperlinks within this post! The curated links will assist you in crafting the most effective profile for LinkedIn. Please do not hesitate to connect with me at any of my social touch points!photo credit: Graela via photopin cc

Graduate School is nothing like Undergrad: 5 ways it is more Rewarding

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When talking to undergraduate students or even those in the workforce considering going back to school for their Master’s, I am always asked, “How is it different?” It is very different, and in a good way.

I waited close to three years between my bachelor’s and master’s. I chose to graduate with a double major in Business Administration and Marketing, continue working full time and make a dent in my student loans. When I was ready to start the process of applying to graduate school, I found out my employer would not pay for courses in “Marketing” because I was working in a technical department within the telecom industry (with the hopes of a marketing department transfer). Instead of getting a Masters in IT or being deterred, I went ahead and switched jobs and made my preparations for grad school. Looking back, this was a great thing. Not only did I get my Master’s, I avoided massive layoffs, seeing my employer investigated by the SEC and the collapse of one of the largest telecom companies in the United States. Gotta love the ‘90s!

The biggest concern I had about graduate school was the GMAT. I felt I never tested well. Once the test was taken, the results printed, I was on my way to two years of fun. Truly, I loved every minute of it. And here is why:

Level of Maturity
I was 25 and mature enough. By 25, you usually have your personality developed, aspirations in mind, goals set out and a picture for the future — what better time to devote about two years to bettering yourself? I had some professional experience under my belt, which would prove to be useful in my course work, and had a clear idea of what I wanted from my graduate program.

Career in Progress
I was not as concerned about hurrying and finishing my degree so I could get a “better job,” as I was during my undergrad years. I worked part time my freshman and sophomore years, and full time during my junior and senior years. I was so determined to graduate and get a better-paying job that I overloaded each term by taking 21 to 24 semester hours. This time around, I was making better money and was able to pay for each class as I took it. Not to mention, while in school, I could defer my previous student loans.

Industry Specific
Probably the main reason I loved my Master’s program so much was that each course was directly related to my area of interest: Marketing. What’s not to love about Consumer Behavior, Global Marketing, Marketing Managements and Promotions? Graduate courses are focused on topics you may have experience with or will have experience with as you develop your desired career. These courses also make readings, case studies and projects more relevant and applicable. In contrast, my undergraduate courses varied and typically were dealt with subjects I had little interest in until I reached my junior and senior years.

Connections
In my graduate career, I had some great instructors who took an active interest in me. The classes were smaller, and we were able to get to know one another better. Many of these instructors kept in touch after graduation, and ultimately it was one of my grad-school instructors (turned Department Head) who hired me for my first adjunct teaching assignment. These instructors see what you are capable of doing and can be a great source of information and guidance — they can also write killer letters of reference! Similarly, I was able to create friendships with my peers that transcended into valuable professional contacts. Now with social media, it is even easier to stay connected to instructors and peers, and explore networking beyond graduation.

Like-Minded Individuals
Have you ever felt out of place with friends? Most of my friends had very little interest in business in the depth I did. Most had careers in different sectors or were married with children. In grad school, I was surrounded by like-minded folks who shared my respect for education, valued hard work and had the potential to be thought leaders in my field.

I am not saying obtaining a Master’s or an MBA is a piece of cake and one big social party. It is hard work, but when the end result is one you desire and the topic of study is one you love, it really can be enjoyable. And don’t forget: There are plenty of organizations that value an MBA.

Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from pursuing something so awesome! If someone you know if ‘thinking’ about a Masters/MBA, be sure to share this post with them.