Diving into LinkedIn

Are you a student or recent graduate? Do you have a LinkedIn profile? How often do you use it?

When I ask my peers these three questions, some of them sincerely wonder how it can be helpful. At the same time, others say that they are not active on LinkedIn due to insufficient experience or presence already in quite a few social media networks.

These upsetting arguments make me think that many young people underestimate the value of LinkedIn. To prove that my concerns are real, I needed some numbers – ideally, what percentage of my FB friends are present/active on LinkedIn.

Since direct contact integration between FB and LinkedIn is not available, I have decided to draw my own conclusions based on the sample of KU Leuven students I met during the past academic year.

Some details about my sample:

  • 120 students of one of the TOP European universities
  • 40% female, 60% male
  • 21-27 years old
  • International background
    (dominated by Belgium – 21% ,Russian-speaking countries -15%, Spain – 12% , Italy – 10% and Eastern Europe – 9%)
  • Different educational background                                                                      (dominated by economic/management-related studies – 40%, engineering – 20%, law – 14%)

The results were quite surprising: only 60% of young people have a LinkedIn profile and just 42% are active users. I think that these numbers speak for themselves and there is no need to elaborate further on the urgency of the topic.

In this post, I will try to uncover the value of being active on LinkedIn for young individuals , which I hope will contribute to bridging the identified gap.

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* The picture above does NOT show  an overall sample. It includes just randomly generated people from the sample


1. Be present online

In today’s fiercely competitive world, the concept of branding for individuals is as important as for businesses. Personal branding is crucial not only to your career and professional growth but also to development yourself as a grown-up personality and as a leader.

Building a sustainable personal brand is a long-term process and the easiest way to start it is to focus on your online presence. Nowadays, having a LinkedIn profile is becoming a necessity, because more and more often it is seen as “professional ethics” rather than “extra effort”.

Even if you are not looking for a job at the moment, people who might be interested in you – (ex)classmates, (ex)colleagues, (ex)professors or potential employers – should be able to find you easily at least on the most popular professional platform. If not, you risk losing an important connection or missing an interesting opportunity.

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2. Show your real value

The basic idea of LinkedIn is creating an online CV. Most of the time CV is a short pretty standardized word document. It is simply impossible to fit everything you want in these 2 pages to show the real you and demonstrate all your relevant experience. LinkedIn exists to solve this problem since it gives you an opportunity to create a digital interactive resume that demonstrates your skills and forms a bigger picture of you as a professional.

In the professional world, everyone is already tired of simple words. “Experienced engineer”, “passionate about business” or “interested in interior design”. The value of this information is really close to zero. What people are really looking for is results. If you are a web-developer – include links to the websites you have been recently working on; If you are a designer, add an online version of your portfolio; if you are an analyst – publish your own financial forecasts for companies you are following or include your business case presentation. There is no better place to demonstrate your skills in action than LinkedIn. Now it has become even easier with a recent integration of Slideshare.

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3. Master job hunting

Many potential job seekers underestimate the power of LinkedIn. Do you know that 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn extensively while only 36% of candidates are active there? Furthermore, some companies even consider it a red flag if they can’t find a candidate there.

If you still have not tried LinkedIn for a job hunting purpose, I really suggest you change your mind. LinkedIn provides a very easy-to-use job-search platform with a huge number of job offerings and several personalization options.

Using advanced search feature of LinkedIn Jobs allows you to search for jobs by keyword, title, industry, location, company, function, experience level and much more. It even can show jobs you might like based on your recent search history and your preferences towards location, company size and industry.

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Those who are dreaming about landing a job in a certain industry/firm can follow companies of their interest to be always up-to-date on their latest news, publications, recruitment events and open positions.

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Moreover, doing some research about the company of your dream on LinkedIn can be extremely useful. Analyzing profiles of company (ex)employees can give you a valuable insight into the selection process (what is the most common background of people who got in, how many years of experience people at the same position usually have, what unites all of them), corporate culture (how strong is an interaction within international team? Does the company apply the diversity policy in reality? How long do employees typically stay at the company? How fast can they grow and what are possibilities for rotations?) or future possibilities (what are the most common exit options after this job/company? what acquired skills are valued when you enter the market?)

The last important thing is to remember that job hunting is a two-sided process and while you are looking for a job, someone might be looking for you. Recruitment consultants, headhunters, small business and startup owners are becoming more and more proactive on LinkedIn, contacting their ideal candidates directly to introduce themselves, invite for an interview/recruitment event or suggest a business opportunity. Therefore, if you invest time and effort in your LinkedIn profile, normally the opportunities will find you by themselves.

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4. Choose your next uni wisely

In my opinion, LinkedIn Education is the most underused function, even though it gives us a real advantage of making more intelligent university choices.

To begin with, if you are not sure about specialization you want to take, the field of study explorer can help you make a decision based on the experience of other people working at the company/position of your interest.

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LinkedIn University finder can help you further select your next university based on your preferences (Field of studies, Level of degree, Ideal company, Location). You can even include university ranking developed internally in LinkedIn. If you still have doubts, a new LinkedIn function – discussion board – gives you an opportunity to ask your connections and other knowledgeable people for advice regarding your university choice (as far as I understood, the idea is to provide quora-like service).

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Alumni statistics is one more incredibly useful LinkedIn function I used extensively when I was looking for the university to do my MSc degree. It gives an insight into industries, companies and jobs that you can expect to have after completion of the certain university program. Moreover, you can see an extensive list of current students and alumni, whom you can contact to ask for more insider information regarding the program/courses/job opportunities afterward. Sometimes you also can find additional information that might be helpful in the university recommendations/reviews function.

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5. Build a network

Today the concept of professional networking is barely separable from LinkedIn. If you have met new people in your field of studies/work, LinkedIn is the way to keep in touch. You might search for them using Advanced People Finder function or you might want to get back to people, who viewed your profile earlier, or to introduce yourself to your second-degree connections.

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Another way to build a professional network on Linked is to be active in groups. There are more than 2.1 million different LinkedIn groups. If you still have not found one that you are looking for – you can always think about starting your own LinkedIn community and becoming the center of your future network.

Most LinkedIn groups are focused on the following:

  • Industry – getting to know more professionals from your job field, sharing interesting insights and events, discussing industry trends and recent news, content exchange and asking each other for advice
  • Alumni – keeping in touch with your exclassmates, sharing opportunities and professional life updates with each other, taking part in the university life
  • Interests – sharing relevant content and information sources, organizing discussions and best practice exchange, meeting experts and opinion leaders
  • Study groups – preparing together for exams like IELTS/TOEFL/GMAT/CFA or following online courses on Coursera/Lynda, study support, q&a sessions, sharing study materials

Participating in group discussions, interacting with other members and sharing your thoughts and knowledge will help people notice you and get interested in starting a professional relationship.

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To keep your network organized and easily-accessible, you should manage your contact list in a structured way : you can add notes, assign tags or put follow-up reminders for each connection to make the most use of it.


6. Stay up-to-date

I check LinkedIn feed every single morning to keep track of the news. In addition to the opportunity to follow people and companies, last summer LinkedIn launched amazing news aggregation feature called Pulse that basically gave 400 million LinkedIn members their own blogging platform. Pulse aggregates the best posts into themed news channels that you can follow.

Pulse was launched as a place, where “the smartest people drive the professional conversation” and indeed the current list of famous people – so called LinkedIn influencers – active on Pulse in incredible.

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7. Develop your skills

I guess some of you have heard about the largest acquisition in the history of LinkedIn that happened one year ago. In April 2015 LinkedIn acquired e-learning website Lynda.com (the same concept as Coursera) for $1.5 billion. For a small subscription fee (15 euros per month), you can access thousands of courses on all sorts of different topics taught by popular industry experts.

If you want to try it, there is a 10-day free trial version available. My impression after this trial is that Lynda is more focused on the acquiring practical skills, for example, it can be quite useful to master your excel/database skills.

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If you want to dive deeper and learn more about LinkedIn and how it can be helpful, check out  the book by two networking experts from Belgium Jan Vermeriren and Bert Verdonck”How to really use LinkedIn“.

I hope that after reading this post those who still dont use LinkedIn will realize that it is time to start and those who are already there will learn something new as well.

P.S. Since we are talking about LinkedIn, I would like to include the link to my LinkedIn profile and invite you to connect if interested.


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11 Comments

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  1. This is great, Kristina. So helpful for newly graduated college student or anyone going back into the workforce. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Surely if you are looking for a job, starting a career, hoping to advance in your career or just seeking to expand your range of business or professional contacts, LinkedIn should be a part of it. It has taken the place of person-to-person networking for some and it is clearly the favored tool for recruiting in many businesses. I was surprised by the numbers you presented about how many university students don’t use it.

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    • Hi, Ken! Thanks for sharing your opinion. As for statistics, I was also quite surprised. It could be very interesting to compare these results among different countries. My friend who works in the recruitment in Russia (where I am originally from) said that numbers there should be even much lower

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  3. Kristina, I like your advocacy of LinkedIn! I am “retired” teacher so the features of LinkedIn that I especially value do not pertain to job-seeking, but rather to your point #5, “Networking.”

    LinkedIn really lives up to its name of “linking” people with similar interests or aims. I so appreciate the people I have found via this social media platform, especially those in special interest groups. Your comment that “Participating in group discussions, interacting with other members and sharing your thoughts and knowledge will help people notice you and get interested in starting a professional relationship.” True, and there is the potential for “beyond professional”; namely the fostering of personal friendships, encouragement and practical mutual support.

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  4. Great topic and I think you’ve presented a compelling case for the value of LinkedIn for ‘young’ people, especially students. Even for those not focused on finding work, the networking and collaboration opportunities are definitely a plus.

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  5. This is so helpful for those entering the corporate scene. When we are younger, it can be difficult to look at the big picture and why you should do something before you “need to do it.”. Just like younger people aren’t usually proactive with retirement savings, they are probably not proactive in networking for jobs they might not even know they want yet.

    I personally use LinkedIn for groups. For my industry, I find things like Facebook and Periscope, but LinkedIn still has its benefits even though it isn’t my main platform.

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  6. I am a huge fan of LinkedIn! It took a while for me to understand exactly how it worked and that I would need to put in in order to get out.

    I am part of several forums including this one. The support and encouragement has been much appreciated.

    I like the fact that LinkedIn is professional.

    Like

  7. Very interesting post Kristina! Since college, I’ve had the value of LinkedIn thrown around in discussions and even I find myself questioning it at times. Occasionally, it comes of as a professional Facebook portal with all the status updates popping up. However, there’s still no denying the ability to network and drive engagement to content, like the Bloggers Helping Bloggers group. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Thanks Kristina – this is a very extensive article on the benefits of LinkedIn.
    LinkedIn’s new Learning feature is very interesting. They are doing a great job on keeping the users engaged and adding lots of value.

    Like

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