College Students: Are You LinkedIn?

What’s that?

You’re not?

If that’s the case, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity – one that might even cost you a job.

In fact, recent studies claim that up to 80% of businesses are checking out potential hires on LinkedIn before extending an offer.

For example, let’s say you had a killer interview with a company you really want to work for. You’ve been meaning to set up your LinkedIn page, but haven’t quite got around to it yet.

That shouldn’t matter, right? After all, you ACED the interview and are feeling good about your chances for a call-back.

Now, let’s say the company truly was (very) impressed with your resume and interview.

Actually, they’ve narrowed the search down to you and one other candidate. Good news! However, as a form of due diligence, they decide to Google you and that other loser to see what comes up.

Under your name, a lot of white noise about high school basketball stats.

Under the other guy, a LinkedIn page that features more than 100 connections (some of which the interviewer knows personally), recommendations from former professors, as well as an in-depth narrative on specialties and real-world experience gained from a summer internship.

Suddenly, all of those fond memories of your “killer” interview evaporate and candidate #2 gets the job.

Now who’s the loser?

To avoid this very real scenario in your own job search, here’s what you do:

1.) Sign up for a LinkedIn account. If you don’t know where to start, visit http://grads.linkedin.com and take the tour. LinkedIn is free and, like most social media sites, once you get the hang of it – it’s really not that intimidating.

2.) Make sure your profile is 100% complete. Not only does this demonstrate that you are detail oriented, but complete profiles show up higher in search engine rankings. Also, bonus points if you have a professional headshot made (even if you just go to the mall) rather than posting a pixilated and poorly-cropped snapshot.

3.) Ask for recommendations. Don’t be shy about this. Assuming you’ve been a good student, most professors and former bosses are more than happy to say a few kind words about your work and employability. Note: Only those who actually have LinkedIn accounts can provide endorsements.

4.) Stay engaged. As with everything in life, you get out of LinkedIn what you put in to it. So be sure to jump on every once in a while and fill out the status update, find a cool new application to download (Amazon reading list, Slideshare, etc.), a great group to join, or just research jobs and businesses that interest you.

In other words, there are a million ways to use LinkedIn to put your best professional foot forward. So don’t trip up because you’re not in the game.

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