How to use LinkedIn for Students & Graduates

Article from the JobCrowd


A quick Google will show you that the internet is full of articles extolling the virtues of LinkedIn for those seeking graduate jobs. These often share top tips on how to maximise your profile and well worth reading if the aim is to grab the attention of a graduate employer. A common piece of advice seen again and again is to tailor your profile to make it directly relevant to the industry sector you are using it to pursue. This makes complete sense: as Aja Frost points out, employers spend an average of just 10 seconds on a single profile. For graduate employers, using LinkedIn is a little like window shopping; with such a narrow window of opportunity available, you want to ensure that there is nothing on display that distracts attention from your most eye-catching wares.

However, what this advice ignores is another, very different way LinkedIn can be used effectively. If you already have a career destination in mind, perhaps even a particular company, there are a number of ways you can streamline your profile to this end. But LinkedIn is also a fantastic research tool, allowing those who do not have their sights set on one career to take a proactive approach in learning more about the jobs market. These should be thought of as two separate ‘modes’, one for exploration and one for employment. Depending on what your needs are at any one time, there are key ways you can adapt your profile to make it fit for purpose. Understanding your desired outcomes from LinkedIn before you begin filling in your profile is essential to ensuring that it works best for you.

In 120 characters or fewer you must give employers visiting your profile enough information to show them you would make a dedicated member of their team. Appealing directly to graduate recruiters in your desired sector makes them far more likely to notice you. A headline for a student in the Autumn of their final year with a career path in mind may be ‘MSc Computer Science at University of Birmingham (forthcoming) seeking Graduate Systems Analyst role’.

You wouldn’t use your headline to broadcast that you are using LinkedIn to browse around, but just because you can’t state a specific goal does not mean there are not general ways of ensuring your headline is effective. Instead of simply stating ‘Student’ or ‘Graduate’, state your course and institution. You may have a part-time job such as a Sales Assistant role that is not a long-term career interest: this should not be in your headline. Nor should jokes, song lyrics or zodiac signs.

As a student, it can often be the case that any scraps or morsels of professional experience are salvaged together onto your CV, whether it is volunteering, work shadowing or a summer job, until you begin to gain more substantial work experience. This policy may have proved helpful, but now you are using LinkedIn to look for a more advanced role, it would be wise to do some pruning. Your most impressive credentials are going to be those that best match what a recruiter from a particular sector is looking for. These should be prominent; less relevant experiences should take very little space on your profile or be deleted altogether.

On the other hand, until you have clear career goals LinkedIn can function as a powerful repository for any and all experiences you have developed. It can be easily edited to log new experiences as you gain them. Even if employers do not stop to read this in detail, the very fact that someone’s profile is full, well presented and up-to-date gives an instant impression of the care they have taken to present themselves professionally. By being less selective and filling your LinkedIn with information, you are providing yourself with more material in the future to choose from when it becomes appropriate to be picky.

Make your research public by liking, sharing and commenting on news streams relevant to the career sector you are pursuing. Not only are you keeping your awareness of a given industry fresh, but through this activity you are also showing employers that you are genuinely and consistently engaged.

Broaden your understanding of the range within today’s job market. Use profiles of those in your immediate network – classmates, colleagues, friends and family – to illuminate potential career avenues. If a job title or specific company appeals to you, you can then search more broadly for people already working in that role, allowing you to develop a model employee profile based on what you see. This might spark ideas for actions that will give you the right kinds of experience for the future.

With a profile that is honed specifically to the eyes of your future employer, you should feel confident to proactively engage with professionals in your chosen industry. Sending a request to connect with a headline that clearly speaks your ambitions is likely to be met positively. Following up connections you may have made in person via LinkedIn will give you further opportunities to display what sector-specific knowledge and experience you have. Should you be in a position to directly message an employer, you will be prepared with a clear index of your relevant credentials on your profile to refer the employer to.

If you are still in a speculative stage of developing your career plans, there is nothing wrong with taking a proactive approach in attempting to engage with employers. Sincere messages requesting information or advice on a career sector are more likely to be answered if you approach more recent rather than senior employees, or those with whom there is an existing connection (perhaps through a university career network).

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