I had one of those social networking moments where a stranger at Starbucks introduced himself to me after seeing the book on my table was Dan Schawbel’s Me 2.0, the best-selling book on personal branding. The fact that this gentlemen even knew the book and had read it was surprising. The fact that he was teaching college students about social networking and LinkedIn was even more startling. I didn’t know such a class existed! Can you imagine how far ahead of the social networking game you would have been had not only LinkedIn been around when you were in college but you also started to utilize it and Windmill Network before you graduated?
So in respect to my new LinkedIn connection, Brian Reeves, I wanted to share my own thoughts on why I agree that college student networking should happen early and begin by utilizing LinkedIn.
1.) Network for Internships
Internships over summer or winter vacations give you a great chance to “try out” a career even before you have decided on your college major. Up until now the preferred way of finding these internships was through your college Career Center or searching a host of websites like Internweb. If you’re frustrated by this approach try this: search the 45+ million professional database on LinkedIn and find a job title and company that might interest you. Then, go ahead and try to make contact with someone who’s job you’d love to do. I’m sure many people would love to chat with you about what they like about their job, and perhaps you can then ask the question as to whether or not you could help them out and have them create an internship for you. And if they can’t personally help you, maybe they could refer you to someone else in their company or in their network who can. Traditionally, internships are created and found through networking. If your own physical network can’t help you out, plug into the grid and start Windmill Networking on LinkedIn!
2.) Search for Mentors
Once you have or are close to deciding on your college major, you may be interested in getting advice from an alumni who graduated in the same major or maybe is doing a job that you are considering for your future career. You can go back to your Career Center for help, but in some ways it may be easier to precisely find the mentor that you are looking for on LinkedIn using Advanced People Search. You can also join your college’s LinkedIn Group for alumni and check out the discussions boards and news postings for interesting people to contact. The ability to see a very multi-faceted profile of someone on LinkedIn will hopefully help guide you into connecting with the ideal mentor that you are looking for. And because you are both from the same college, there is no need to be shy in reaching out and asking for help!
3.) Find a Job
Getting back to my story of meeting Brian this week, as he pointed out to me, it is actually easier for colleges students to network on LinkedIn because you are a college student. A lot of people will go out of there way to help you because you are still in school. And if you are earnest and passionate in what you are doing, you will find more than enough LinkedIn professionals willing to chat with you . Your senior year will no doubt be filled with college visits by potential employers and more trips to the Career Center, but if you’ve been digging your well before you’re thirsty on LinkedIn, hopefully you will have already made many professional contacts before your senior year. Just as experienced professionals rely on their social networking to find the “hidden jobs,” you will be ahead of the game if you start doing this with your own LinkedIn network before you graduate from college. Try looking for some networking events to attend from the LinkedIn Events database. Join LinkedIn Groups based on where you plan to work and in what profession you plan to work in and maximize your presence there by engaging others.
I always tell people that Windmill Networking transcends generations. There is no reason why a college student can’t start networking early with working professionals on LinkedIn just as executives utilize the social networking site. The objectives may be different, but the medium is the same. I have already answered the question, “What do I put on my LinkedIn Profile if I am a college student?” If you are still new on LinkedIn here are my 5 tips to getting started. You’ll also want to build out your networks by inviting these 10 super connectors that I recommend to give you more network visbility and help you find and be found. And here is further advice on how to find great people to meet and connect with on LinkedIn. All that’s left for you to do is take the initiative and network. After all, what do you have to lose, right?