JJ Townsend


8 LinkedIn Tips for Student 'Professionals'

Excerpts of JJ's 2013 column about tactically using LinkedIn.

1.) This is not Facebook or Twitter: LinkedIn stalking doesn't exist. If you visit someone's profile, start a professional conversation from the information you got from their page. For example: If you view a user's page who may have interned at Disney College Programs last summer, ask them about their experiences.

2.) Avoid generic, default messages: Always use personalized messages when you make a new connection. If it's someone who initiated the connection, I tend to thank them for connecting and let them know to contact my email or phone if I could ever be of assistance. This is the best way to break the ice and figure out why they wanted to connect in the first place. For the connections that I initiate, I typically know the person well and have worked with them on projects. After they accept my request, I thank them, add a few personalized sentences, then remind them about the project or group we collaborated. This is the best way to receive recommendations and endorsement on LinkedIn. Another method is to tell them that you're more than willing to offer an endorsement if they add particular skill to their skill section of their profile.

3.) Career/Professional related updates: Share thoughtful videos, articles, and posts related your career and professional interests. This can be an article that relates to your field or a TED talk video you found thought-provoking. Save the controversial opinions and topics on other social sites. 

4.) Don't be a wallflower: When you join a group on LinkedIn participate in the comment discussions, or even better start a discussion. It probably isn't the right group for you if you find yourself not interested in the discussion topics. 

5.) Do some research on SEO: LinkedIn is growing and you want your page to stick out from the clutter. The best way to get your profile to appear on search engine results is to know your personal brand. What is your message? What keywords can employers and future connections search that will lead them to your profile? -- marketing, education development, leadership, volunteer, financial, ...

6.) Your profile should mirror your resume: Better yet, LinkedIn allows your resume to come to life...digitally. This doesn't necessarily mean longer rather an extension of your resume. Don't expand too much on what you did with bullet points. Express your impact in one or two sentences. You can make your resume interactive by providing links to projects, assignments, publications, videos, portfolios, etc.. You're likely to not get the full benefit of LinkedIn if you don't take advantage of the interactivity of LinkedIn.

7.) Master the headline: Another way to set yourself apart from thousands of other "students" is by not putting 'Student at University of Mississippi' as your headliner. Put a leadership position you hold in a club or a career aspiration. My personal favorite headliner of one of my college LinkedIn connections is 'Multimedia Journalist and Fashion Communicator'. This requires you to know who you are, what you've done, and where you want to be.

8.) Control your brand: I use Squarespace for my personal website. The platform has a sleek design, simple to use, and fairly cheap. My personal site has been a great way to publicly and privately publish my work, connect employers with my social media platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Foursquare), provide other useful content that enhances my digital brand and gives a few employer or business partner a central location to get a glimpse of my personal and professional life.  Why not control the message employers will inevitably construe for themselves anyway?