“Professional” and “social” are two words that usually don’t mix well. Add in “networking site,” and that sounds like a potential recipe for disaster.
Strangely enough, LinkedIn pioneered exactly that: a professional social networking site. Millions of users successfully market themselves through the site, advertising their experiences, qualifications and connections, including students hoping for future internships and jobs.
The network expands by two new users every second, according to Rob Sansone’s article, “The Business Class of Social Media.” Many of those new members are struggling to figure out how LinkedIn differs from other social media sites, how to act appropriately within that unfamiliar online context and whether any of these adjustments will actually pay off.
Research shows that learning how to properly utilize LinkedIn is definitely worth the extra effort.
Business News Daily’s article, “Social Media Can Help You Land a Higher-Paying Job,” discusses a North Carolina State University study that demonstrates that LinkedIn is critical with regard to informal recruitment and that its importance rises as candidates climb toward higher-paying positions. Informal recruitment is when companies contact possible job applicants through networking sites due to their social connections. “Specifically, in the United States, the odds that a job will be filled via informal recruitment increase by 2 percent for every dollar of hourly wage that the job pays,” and 27 percent of employees in the U.S. are hired as a result of informal recruitment, reports Business News Daily.
Additionally, “A whopping 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet candidates,” says Peter Daisyme in his article “Why LinkedIn is Important to Your Career in 2014.” Essentially, LinkedIn is an implied component of job applications and now a huge part of a candidate’s overall evaluation.
It’s easy to accept that LinkedIn is key for obtaining jobs, but the site itself is sometimes anything but easy. For instance, unlike most other social networking sites, users are notified when someone looks at their profile. In order to avoid awkward situations that might actually turn LinkedIn from a tool to a flaw that could work against you professionally, it’s important for students to understand how it differs from the sites they are accustomed to.
First of all, recognizing that LinkedIn is unique is imperative. It really is the first professional social networking site, so most people lack experience with this type of online interaction. Actions that are welcome on Facebook and Twitter, like posting vacation pictures, have no place on LinkedIn.
In her article, “Obviously People Judge Your Picture Online — But You’ll Never Guess How,” Leila Brillson analyzes a recent HSN Beauty infographic that communicated the different ways people view social media profile pictures. “However, the infographic shows another slightly troubling piece of news — that 19 percent of recruiters, when surfing the job site LinkedIn, pay attention only to your profile picture,” Brillson says. A profile picture alone could determine a job offering, so students should know how to take one that conveys their professionalism. Even though LinkedIn is a professional social networking site, photos should emphasize the professional.
Additionally, LinkedIn is used for entirely different reasons than Facebook and Twitter.
The sole reason why many members use LinkedIn is to promote their professional image and increase their chances of being hired. Unlike other sites, like Facebook, which users constantly check throughout their typical day, LinkedIn users rarely log on when they don’t have a notification. Someone might have 500 connections, but how much connecting are they actually doing and what information is being shared?
Unlike other networking sites, interactions rarely extend beyond connections and endorsements, and the connections rely more heavily on actual human-to-human contact. So much of the groundwork needs to take place outside of the site, and LinkedIn is only the shiny trophy to display that work. Everything from your true professional life is on display in condensed form on LinkedIn. Unlike Facebook, your exciting volunteer work only warrants a few lines, not an entire photo album. Similarly, interactions are condensed, changing the meaning of a connection on LinkedIn compared to other sites. Connections on LinkedIn should be the result of real life connections, versus other sites are more about exploring and furthering those connections.
For instance, you might follow a student from your class on Twitter. In class, he seems like a serious, motivated student, but on Twitter his humorous side dominates every post. Through that following, you learn so much about his personality that you wouldn’t otherwise.
LinkedIn reverses that experience. In real life, you might know that same guy to be hilarious, but on LinkedIn, all you see is the serious, motivated student. Your connection with him speaks for what isn’t there. It supports the human behind all those accomplishments. Likes, favorites, shares, friends, followings and all the possible interactions on other sites are translated into connections and endorsements on LinkedIn. These are LinkedIn’s only visible, online interactions, and they allow personal connections to boost professional credibility. Unlike other sites, these interactions presume more in-depth interactions outside, in the real world. How else could connections attest to each other’s skills?
Right now, we are amidst probably the largest pool of exceptional peers and distinguished professionals of our entire lives. With 4,904 undergraduate students, 2,165 graduate students and 681 faculty, according to Lehigh’s website, we have so many opportunities to interact with talented individuals and develop beneficial relationships with them. If you meet someone and make an actual connection in the real, person-to-person realm and leave an impression, then she might look you up on LinkedIn and make that networking connection. The human aspect is necessary, though. Five hundred connections might look great online, but they should also exist outside of LinkedIn.
Students should take advantage of LinkedIn and the career-changing platform it offers. In order for it to actually function as a tool, however, students need to know how to use it, because applying Facebook and Twitter trends to LinkedIn is the true recipe for disaster.