LinkedIn: providing students even more networking opportunities

Social media sites have begun to leave the college scene and enter the professional networking world.

One in particular seems to stand out about the rest.

LinkedIn — a social Web site designed for business professionals and job seekers alike — is beginning to gain just as much recognition in campus hallways as it does in congested offices, and employers are starting to take notice.

Katie Flint, assistant director at the University’s Career Center, said that all students should create a LinkedIn account, whether they are of first year status or are anticipating graduation. She said it is a vital tool to jump-start any distinct career paths a student has planned for the future.

“LinkedIn provides you with the opportunity to start learning about the field, learning about the hot topics that are out there and maybe figure out what industries you’re interested in if you don’t have a clue,” Flint said. “Doing that early does not hurt at all; it’s just a way to begin getting that information that you’re going to have to need for the rest of your college career.”

In addition to giving insight on the various career options pertaining to a student’s individual major, Flint said, LinkedIn also serves as a networking tool to those who come off as shy or intimidated by higher-ranked business associates.

“We really hit hard on network, network, network and some students may have a hard time doing that,” Flint said. “LinkedIn uses a technology that all students are familiar with, and it’s a little more comfortable and I think it makes access to that whole networking scene easier to students who might have the trouble picking up the phone and calling someone.”

LinkedIn is designed to connect people who share both similar interests and common career goals. It is organized in a way that students can network with individuals from their city, college or sorority/fraternity with nothing more than a click of a button.

Danielle Pontarelli, freshman in DGS, recently used her LinkedIn account to connect with alumni from her sorority, Kappa Delta, and said she was pleased with the opportunity presented to her.

“Recently I got an offer for an internship for an advertising firm in New Mexico through a Kappa Delta alum who found me on LinkedIn,” Pontarelli said. “She was the senior marketing associate for the firm and was really eager to talk to me.”

Pontarelli said LinkedIn makes networking opportunities easy to access because of its high-quality search engines.

Upon signing up, students can immediately indicate their specific major, hometown, age, qualifications and area of concentration in an organized format.

“Since I’ve gotten more involved with my LinkedIn account, I realized how much you can really personalize your job search,” Pontarelli said. “LinkedIn allows you to be more proactive and it takes away the middle-man because you can directly connect with employers and put your name out there.”

Employees at the Career Center warn, however, that sometimes the networking component of LinkedIn isn’t that simple.

A huge portion of networking is building relationships rather than abruptly confronting an employer in hopes of getting one step closer to a dream job.

“One of the things that we teach our students is never to message the CEO of a company and say, ‘Hey, can I have a job there?’ With any relationship, you need to start with a common ground before jumping right into that,” Flint said.

LinkedIn has been around for some time, yet many users are reluctant on using it and fear that they will misrepresent themselves, Flint said.

The Career Center is hosting workshops to alleviate these concerns. These workshops will be held on March 9 at 4 p.m. and April 7 at 3 p.m. at the Career Center, 715 S. Wright St., in Champaign.

“There is really nothing to lose in creating a LinkedIn,” Pontarelli said. “There’s no pressure, you can use it when you’re ready and just type in directly what you need and what you’re looking for. It’s all on your own time; there are no limits or time constraints and its super helpful in the long run.”