An applicant's guide to professional social networking

By Brooks Berish

A safe place to start is I-Link, the University of Illinois career management system.

“On your profile, you can upload documents, (and) you can upload your resume and cover letter,” said Kevin Burns, sophomore in Engineering and former employee at the Engineering Career Services office. “Everyone has access to all of the (job) postings.”ss

Burns noted that although it can be initially overwhelming with all of the job openings, there are filters that students can use to vastly narrow down their search to whatever they’re interested in. After that, it’s simply a matter of finding an internship, or some kind of a job, and applying.

With some job postings, the applications have to be completed through the company’s website, but with others, the resume is automatically sent to them after clicking “Apply.” As for one’s personal profile on I-Link, it does not require much upkeep.

“All you really need to do is have your resume uploaded there in its most current form,” Burns said.

The rest of the information on the profile is pretty straightforward, and a student’s current GPA is automatically transferred into the I-link system. Burns has already secured an internship through I-Link for this summer, stating that in his experience, he gets more reception from employers through I-Link than by just going onto random websites.

“A lot of companies will know they’re coming from U of I and they’ll know about I-Link,” Burns said, referring to the longstanding relationship Illinois has with many companies. “For people looking for internships . . . I would look there first.”

After getting settled on I-Link, a wise next step would be to set up a LinkedIn account that reflects not only one’s personal and professional interests, but also showcases the extent of their professional network.

“Its like an electronic resume . . . like a professional Facebook,” said Teri Farr, a DGS academic advisor. “You can align yourself with different organizations, professionally . . . That would kind of elevate you.”ss

Burns is a member of Theta Tau, an engineering fraternity, which has a professional committee that gives presentations about resumes and professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

“Be brief, but be accurate,” Burns said. “Show off as best and honestly as possible . . . (And) make sure you have a good picture.”

It’s important for employers to be able to put a name to a face. This should not be the face of someone who is partying on the beach somewhere in the Caribbean. This should be the face of a professional, someone who looks like a respectable, pleasant individual.

The Career Center holds workshops for students on developing a good LinkedIn account. They show ways to stand out to an employer, besides having a top-notch profile picture. They also show how LinkedIn can help someone discover a career path.

“If you have a career in mind, or a specific job in mind, you can go to LinkedIn and find hundreds, if not thousands of people with that job . . . (And) look at where did they go to school, what was their career trajectory, their journey that got them to that position.” said Jennifer Crum, prehealth adviser at the Career Center. “You can even look up Illinois alumni . . . and start building that network.”ss

Facebook, being a social networking site, might seem like it has little to do with the employment process, but some employers are just beginning to utilize it as a tool in their evaluation of job candidates.

“We know that employers check Facebook, so you should be pretty careful about anything that could be construed as negative on Facebook,” Farr said. “Looking social isn’t negative. I’m just talking about excessive behavior.”

It’s pretty self-explanatory as to what kind of material an applicant should not display on a Facebook account. If someone doesn’t want to limit their self-expression on Facebook, then maybe it would be better to just stick with a professional profile picture and turn the privacy settings way up.

“What wouldn’t you want your mom to see, your grandmother to see,” Crum said, “an employer probably doesn’t want to see that either.”

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