Virtually every college student has a Facebook page and has lots of online friends with whom to socially network. However, not so many students have a LinkedIn profile and a solid network of connections. If you're not on LinkedIn yet, you should be, especially if you're looking for a job or internship. LinkedIn is the professional equivalent of Facebook, providing lots of opportunities to network with people in your field. Over 50 million people are on LinkedIn, and that number keeps rapidly growing. According to a recent poll from Jump Start Social Media, 75%of hiring managers use LinkedIn to research credentials of job candidates so if you're not on there yet, you should be!
Once you establish your LinkedIn profile page, you can start inviting people into your network such as fellow students, former teachers, current professors, supervisors, and counselors at your career center. The more people you add to your network, the greater you will increase your chances of being able to directly connect to someone or be introduced to someone via your connections.
Under the "advanced people" search you can search for alums from your college who are working in your dream company and then reach out to them for informational interviews. Students are always amazed at how cool this feature is. I was giving a presentation to the freshmen a few weeks ago and asked for someone to name their "dream company." One student said "Anheuser Busch." With a quick search on LinkedIn, we found someone who was an MBA student at the same university who had worked at Anheuser Busch! It couldn't be any easier for this student to network with someone who was taking classes in the same building as him.
But even if your connection isn't right in your school, you can still set up an informational interview at the person's office or over the phone. One great thing about conducting an informational interview at the person's office is that it gets you in the building where you can witness the corporate culture firsthand, which will greatly reduce your anxiety level if you are invited back there for a real interview. Conducting informational interviews is great practice for developing and polishing your communication and in-person networking skills.
So, the next time you log into Facebook to update your status or check your friends' statuses, think about creating your LinkedIn profile page. Once you do, then remember to check it as much as you do your Facebook page...well maybe not quite so often!