LinkedIn, the career services social media network, doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being a particularly approachable or fun-to-use site. However, the platform is now so ubiquitous for finding jobs and networking that everyone who’s thinking seriously about their career should have an account, including those who have very little or no work experience.
At first glance, LinkedIn often comes across as a highly-specialized platform where executives and other important business people schmooze each other and brag about their accomplishments. The memes, casual writing and pictures of food that other social media platforms have become so famous for are nowhere to be found on LinkedIn, making the site seem endlessly intimidating to many who are new to the site (and the workforce).
However, as a young worker who has used the site as both a job applicant and a hiring manager, I’ve found that a LinkedIn profile can provide a great competitive edge for anyone applying for entry level jobs, internships, and even colleges.
Here are a few reasons why:
First, and arguably most importantly, having a LinkedIn profile (which essentially serves as an online resume) shows employers that you take yourself seriously as a young professional. It’s common knowledge now that employers nearly always Google their job applicants hiring them, so they’re likely to discover your Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts. But when your LinkedIn profile appears among those search results, it sends a message that you cared enough about getting the job to spend 15 minutes setting up an account.
Second, even if you don’t have any previous relevant jobs, a LinkedIn profile is a great place to showcase the interests, skills and strengths you bring to the table. If you’ve ever played on a sports team, started a student club in high school, or babysit your younger family members, the skills you developed during those activities are absolutely fair game to list on your LinkedIn profile. Sure, extracurriculars may not seem like they’d be applicable in an entry level job, but these examples show the employer that you have experience with teamwork, leadership, and juggling big responsibilities, all of which are huge assets when applying for any kind of job.
Third, the network also serves as an extensive online job board, and you can use the search filters to peruse roles near you, in the field you’re looking to break into. Often, employers will even let you apply for a job through the site, simply by submitting your profile for consideration instead of a resume. In my experience, finding and applying for entry level jobs was incredibly difficult and complicated, so having an online platform streamline the process made a huge difference.
Another great thing about LinkedIn is you don’t have to check it or update it everyday. Once you’ve set up a good-looking profile, you’re good to go. A study published in 2017 shows that only about 40 percent of LinkedIn users check the site daily, and I’ve found the most useful strategy to be simply checking in every so often just to make sure my profile is still up-to-date, and checking for any unread messages. In other words, you can reap all the benefits of making a LinkedIn profile without having to add a new social media app into your life (or onto your phone).
At the end of the day, it’s not about using LinkedIn to meet strangers or develop a crazy-elaborate personal brand, although some people do use the site that way.
It’s all about letting your future employers know that you’re thinking seriously about your future, and making an effort to establish a professional-looking presence online. It doesn’t sound like much, but you’d be surprised how far that extra push can take you.