Signing up for LinkedIn and beginning your profile is a huge step in building your professional network. At first, you start connecting with fellow students and professionals you already know. But is that all there is? Not at all!
Use Groups on LinkedIn to take your networking to the next level. There are groups for almost everything. Some groups connect professionals with similar work interests. Most universities have alumni groups (like Alumni of UWW), which you can join even as a student. Many professional associations have groups, and you might be able to join as a non-member. Do a search for Groups, by keyword or category, and start joining.
So how do you use Groups effectively once you’ve joined?
- Be sure to get the Digest Email. Either once a day or once a week, you can have all group activity sent to your inbox. For most of my groups, I get a weekly digest. Thanks to that email, I can catch up on all the different discussions, shared articles, and job postings from the group that week. Thanks to those emails, I have stumbled upon internships that I’ve then shared with students. Visit the “More…” tab in each group and select “Your Settings” to set up your Digest Email preferences.
- Ask questions. What do companies look for in entry-level employees? What is the best way to gain experience in your field? What do employers really think of infographic resumes? Who better to ask these questions of than professionals in your field! Use your LinkedIn Groups to seek answers to your burning career questions. Not only will you get answers, but you might start making some new connections as well. Keep in mind that some groups have more active discussions than others. Take note of how actively engaged a group is before investing too much time in a discussion that might garner no response.
- Contribute to discussions. As a student, it’s great to ask questions of a LinkedIn Group to learn more about your field. But remember, you have knowledge and opinions to contribute, too. Networking is a two-way street – People help you and you help in return. Students often think that they have nothing to give, but this is not necessarily the case. See what kinds of questions others are asking or what information others are putting out for discussion. Have a thought? Say it!
LinkedIn Groups are a great resource, and an often overlooked one by novice users. Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and information available through groups – It benefits you as an intern and will take you far as a future professional.