Having the right mindset
If you’re at least 2 years into your university education, you most probably already have a Linkedin account, or at the very least, have heard of the platform being thrown around among peers during conversations. If you’re anything like me when I first created my account, you probably had doubts about how this platform (seemingly filled with adults in suits and ties, with bright smiles that scream “Look at me, I am a professional”) could be applicable or useful to you at all, as a uni student. (I’m sure most guys can relate to being an unprofessional security staff when doing guard duty during NSF days) Allow me to first put your mind at ease by showing you Linkedin’s vision and mission:
Notice that there is no mention of any work experience, level or rank? I am fairly confident that as a student, you are enroute to be a part of this (not so) exclusive club called the global workforce, the broad target group of this platform. Linkedin has very much evolved to be not just a platform for connecting professionals and students to one another, but also a great opportunity provider in many dimensions, from knowledge, to jobs and mentorship. This article aims to educate you on the various free tools and resources available on LinkedIn that will most definitely help you, as a student, to navigate the turbulent seas of the working world, just as they have helped me.
Building your Knowledge Base
I will first discuss how Linkedin can help you build a solid knowledge base that will help you gain great insights into current affairs, and industries that you may be interested in. Keeping up to date with relevant trends and thought leadership will go a long way in helping you with your future job interviews.
Right at your Linkedin homepage, there are numerous tools at your disposal, as well as suggestions to follow to make your news feed as relevant and useful to you.
Right at the top right hand corner you will see recommended news and articles for you, from current affairs, to workforce trends and tips. If you are on mobile, just tap the search bar and you can view these updates. These updates will be great to brush up on wide reaching, generic trends.
The next item that I am going to introduce is arguably the most important thing to do if you wish to build a substantial and relevant knowledge base through Linkedin. It is simply to follow company pages, thought leaders, and relevant hashtags. Search for companies that you are interested in, their close competitors etc and follow those pages. It is a great way to keep your news feed filled with official press releases, statements, papers, and even hiring trends of the firms. There is no better way to directly get a closer look into the firm’s great work and culture than through reading into their public posts.
Following relevant hashtags to your industry of choice is also a great way to get a more macro view on broad industrial trends, as well as reading popular posts from professionals in that industry. For instance, following the hashtag #finance after searching for it in the search bar will allow Linkedin to populate your feed with popular posts by users and companies alike, around the topic of finance, given they include #finance in their posts. Familiar with hashtags on Instagram? Yeah, they work pretty much the same way here, except that on Linkedin, relevant posts will appear in your feed too. Another nice touch: Linkedin allows you to easily view all your followed hashtags on a side panel on the desktop view. (On mobile, just pull up the sidebar menu by clicking on your DP on the homepage) This allows you to easily visualise your chosen areas of interest, and perhaps your “niche”.
(Bonus tip: Have an article or post that caught your eye, but you don’t have the time to read then and there? Save the post so that you can access it later from your profile)
Thought leaders (for those unfamiliar with this term) are people who are seen as an authority figure, or someone who is publicly recognized for their deep expertise and experience in their respective fields. They could be high level executives, prominent book authors or researchers. Following these people will give you insights into their take on the happenings around the world, and how it may impact industries or their respective firms.
If you’ve followed these steps, your news feed should be populated with very relevant topics of your own interests, optimizing the app into something that is truly your own learning resource.
Another 2 learning resources that I’d like to touch on are Slideshare and Linkedin Learning. Slideshare is a great platform for finding professional presentation slides made by corporations, educators, and virtually anyone willing to share information on any specific topic. Easily search, view and download (pdf version only) slides for your own inspiration or learning.
Finally, if you haven’t heard of Linkedin learning by now, I urge you to check it out. (most universities should provide you with free access to Linkedin learning, you may have to log in with your university account to access it) it has a staggering library of virtually any topic that is worth learning for the corporate world, for all levels of experience. Want to brush up on your powerpoint or excel skills? Learn Python? Technology concepts? Video resources are all available there. You can even track your progress as they save courses that you have started on. The best part? No class participation required.
Time for the juicy part of the article 😉 Throughout most of my time in university, I’ve personally gravitated towards Linkedin Jobs as my primary platform for internship hunting, and for good reasons.
Beyond just having regular job updates, the convenience factor of having so much information on the same platform for you to make your decision is a big plus. Apart from having an overview of the number of applicants for that role, you can look up the company’s profile page, as well as find connections who are currently working there.
Another great feature is the easy apply function (if the employer enables it). I am pretty sure all of us here HATE the repetitive process of filling up countless online job application forms. With easy apply, it literally just takes 2 clicks and your application is sent to the employer. All you have to do to set it up for yourself is to upload your resume to the system once, and you can enjoy application processes that’s A LOT smoother than SMU’s internet reliability on exam days. Throw in the ability to save job posts to visit/apply later, and you can see how Linkedin Jobs is truly built for speed and convenience.
To better showcase how Linkedin jobs can help you better select and prepare for an interview, I will list my usual approach when it comes to finding employment prospects, which I feel have helped me one way or another.
- Apply for the role
- Visit the company’s profile + follow page
- Check out some of their posts to get a rough idea of what they are currently doing/plans
- (If there are connections that work there, and you know them), drop them a Linkedin message to ask about their interview experience, process, and what the employers look out for. If it is a department they are not familiar with, I’m sure they will be willing to help you enquire with their colleagues
- If there are no connections, I’d usually use Glassdoor to scope out some interview tips and questions posted by actual people who have had the experience.
- (When invited for interview(s)) enquire with HR about who the interviewers are (yes, this is not illegal in any way, and they’d usually be happy to share)
- Stalk your interviewers (like as if they’re your ex), with particular attention to:
- Description of their current role (if any)
- Prior work experiences (this shows their areas of interest/deep expertise)
- Recent posts/shares
All of this is to build your repertoire of information on your interviewer so you may pose very relevant questions to them to delight them.
- Visit the company website to look at the company’s mission and vision, culture and values (First round interviews are usually with HR, and knowing this at the back of your head and posing questions relevant to them shows that you’ve done your baseline homework. Relating your own experiences back to the company’s values is an even bigger plus)
- Note down your questions, key findings, and crush the interview.
- Repeat steps 4-9 if you are invited to subsequent rounds of interviews.
*In light of social distancing measures, I am told to remind everyone to keep all stalking activities on Linkedin, and not in person.*
I hope this helps you better see how Linkedin can potentially enable you when it comes to job applications and preparations.
(Bonus tip: If you have Linkedin Premium, you have access to even more information about the company, other applicants, and how you match up against others, as shown below)
(Bonus-bonus tip: Linkedin premium is not cheap, and some features are genuinely useful and interesting, such as direct Inmail (where you can contact recruiters directly), as well as the ability to see most of your profile viewers.Try the abandon cart strategy to get great discounts on your subscription. Sign up and leave right before checkout, you might just get a massive discount in your email’s inbox in due time. I have personally received discounts using this strategy for Linkedin, and most other sites)
Of course, we can’t discuss Linkedin without touching on an aspect that is meant to show your brightest and most professional side to the world- your personal profile; or as I like to call it, the mad hard sell.
My approach and view towards the ‘my profile’ section of Linkedin is to treat it as my condensed resume. There isn’t much to talk about regarding building your own profile page, but treat it like a personal landing page, and include what’s relevant. Apart from focusing on your work experiences, you can consider populating other sections such as your volunteer experience(s), exchange university, certifications, unique & relevant programs attended, as well as a short write-up in your ‘about’ section. These are often some parts that are overlooked that may give you a differentiating factor/highlights a different dimension about yourself. The best item to have, of course, would be a short personal recommendation from people you’ve worked with/under before. If you have a good relationship with your manager, it wouldn’t hurt to request him/her to write you a recommendation. Offering to exchange recommendations with fellow interns/people you’ve worked closely with is the most common approach.
Another lesser-known function under your profile page is the ability to indicate and be visible to employers that you are open to work. You can specify the job type and role you are looking for, and people within your network and recruiters looking to hire will be able to see that you are actively looking for that certain role. To access this function, simply go to your profile, click ‘add profile section’, and select ‘looking for a new job’ under ‘intro’.
It should be known that at the undergraduate level, recruiters will not be actively looking out for fresh hires (it is usually the other way round), so activating this function while you are still pursuing your studies will mostly draw the attention of Insurance and property agents looking to expand their team with fresh blood. So unless you wish to go down that path, just be mentally prepared 🙂
Even though we may not be at the stage of our careers where recruiters will be headhunting for us from our profiles, it is a good practice to regularly update and maintain your profile page to prepare for when that day comes, and also for interviewers/people you meet at networking events to understand you better prior to meeting you.
Lesser-known cool stuff:
If you’ve read this far into my write-up, Thank you! Here’s a final bonus section to reward you avid readers with tidbits of some additional cool functions within Linkedin that are less well known.
Firstly, did you know that there is a mentorship platform right in Linkedin itself? It’s called the career advice hub, and you can access it from your profile. You can indicate your industry of choice, and even state any specific advice you are seeking, after which, you may browse suitable industry mentors and reach out to them. (Or, they could reach out to you) I’d advise you to have specific questions and genuine interest in the industry before embarking on this platform, or you may risk wasting everyone’s genuine efforts and time.
Another cool new feature (that is upcoming) is… *drumroll please* Stories. Yes, I’m not even kidding. A few years back, the phenomenon of including stories in everything, from Instagram to Whatsapp to Facebook (they’re all under Facebook, so it figures) became somewhat of a meme, but hear me out- stories on Linkedin is, in my opinion, a really cool feature. Stories on Linkedin can potentially increase accessibility and understanding of the working culture of firms, in a more personable, down-to-earth manner. Getting an intimate peek into the day to day of employees in a firm you’re interested in can be a possibility, without all the heavy editing and PR filters of the posts by the firm’s heavily regulated marketing department. I for one, am looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it is currently only available in select countries outside of Singapore, but it should reach our shores in due time.
If you have a non-english name like me, and struggle with getting others to pronounce your name right, this last bonus tidbit may interest you. You can now include a voice recording of your name to your profile, so that you may get less of those awkward encounters of trying to get others to pronounce it right, only to give in and allow them to butcher your name beyond recognition. This is of course, given that they stalk your Linkedin first. Pretty neat feature with the end user in mind, I must say. Access this feature on your mobile app by simply tapping your profile picture from your profile page, then hitting the edit icon.
Wrap-up: Simple closing on how prevalent Linkedin is, and not to overlook it.
And finally, I’ve come to the obligatory conclusion paragraph. Thank you for taking precious time off your Netflix or animal crossing session to read this far into my little article. If I haven’t changed your perception or opinion of the platform, I hope that you’ve at least uncovered additional tools that will help you in your journey to become a member of the workforce. Like it or not, Linkedin is already a major channel for hiring and recruiting purposes, with over 95% of recruiters utilizing the platform to find suitable candidates. Ignoring it may cause you to feel as handicapped as a business without any social presence; especially further down your eventual careers. So why not start getting used to it now while you can? Once you’re over the ‘intimidation’ barrier, you will see that it can honestly serve as one of the best learning tools out there. Happy connecting!
*Disclaimer, I am not paid or sponsored by Linkedin to do this feature, neither am I associated with them, nor Linkin Park*