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LinkedIn: How Recent Grads Are Using It To Get Ahead

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By Stephanie Nelson, Reporter

They have their degrees, resumes, and internships, but how do recent college graduates get the job?

Online social media is a growing trend in the professional networking world. Top Fortune 500 CEOs to entry-level employees are using sites like LinkedIn.com to make connections and job search.

Although the hiring process has changed a lot since the last generation graduated college, it’s still about who people know and what people know. The difference is, it’s online and knowing how to use it may determine who gets hired.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is on board. There are pockets of professionals and industries that don’t know how to use it or refuse to use it. Still, with the national unemployment rate above eight percent, more young professionals are turning to it to give them an advantage.

“These websites open you up to a diverse world of companies and professional contacts,” says Christina Paxman, a graduate teaching assistant in the communication school at the University of Iowa, “This new technology is shaping the way people get hired.”

As of last December, professionals are signing up on LinkedIn at a rate of two members per second, totaling about 150 million members in over 200 countries, according to LinkedIn.com’s annual report. That makes it the world’s largest professional networking site in the world.

LinkedIn connects professionals and college students to other professionals through a process called “connecting.” One person sends a request to connect to another person and once the other person accepts, they become virtual friends. This is similar to the social networking site Facebook, which has the same connecting process. However, LinkedIn is designed for professional networking rather than social.

Paxman says the size of the site lets recent graduates connect with professionals across the globe, allowing them a glimpse into many industries and professions.

“Messaging is just one of many tools LinkedIn and Twitter offer. It’s a great way to ask for advice or tips from someone who is already doing the job you want. I’ve heard that leadfuze linkedin is shepherding a lot more salespersons these days, and is proving to be a good interface,” said Paxman.

It’s hard to know how many young professionals are using these networking sites but, according to LinkedIn, students and recent college graduates are its fastest growing demographics.

Paul Spooner, a 2011 graduate from the University of Iowa school of Journalism and Mass Communications, used LinkedIn to search for jobs and make connections in the public relations industry.

“LinkedIn was a gateway to many companies and professionals I was interested in. It let me connect to them in a way no other resource could-directly,” said Spooner.

Even though he was active during college, having held seven internships, he said it was difficult to find entry-level positions.

“It’s a tough time to search for jobs, but having my resume on LinkedIn and sharing my other skills and interests really gave me an advantage over other applicants who did not have that online brand,” says Spooner, who now works full time at the public relations firm Osborn and Barr.

LinkedIn counts executives from all Fortune 500 companies as members and 82 percent of Fortune 100 companies use it to hire, according to the site. But some professionals and smaller companies are still not using it.

“It’s very industry and age specific. Right now there is a specific sector of people and businesses that are benefiting from it,” says Paxman.

Kara Kelly, broadcast news director at KCRG Television 9 news station in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, says social media doesn’t work for her when she’s hiring.

“I don’t waste my time on there. I think your work should speak for itself, but that might be because of the industry I am in,” says Kelly.

She says the broadcast industry is small; therefore, professionals make connections on a face-to-face level.

“People in this field get connections from knowing people who know people who know more people. It’s easier to pick up the phone and call someone who can help you rather than looking them up online,” said Kelly.

Kelly says she will probably never have a LinkedIn profile or use it to look at job applicants.

Another issue hiring managers have with the new technology is not knowing how to use it. And some don’t want to learn either.

“I have never used LinkedIn. I let other staff post to it because I don’t know how it use it,” says Jan Rigotti, human resource representative at the University of Iowa Alumni Association.

Rigotti has been in human resources for about six years, but she says she has no desire to learn how to use online social networking sites.

“The way I hire has worked very well for me without screening applicants on those sites,” says Rigotti.

But it’s not only the ones doing the hiring who are unfamiliar with online networking sites. Students in certain majors sometimes don’t have exposure to what these sites are or how to use them.

“I don’t have a LinkedIn because I had never heard of it until recently. It’s not something they teach or tell you to do as a psychology student,” says Kayla Sivesind, a senior psychology major at the University of Iowa.

Sivesind says she probably didn’t know about the site because her career will not start until after graduate school. But she still wishes she would have known for internship opportunities.

“Not once have my professors ever talked about social networking,” says Sivesind.  “I think it’s a disadvantage not to know about it when it comes to finding information on my field.”

Paxman, the graduate teaching assistant, agrees. “There are pockets of students and majors who get over looked and don’t get the instruction they need for finding jobs,” she says.

Paxman also adds though, when it comes to searching for jobs, LinkedIn may have some pitfalls.

“I’ve wondered how valuable it is for younger professionals to use as a search engine for jobs,” she says.  “That part is mainly used by higher management positions. I would recommend they use another resource for that.”

Still, the task of searching for employment and hiring is changing quickly. In order to be successful, this new technology is forcing young and seasoned professionals alike to adapt to the new environment of online social networking.

“Now that I know about it, I’m going to make a profile tonight and tell other psychology majors to do the same. It can only help in the long run,” said Sivesind.


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