Dear College Students: LinkedIn Is Not The Same As Facebook

College students are understood to be incredibly savvy at social networking - 90% regularly use Facebook, for example. Yet too many students fail to leverage readily available professional social networking platforms, such as LinkedIn, to help launch or accelerate their careers. In my first post on this phenomenon, I was struck by two seemingly opposing facts:

  1. More than half of recent graduates are either unemployed or underemployed.
  2. Nearly half of current college students "have never used LinkedIn - typically thought of as the social network for job seekers." Even among those that do, LinkedIn is not typically a priority in their job search. 

Are students blissfully naive? Certain that they will land that perfect job upon graduation based solely on personal relationships? Are colleges not doing enough to promote the value of professional networking? What about LinkedIn itself ? Could it do more to appeal to students?

Turns out, there is plenty of blame to spread around.

(See also Why Aren't College Students Using LinkedIn To find Jobs?)

Fear Uncertainty And Doubt

A common theme across commenters and tweeters of my first post was that students need help in their employment search and aren't sure how to get it despite the many online services available to them. Students aren't convinced their schools are doing enough to guide them, and many simply do not believe LinkedIn, for example, offers much help for students just starting out in the professional world. A sampling of comments:

LinkedIn contains useless job listings:

Companies that rely on LinkedIn for recruiting are generally doing so because they don't want to pay for any other means of finding good people—and that pretty much tells you all you need to know.

Colleges are not helping:

I just spent 2 hours with my Intern (who is a Senior at our local University) learning Linkedin. She said that her University "tells" the Seniors that they need and should have a profile on Linkedin but don't tell them "how" to do it. That generation is very computer savvy, however, [they] don't know what to put onto Linkedin.

Students fail to understand LinkedIn's potential:

Several years ago I founded a LinkedIn discussion group, Girls Who Print, for women in the printing industry, which has grown into a worldwide "virtual" sorority. Each year, I find more college students join in order to begin making connections within the industry.  

LinkedIn is of no use to a student:

As a college student with little/no experience and one of millions looking for internships, do you think a 'Connect With Me on LinkedIn' will set a candidate apart? No. This will be made on campus, through networking events or through their specific on campus organizations. 

LinkedIn Needs To Do More For Students

Nicole Williams, a career expert who consults on behalf of LinkedIn, was surprised by students' general lack of acceptance of LinkedIn, given how "social media savvy" they're assumed to be. "There is a lag, and we're working hard to rectify that lag," Williams said.

LinkedIn employs Williams, among others, to speak at schools and other events college-age students are likely to attend. Williams says she urges students to understand what LinkedIn can offer even students just beginning a career. "You have to be searchable. Students need a strategic professional brand online that they control."  

"LinkedIn is committed to helping college students utilize the platform," Williams noted. That's not only about finding connections or job listings, she added. "The power of LinkedIn is that you can find someone online, know where they graduated from, learn the trajectory of their career, track their experience and replicate that if you want your career to look like that."

Students Have Professional Networking Choices

Despite LinkedIn's outreach, the fact that many college students are not fully leveraging the site creates opportunities for competitors. Eyal Grayevsky, CEO of FirstJob, a service that specializes in entry level jobs for college students and recent grads, was well aware of the meager number of college students using LinkedIn. "From our point of view, LinkedIn has seen low engagement from the younger demographic because its core focus is professional networking, something that doesn’t appeal to someone who has little-to-no professional experience."

But Grayevsky added that college students typically underestimate the "wealth of company connections" available to them. These may be from alumni networks, volunteer work and other connections, for example.

It's easy to blame supposedly social-savvy students for not fully promoting their online "brand" and not availing themselves of all possible professional social networking opportunities.

But maybe there's also a big difference between the kinds of friends-and-family social networking skills possessed by many young adults and what they need to know to network for professional purposes. Being a whiz at creating interesting Facebook posts, sharing slick Instagram pictures and composing pithy tweets may not easily translate into job-search skills. 

 

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.