09/10/2013 11:19 am ET Updated Nov 10, 2013

Using LinkedIn to Find an Internship or Job

Are you finishing college this year? Will you be seeking employment or looking for an internship come the end of the semester? How do you pursue your dream job? Are you spending a lot of time organizing your resume? Are you networking with alumni? If you haven't, take advantage of LinkedIn. It's a social network, job board, resume, and Rolodex all wrapped into one dynamic and incredible free tool. But just being on LinkedIn is not enough... your profile needs to stand out.

Here's how:

  • Do you have a descriptive headline? Make sure your headline is descriptive enough so people know what you do and who you are. Current and previous job experience should also be displayed along with your education.
  • Do you have a professional quality photo displayed? If you can't take the photo yourself, professional photographers are starting to offer LinkedIn profile photo services. Ask!
  • The Summary section should showcase what you do in a concise manner. Don't babble, but make it interesting enough to get the big picture about what you do. It should mention your professional life and some extracurricular activities or hobbies.
  • The Experience section is your traditional resume laid out, job by job, but unlike a paper resume, you can visually feature projects and display recommendations from other LinkedIn members.
  • My grandfather once told me, "It's all about who you know. Make connections." He was right! Be sure to connect with colleagues past and present, friends, family, and classmates. It's a great way to strengthen your LinkedIn profile and meet new people or find a job. It's also a great way to deliver information about upcoming conferences and seminars, or just help to expose your background and expertise to a larger audience of experts.
  • LinkedIn is also a social network. Updating your status is a great way to share news articles and blog posts related to your field. Do you like an article someone else posted? Leave a comment, like, or share a post from your growing list of connections. Doing this only demonstrates that you're an active member and should be taken serious.
  • Connect your Twitter account to LinkedIn to amplify your message. (You're on Twitter, right?)
  • Take advantage of Recommendations. A recommendation is a comment, or reference written by a friend, colleague, or classmate as an endorsement and displayed on your LinkedIn profile. Those interested in hiring or doing business often consider recommendations when making their decisions. It's like Angie's list, but it's all about you!
  • Join some LinkedIn Groups. Take part in discussions, post or view jobs, and connect with more people. You can find groups to join in the Groups Directory or view the groups in which your LinkedIn connections are already members.
  • Add your published blogs, articles, interviews, research projects, etc. in the Publications section of your account. It only strengthens your overall profile, making you appear more rounded and with experience.
  • Endorsements are not the same as a recommendation. A recommendation is a reference supporting you and your work, while endorsements are Skills & Expertise that someone thinks you have. You might see that some connections will endorse you for skills you might not think are accurate, however the top 3 or 4 endorsements on your list are almost always correct, so it does have merit.
  • Remember, you should create a LinkedIn network based on quality contacts, not quantity! Don't accept every request. If you're unsure, ask in a professional, polite manner. Who knows, it could be a lead to you're first job!
  • Follow your alma mater on LinkedIn. Many higher education institutions have Company pages and now LinkedIn has begun University pages, which ties in all current students, alumni, and staff. An excellent resource for any past, present, or future student.
Besides a complete and active LinkedIn account, tweet relevant news articles about your area of study and engage with other twitter users. If you haven't, start a blog about your education and write about new experiences. Be active, engaging, and have fun. Keep exploring and you'll soon land that internship or first job after college.