LinkedIn for College Students: Top 4 Ways to Use LinkedIn to Network

by Neal Schaffer | October 29, 2009

1.) Utilize LinkedIn to Network for Internships

Internships over summer or winter vacations give you a great chance to test drive a career even before you have selected an online degree program or an on-campus degree program. Up until now the preferred way of finding these internships was through your college Career Center or searching a host of websites like Internweb.  If you feel you're not having any luck with these methods, try searching the 45+ million professional database on LinkedIn.  You just may find a job title and company that might interest you.  Then, put in an effort to contact someone who has a job that you would love to have. 

2.) Don't Get Discouraged by the Economy: People Want to Help!

Despite the constant buzz about the recession, the "tough economic times" and "the worst job market in the last few decades". it is very important to remember that decent human beings enjoy helping others reach their goals in life--regardless of the state of the economy.  Keeping a positive attitude will attract like-minded people into your life who will truly go the extra mile to help you.  I'm sure many people would love to chat with you about what they like about their job, and perhaps you can then ask the question as to whether or not you could help them.  Who knows--if you stick your neck out and step outside of your comfort zone, someone just might say "yes" when you ask them to create an internship for you.  You can't steal 2nd with your foot on 1st!  If they can't personally help you, maybe they could refer you to someone else in their company or in their network who can.  Traditionally, internships are created and found through networking.  If your own physical network can't help you out, plug into the grid and start Windmill Networking on LinkedIn!

3.) Use LinkedIn to Search for Mentors Who Can Guide You

Once you have selected a college major to pursue, or feel you are close to making a decision, you may be interested in receiving coaching from alumni who majored in the same area of study.  Or perhaps you can find a fellow alum who has a job  you are considering as a potential career choice. You can go back to your Career Center for help, but in some ways it may be easier to precisely find the mentor that you are looking for on LinkedIn using a helpful tool called Advanced People Search.  You can also join your college's LinkedIn Group for alumni and check out the discussions boards and news postings for interesting people to contact.  The ability to see a very multi-faceted profile of someone on LinkedIn will help guide you into connecting with the ideal mentor you are seeking.  Having earned a degree from the same college, there is no need to hesitate when it comes to reaching out and asking for help!

4.) Find a Job During a Recession: Dig Deep intoYour Network by Asking for Help

Getting back to my story of meeting Brian this week, as he pointed out to me, it is actually easier for college students to network on LinkedIn because you are a college student.  A lot of people will go out of there way to help you because you are still in school.  If you are genuine and passionate about reaching your goals, you will find more than enough LinkedIn professionals willing to chat with you .  Your senior year will no doubt be filled with college visits by potential employers and more trips to the Career Center, but if you've been digging your well before you are thirsty on LinkedIn, hopefully you will have already made many professional contacts before your senior year.  Just as experienced professionals rely on their social networking to find the "hidden jobs," you will be ahead of the game if you start doing this with your own LinkedIn network before you graduate from college.  Try looking for some networking events to attend from the LinkedIn Events database.  Join LinkedIn Groups based on where you plan to work and in what profession you plan to work in and maximize your presence there by engaging others.

KEY POINT: Windmill Networking Transcends Generations

I always tell people that Windmill Networking transcends generations.  There is no reason why a college student can't start networking early with working professionals on LinkedIn.  Executives utilize the social networking site, so why can't college students who may hope to someday be an executive use LinkedIn to make professional contacts?  The objectives may be different, but the medium is the same.  I have already answered the question, "What do I put on my LinkedIn Profile if I am a college student?"  If you are still new on LinkedIn here are my 5 tips to getting started.  You'll also want to build out your networks by inviting these 10 superconnectors that I recommend to give you more network visbility and help you find and be found.  And here is further advice on how to find great people to meet and connect with on LinkedIn. All that is left for you to do is take the initiative and network.  After all, what do you have to lose, right?


Connect with Neal Schaffer on LinkedIn.


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About the Author

Neal Schaffer is an internationally recognized social networking guru. He helps companies and individuals embrace social media for personal and business applications, and is now a highly sought-after speaker and consultant. His development of Windmill Networking to maximize the potential of LinkedIn parallels nearly two decades of success in Sales and business development in the technology sector. Neal earned a bachelor's degree from Amherst College and is fluent in Chinese and Japanese.