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Stomping the Yard

Why You Should Get Linked Up and LinkedIn

College blogger Dr. Shante Bishop shares five reasons why college students should join LinkedIn.

Calling all college students!  Our new weekly column, Stomping the Yard, aims to help undergrads excel in their studies and social lives.  JETmag.com’s team of experts will show you how to get it done from the day you move into the dorms to the minute you step off campus for that first job. Submit questions and feedback for The Yard via digitalpitches@ebony.com.

I would like to issue a challenge. Walk into any classroom on campus and ask, “How many of you have a Facebook page or account?” Undoubtedly, you will see most, if not all, hands shoot straight into the air.

Then ask, “How many of you have a LinkedIn Profile?” and watch the numbers shrink dramatically.

This phenomenon supports national polling data showing that 85 percent of college undergraduates have a Facebook account, yet only 21 percent have a LinkedIn profile. It also explains, at least in part, why the unemployment rate amongst Millennials (18-29 year olds) is more than DOUBLE the national average. This is a troubling statistic given that many African-American college students have acquired debt in the form of student loans to pay for school. Not being able to find gainful employment after graduation can delay their ability to pay down those loans, live independently of their parents, start their own families, and build wealth.

LinkedIn is the “Facebook” of the professional world. The social media network has representation from every Fortune 500 Company in America, along with representatives in every professional industry from manufacturing to healthcare. Even major media personalities from television, radio, newspapers, and magazines have linked up with other professionals in their field.

Why? The benefits of being on LinkedIn are numerous. By “linking in,” college students can get access to experts in their major; join special interest groups and get insider knowledge on how to prepare for interviews; find out who’s hiring and in what fields; start making favorable impressions with hiring managers and build professional relationships with people who can serve as guides and mentors.

Students who go through college thinking that all they have to do is follow the old-school rules of go to school, get a degree, and get a job may not realize that the rules for hiring in the 21st century have changed dramatically. Many do not fully understand what LinkedIn is, or why they should use it. While social networking may come easily to most students, social networking in a professional setting is something that requires more skill and practice.

By sophomore year, every college student should have a presence on LinkedIn. Getting started can be a daunting task, especially when college students don’t have the level of experience that more established professionals have. Nevertheless, here are five connections every college student should make when starting out on the network:

1. Professors: Students’ college profs can be an invaluable resource for securing internships, fellowships, letters of recommendation, and field placements. Make a favorable impression in the classroom and then extend an invitation to your professor to join your professional network.

2. Academic Advisors: Chances are, your academic advisor has been working closely with you to guide your course selection, choose a major, or find a career path. Who better to add to your professional network, especially if he or she can refer you to additional resources?

3. Alumni: Recent grads can provide great “lessons learned” about the do’s and don’ts of preparing for the workforce. Their insight can give you a tremendous advantage as you position yourself for greater opportunities.

4. Club/Group Advisors: College is bursting with opportunities to join clubs and organizations. Most, if not all, groups have a staff advisor to approve activities, secure facilities, and supervise events. This is also someone who knows you and your work ethic outside of the classroom, and can endorse your skills and abilities.

5. Special Interest Groups: LinkedIn has tons of special groups dedicated to a number of topics including social media marketing, music, technology and design. Joining some of these groups can provide exposure to conference opportunities, networking events, and give you the latest news on hot topics in your field of interest.

In today’s increasingly competitive job market, with Millennials struggling to compete, being “Linked In” and “linked up” can give college students a competitive advantage by having an established reputation amongst a network of professionals. Nowadays, it’s not about who you know, but rather “who knows YOU?”

About Dr. Shante Bishop

Photo Credit: Jeremiah-Phinally Phocused

Photo Credit: Jeremiah-Phinally Phocused

Getting TO college is one thing; Getting THROUGH college is quite another. That’s why Dr. Shante’ Bishop offers strategic advice on being successful both in and out of the classroom. From catalogs to cap and gown, Professor Bishop shares what it takes to ‘Stomp the Yard” with confidence and clarity! You can follow Dr. Bishop on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.