Graduation is just a few weeks away and every college graduate is thinking about their future. Graduates can’t afford to spend time resting on their laurels—the future awaits and so do those hard-to-find jobs. It is common knowledge that networking works in the job search. If you make good contacts and expand your network, the jobs should and will come to you. Posting your resume on job sites is always recommended, but with the hundreds of thousands of applicants out there, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack for employers.

In January, an article in the Wall Street Journal stated that job recruiters are rethinking their online playbook:

As recruiters wade cautiously back into hiring mode, they’re throwing out their old playbooks. Rather than sift through mounds of online applications, they are going out to hunt for candidates themselves. Many plan to scale back their use of online job boards, which they say generate mostly unqualified leads, and hunt for candidates with a particular expertise on places like LinkedIn Corp.’s professional networking site before they post an opening.

If recruiters and employers are looking on LinkedIn to fill their job vacancies, it is good sense for a graduate to concentrate a good portion of their networking on that site.

Set up a profile

Set up a profile and take the time to complete it 100%. If you haven’t completed a resume, you want to have one done to import into your profile. LinkedIn tells you when it’s complete and what elements you need to complete it. Once you get the basic format set up, enter the search engine words related to your job interest (i.e. marketing, advertising, communications, etc.). Search for some current friends, past employers or college professors and ask them if they would consider giving you a recommendation. Stellar recommendations show up in LinkedIn searches and you want your recommendations to stand out.

Make useful connections

Import your email contacts from your email programs and start there with your connections. Those will be people who know you personally and also have a network established on LinkedIn. Next, look for alumni of the college you are graduating from. You can join the alumni group and make connections through that group. Finally, research companies you are interested in applying to and locate current employees. It’s possible one of your connections is also connected to them and you will be able to make that 2nd level connection. LinkedIn follows the premise of “3 degrees of separation”, enabling you to connect with a vast network of people easily, through your 1st, 2nd and 3rd level connections. Do a Google search to find more connections on LinkedIn related to the type of work you are interested in pursuing or the company/job title of interest that would welcome your education background and qualifications.

Get the word out to your network

LinkedIn offers status updates allowing you to post that you are currently looking for employment and any other information you care to share with your network. This information appears on all the home page feeds of your connections, allowing you the opportunity to get the word out about your job search. Search companies of interest and look for their hiring/human resource managers. Send a simple letter of introduction asking to connect and inquire about current job openings in your area of expertise.

Become active

People use LinkedIn to post questions related to any number of topics. This offers you an opportunity to share your expertise and knowledge, while making additional valuable connections. You can also ask questions soliciting information, allowing you to connect with those who answer or comment.

For graduates, building a professional network on LinkedIn just makes sense. It’s where the recruiters are going. It’s where other professionals can be found. It’s where you can begin to position yourself in the marketplace upon graduation. Let’s face it, competition is stiff and the smart graduate knows that if they think outside the box and go where the jobs are, they will be out in front and ready to snag that coveted job. Have you used LinkedIn to find a job? Please leave a comment below and share your experiences.

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