In the 90s, the Washington Post ran an ad campaign targeting non-readers, "If you don't get it [the paper], you don't get it."
Today, the same phrase could be said of people who don't want to use LinkedIn.
Whether you're seeking your first job or career advancement and a promotion, LinkedIn is an essential social networking tool. Here are three reasons why you should actively join in – and how to optimize your time on the site.
Saying you need to go to a party because "everyone else is already there" may not have worked for you with your parents, but it's applicable with LinkedIn. Over 300 million users use LinkedIn as a networking tool.
In fact, the site is in such frequent use that web metrics company Alexa says LinkedIn is the 9th most accessed website in the U.S.
If you want to build a professional online presence, LinkedIn should be your first stop. In a 2013 survey of recruiters conducted by Jobvite, 79 percent of recruiters said they'd hired candidates found through social media – and 94 percent said that they use LinkedIn for recruiting. Dick Bolles, the author of the perennial bestselling book What Color is Your Parachute? (first published in 1972), says LinkedIn is your online resume.
LinkedIn provides you with all the space you need to create a strong online profile, including 2,000 characters for an introductory summary, customizable sections to include information about current and past jobs, education, skills, projects and volunteer experiences. Once you share your information and make your profile visible, colleagues, past connections and future employers can find you.
When you complete your profile with a professional photo, keywords related to the type of work and industry you want, and build your connections, your information will become visible to others who search LinkedIn too. Just as LinkedIn shows you 2nd degree connections (those who know people you know) and 3rd degree connections (those who know people who know your connections), you will appear in search results and "people you may know" lists.
Regardless of whether you have an active account or are just getting started, LinkedIn's Student Jobs 101 is a great place to get started or get tips on how to polish your profile. For privacy purposes, there's no need to share your birthday, grades or test scores – even if you are asked.
For more details, read LinkedIn Job Search Basics.
In almost every job application pool, there are many applicants and only one successful candidate. In fact, there are often so many applications that many talented applicants can get overlooked. There are also many employers who step outside the process - and hire those they know through their own networks - or those who are referred to them.
Annual studies conducted by CareerXroads for more than a decade show that hiring people through networking and referrals is the favorite hiring method of choice for most employers.
LinkedIn makes it easy to increase your visibility and build your personal network.
[Note: As LinkedIn was created as a network of individuals with whom you trust, it is not advisable to send a generic invitation to connect as your first communication. Instead, make mention of a shared interest or something you have in common - just as if you are getting to know someone you might want to date.]
While there are many strategies you can use to find a job and build a career, LinkedIn is firmly entrenched as a go-to destination for individuals across their career span. In fact, if you've attended or graduated from a college or university, you may be able to search LinkedIn's alumni page to sift through all of your fellow students and/or alumni by where people live, work, college major and what they do.
If you've been on the fence about whether to jump on the LinkedIn bandwagon or not, I hope this article has convinced you to make a run for it. According to the company, over 39 million students and recent college graduates have joined LinkedIn - and they are the company's fastest-growing demographic. This is one case where again –- the phrase "everyone is doing it" actually means perhaps you should, too!
E. Chandlee Bryan, M.Ed.(@chandlee and Google+) is a career advisor at Dartmouth College. A certified career coach and resume writer, Chandlee's experience includes working as a recruiter, facilitating one of Manhattan's largest job search meetups, and serving as the resume expert for a national Microsoft campaign. She is a co-author of The Twitter Job Search Guide (JIST 2010).