Director's Digressions: The Thread

Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT Director
Photo of two women working on a project together using a computer

College students can use LinkedIn to connect with people academically and professionally.

I wanted to share with you a question posed by program staff on one of our discussion forums so that you can get the flavor of the many rich conversations the DO-IT community has online. Some responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

There's a great article about how to use LinkedIn as a college student here: mashable.com/2013/08/12/linkedin-college-students. What do you think of the advice? How has LinkedIn been useful for you?

AccessTeam Member: As a college instructor, I get flooded with requests from former students, many of whom I might never have interacted with (especially if it was a large class). My advice is to please not do this unless you communicate first with your instructor and get permission. Otherwise, it's like listing a person as a reference without asking them. You can do it, but there can be repercussions.

AccessTeam Member: One factor to keep in mind is that one of the things LinkedIn tries to get users to do as part of the account creation process is "automatically" adding their contacts. When a user authorizes this, it automatically scrapes any email accounts you happen to be logged in to, and sends automatic invitations to all or some subset of email addresses that you have sent to. I tend to get at least one or two random connection requests a week from people that sent me an email or two years ago and I haven't interacted with since.

AccessTeam Member: I've been a part of a few discussions where people seem to forget the site is aimed at building career connections and they say inappropriate things that would not make them look good in front of prospective employers. You have to remember who your audience is and whether what you say might be a deal-breaker for a potential employer. For example, do not go on LinkedIn and trash your previous employers and supervisors. Potential employers will see that as a red flag and you will have burned a bridge before you even knew you wanted to cross it.

Photo of a student points to his computer in a discussion with a teacher

LinkedIn is a great way to promote your skills and share projects with interested employers.

AccessComputing Member: I just got on LinkedIn and connected with an old friend. He's working in the financial sector, and I am doing my Ph.D. in computer science. The first thing he said was that he could use my computer skills for his big data problems. You never know who is doing what out there, and how it could relate to you.

A career counselor once told me that eighty percent of job openings are never posted. It's all done through friends and family connections. The last two jobs I have had were referrals through both a friend a professor. So I think LinkedIn is great, and I wish I had started on it sooner.

AccessComputing Member: LinkedIn is just another of the tools that I use to communicate with people. Every job I have had since high school, I got through a connection. I have several hundred people that I am connected to, and I readily use the list to find people with certain skill sets when I need something done.