What is LinkedIn? Is it really necessary? How does it even work? Do employers actually look at it?
…. Are all questions I frequently hear whenever the corporate social media platform LinkedIn is ever mentioned (usually accompanied by some groans). Most students have heard of it, some students have it, but very few actually utilise it to its fullest extent. It’s often thought of as a ‘necessary evil’ that you need to have for job applications, but the mood around it is often rather begrudging.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is yet another social media platform, targeted specifically at the business community. The purpose of it is to grow your network and maintain connections with people you know professionally, and share your current projects and achievements with them. You can also follow companies and popular figures in the business world, like Bill Gates or Richard Branson, and view their posts, recommendations and current ventures. There is also the Learning side of LinkedIn, where you can go on courses and take exams to earn digital certificates and qualifications that you can add to your profile.
Is it really necessary?
If you are looking to expand your network, seeking employment, and maintain connections with people you meet in your field of study in the future, having a LinkedIn presence is highly advisable. Unlike other social media platforms, having a massive network or follower count isn’t necessarily the goal – the point of it is to follow people who you are interested in, and connect with a core group of people you know on a professional basis and want to stay in touch with – potentially with the goal of working with them in the future.
What sort of people use it?
All sorts! From big, influential CEOs to HR managers looking to hire people, to students and professionals. In the last few years, LinkedIn has had a bit of a resurgence, with more Gen Z users than ever before. Popular online creators like MrBeast and Zach King post frequently with analytics breakdowns of their most popular videos, creativity tips, and behind the scenes insight into their ideation process.
How does it work?
You have a homepage feed with the latest posts from the people you follow, which is usually comprised of posts they have directly written, or reposts that they have shared or commented on from other people or organisations that they thing is worth sharing or celebrating. Here is an example of a post which one of my network, Students’ Union Exec Officer Celina Pereira, liked recently, which then showed up on my feed.
You also have your own profile page, featuring a summary about you which is publicly visible (more on that shortly).
To connect with people, find their profile using the search function and click ‘Connect’. They will receive a request from you and can accept or reject the invitation to reject. Connecting with someone adds you to each others’ network, so you will be able to directly message them and view each others’ posts on your home feed.
You will see a 1st, 2nd or 3rd+ icon on people’s profiles. This related to the number of degrees of separation that they have from you.
- 1st means you are directly connected, such as pictured below.
- 2nd means you have one or more mutual connections
- 3rd+ means you have no mutual connections
Regardless of connection status, you can ‘Follow’ people and receive their posts on your timeline, even if you don’t know them personally.
Some people may have set their profiles so only people they have a mutual connection with can request to connect with them. There is a premium paid-for version of LinkedIn, which enables you to connect with and direct message anyone, regardless of their profile settings, scour thousands of profiles at once if you are trying to target a certain group of people with your marketing, and take premium-level LinkedIn Learning courses to boost your profile. (It is quite expensive though, at £35 a month!).
Do employers look at it?
Yes they do! Hiring Managers will often have #Hiring badges on their profiles and pictures, and reaching out to them via LinkedIn is often more fruitful than email alone, as they can quickly glance at your profile, see your experience and background and have an easy way of contacting you directly.
What should I add to my profile?
Think of your LinkedIn profile as an abridged version of your CV. It contains your profile photo, bio, academic history, your work experience and volunteering history, past projects and achievements, skills, and even references from people you have worked with in the past. It is important to spend some time making sure all of the sections are filled out, as it gives potential employers at a glance a great overview of who you are and whether you are a good fit for their company.
Here’s an experience I added to my profile recently, with my role and responsibilities clearly laid out, relevant skills labeled, and a photo added to reinforce the text and bring a more personal element. You can also see the location of the experience, the duration, which organisation it was with, and the type of work it was (Freelance, Full-Time, Internship, etc). The pencil button in the top corner allows me to edit and update this at any time.
From experience, I can totally relate that writing a bio about yourself in a positive manner can feel awkward or cringeworthy. However, don’t let that stop you from accurately portraying yourself and your achievements – it isn’t showing off! Brevity is also important – write a snappy bio that demonstrates who you are and what your interests are, and one or two sentences about each experience with what your role was and what your responsibilities were. You can also add photos to your experiences, which can raise your profile up a few notches!
You can also add to your profile and your picture that you are ‘Open To Work’, which will help LinkedIn’s algorithm show your profile to more people who are hiring in your field, and clearly show them that you are seeking employment.
Once you’ve finished, I recommend this useful free website which uses AI to review your profile and suggest improvements you can make: Resume Worded LinkedIn review tool
What do I post?
Don’t feel a pressure to post on LinkedIn unless you are confident in doing so – it is totally acceptable to lurk!
It can feel quite overwhelming, seeing post after post of people in your network saying how amazing a time they had at a conference/on a podcast/writing an article/etc etc, but remember that people tend to only post about highlights and notable experiences. Many people post also about interesting articles they have read with their take on the topic, or tips to boost your creativity and efficiency in a certain field, or collections of resources that they find useful.
Here’s a post of mine, reposting the behind the scenes photos from a shoot on campus with the University’s Chancellor, Nazir Afzal. You can @ tag people in your post, making their name show up in blue, which links to their profile.
It can get a little monotonous to constantly post about things you have done, so why not spice things up and post about things that genuinely help you work more efficiently, or your thoughts on an interesting recent article you’ve read, with a critical lens from your specific field of study! Not everyone in your network will have had the same experiences or education in your subject as you, and will likely appreciate the insight and value you bring to the table.
Where do I start?
Make a profile! Fill in all of the sections, and start creating your network by connecting with students and even staff on your course, and people you have worked with in the past. Many of my past and present lecturers often post interesting articles and content related to my subject that I wouldn’t otherwise interact with on other social media platforms! If you attend networking events or talks, such as the University of Manchester’s recent TEDx event, connect with people you meet there that you want to stay in touch with on a professional basis.
LinkedIn is a really useful platform to have a presence on, even if you don’t check it as religiously as you might do for TikTok, Instagram or Snapchat. Having a semi-active profile with a reasonable network and a handful of posts is a great way to show a potential employer that you are engaged and on the ball, and at a glance it shows them an overview of your CV so they can see if you are the right fit for them. LinkedIn may still feel like a necessary evil, but it’s highly useful to have it in your employability arsenal in addition to your CV.
And feel free to connect with me and kickstart your network!
Looking for more?
Check out some of the University’s Careers Service resources on the Careers Service website, especially relevant is their guide to LinkedIn.
Check out the Student Union’s for advice and student-focused job listings: SU Jobshop website or information on working at the SU
Other external useful sites I like include Bright Network (Bright Network) and Indeed