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LinkedIn for Grad Students

by Dora Farkas, Ph.D., MIT

LinkedIn started out in the living room of co-founder Reid Hoffman in the fall of 2002, and it has become one of the largest online professional networking sites. Unfortunately, few people know about all of its features. In this brief, I summarize how to set up a LinkedIn profile, and then show you LinkedIn's more advanced features. If you are a beginner at LinkedIn, you can learn more about the basics at:

Setting up a profile

In order to set up a profile, you will need your education and employment history, and a photo is recommended as well. Once you create an account, it is quite straight-forward to set up your profile, so I will not go into the details. However, keep in mind your reason for joining LinkedIn. Why do you want to become more networked? Do you want to let other people know about your research? (In the section about applications, you will see how you can create presentations on LinkedIn!) Do you want to be more active in your professional community? Or are you looking for a job? Keep your purpose in mind while creating your profile, so you can write your summary and employment history accordingly.

Once you set up a profile, find the profiles of your professional contacts, such as classmates and colleagues, and invite them to join your network. Your network will grow gradually as you get networked with other people who know your contacts. In addition, LinkedIn will bring up the profiles of people you may know every time you log in. How large should your network be? Having a large professional network can be very useful when you are searching for a job, but only invite people whom you have a professional relationship with. It is much better to have a small network of reliable contacts, than having 500+ people who barely know.

LinkedIn will also suggest that you get recommendations to complete your profile. How do you get recommendations? Write them for other people. They will have the option of accepting your recommendations, and if they do, LinkedIn will suggest that they write one for you too. Remember that LinkedIn is strictly a professional networking site (and hence very different from Facebook). Many employers will review your profile before hiring you, so put your best foot forward!

Applying for jobs

So what's all the LinkedIn buzz about? You set up a profile, you connect with people you know, and then what? How does this help your professional development? One of the features that many users do not know about is LinkedIn's job application site. LinkedIn allows you to search for jobs, and to connect with the hiring managers who posted them. Here is what you need to do:

  • Click on "Jobs" on the top menu.
  • On the next page you will be able to search jobs according keywords and location.
  • Next, you will have the option of clicking either on a job or on people connected to this job in some way. You might find people in your network who currently work at that company, or who know the hiring manager.
  • Then you can either apply to the job online, or request a referral from one of your connections. It is great to know how you can get connected to the hiring manager!

Professional Communities

LinkedIn also hosts professional communities (or "Groups") based on common interests and goals. You can either post or answer questions in forums, which are great ways to increase your visibility, and to gain valuable information.

First, click on "Groups" on the upper menu. You will then have the option of searching for groups with specific keywords. Once you find groups that you like, you can send a request with your preferences (e.g. whether you want to receive their email digests). If your membership is approved, you can contribute to discussions and even post your own questions. In addition, you will see a list of jobs posted specifically to your group! Of course, you can also start your group, by clicking on "Create a Group" within the Groups menu. You will need a logo, a group name, description and summary. You are not required to have a website, but a website and a LinkedIn group could work well together to build your community.

LinkedIn Applications

One of the coolest features of Linked In is that it hosts a large variety of applications that can help you to become even more connected with your professional groups. Applications include, but are not limited to:
  • WordPress & Tweets :If you have blog, you can now sync your entries with LinkedIn. There is no reason to blog/tweet twice!
  • Google Presentation: Create a presentation about your professional accomplishments, a great way to introduce yourself to recruiters.
  • If you already use this online storage and sharing, you can now develop this application further through Linkedin
  • Reading List by Amazon: Curious what others in your network are reading? You can follow them now through LinkedIn!

For more information, here is a list of books about LinkedIn:

  • How to REALLY use LinkedIn by Jan Vermeiren (2009)
  • LinkedIn For Dummies by Joel Elad (2008)
  • I'm on LinkedIn--Now What??? (Second Edition): A Guide to Getting the Most Out of LinkedIn by Jason Alba (2009)
  • How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Other Social Networks by Brad and Debra Schepp (2009)
Dora Farkas, Ph.D., MIT

About the author

Dora Farkas is the author of "The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates," and the founder of, an online community for graduate students which provides monthly newsletters and a discussion forum. She can be reached at

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