Students are increasingly hearing about LinkedIn and wondering, “Do I really need it?” The answer is simple: Yes.

LinkedIn is a social networking site unlike any other. You won’t find memes of cats or have to read people’s complaints about Mondays. It is a strictly professional site that serves as a networking tool for over 300 million people, according to the LinkedIn website.

“LinkedIn is where all the HR managers and recruiters are now hanging out,” according to The Resume Center website. “It gives you the opportunity to connect with a company or a person within that company directly – like never before”.

The first step in making an account is creating a profile. This is a far more in-depth process than any other social media site, but there is good reason behind it.

LinkedIn offers a summary section that appears directly beneath the profile picture. This space enables users to pitch themselves in a professional setting. Some people tell their life story, while others boast of their personal strengths and accomplishments. This is also an area where a resumé can be attached.

The skills and endorsement portion of LinkedIn allows a user to add certain skills he or she has, and followers can then vouch for and “endorse” the listed skills. This gives credibility to the user’s name and profile. Not only do users say they are able to complete a task, but others are validating that statement.

Dr. Brooke Van Dam, a communication studies professor at Azusa Pacific University, is a firm supporter of LinkedIn and believes that students should be proactive in building their professional profile.

“I think one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a college student is to not be thinking about your future throughout the four years,” Van Dam said.

Van Dam shared that as a member of LinkedIn, she receives weekly emails with job openings and that alone is beneficial to someone nearing graduation.

Today, many job recruiters rely solely on LinkedIn to secure job openings. It is easy for managers to simply type in a certain career field, set of skills, region or position to come up with a whole list of people suitable for the position.

LinkedIn is also very useful in securing an internship. Having a professional presence online gives an edge in the application process.

APU Social media specialist Allison Oster agrees with Van Dam and uses LinkedIn to connect with people on a different level that other social media facets don’t necessarily offer. LinkedIn eliminates the clutter that come with other social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and has a more narrowed focus for users, said Oster.

Senior biblical studies major Kyle Hahn thinks it’s paramount for students to start building a LinkedIn profile before graduation.

“It’s all about networking,” said Hahn. “The people I’m connected to on LinkedIn, the broader my job possibilities are.”

Both Oster and Van Dam have made connections on LinkedIn that have either furthered their career or helped someone else further their career.

Paul Anderson, a professor in APU’s School of Business believes that the sooner students begin working on their personal profile, the better. “That thing [LinkedIn] is so wide spread you never know what you can come up with and what it can do for you,” said Anderson.

Anderson noted the importance internships play in setting up a successful career, and LinkedIn is an invaluable asset when it comes to securing an internship.

APU students belong to a generation that is comfortable with the idea of “living in the now,” but as graduation quickly approaches, students will wish they spent less time concerned about Instagram likes and focused more time on making connections via LinkedIn.

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