One of the biggest recent trends in entry-level recruiting is the rise of the internship. Summer internships have become a necessary element of a college student’s qualifications for a post-graduation job, and many employers are treating internships as a “three-month interview,” making full-time offers to high performing interns for the following year.
If you’re among this year’s ranks of interns, how can you stand out from the crowd and turn your summer experience into a full-time offer? Here are some tips on how LinkedIn can help:
1. Do your homework.
Yep, there’s still homework in the summer. One of the best ways to stand out as an intern is to be so knowledgeable about your employer, industry and colleagues that you already feel like a co-worker. Here’s how:
- Learn as much as you can about your summer employer by following the organization’s Company Page on LinkedIn. This means any update the company posts — press releases, new product announcements, earnings reports and more — will appear right on your LinkedIn Homepage. Then, when people are discussing various company-related topics, instead of asking, “What are you talking about?” you’ll be able to contribute an intelligent comment or specific question.
- Beyond your employer, follow their competitors, clients, and vendors as well. If you hear someone mention another company, jot down the name and look it up later. You can do the same with the organization’s overall industry as well. LinkedIn Channels allow you to follow all of the important news in a particular field. This is a great way to build your knowledge of industry jargon and top trends. Again, you can use this knowledge in work conversations to show you are truly passionate about working in the field in which you are interning. For example, “I just read about the upcoming association conference and saw that our company is sponsoring. Is there anything I can do to help you prepare?”
- Apply the same research strategy with people. Check out the LinkedIn profiles of all of your colleagues, clients and company leaders. Learn who people are, what their specific roles are at the company, what backgrounds they have, where they went to school and more. You might discover an unknown connection — such as the same alma mater or personal passion — that can help build a relationship. Just be careful not to look like a stalker: If you choose to mention a commonality, tell the person you learned about it on LinkedIn. For example, “John – I saw on LinkedIn that you are involved in some tennis organizations. I love tennis and play on my school team. Can you believe Nadal got knocked out so early at Wimbledon?” Many strong professional relationships are built on common interests and personal connections.
2. Make a strong professional impression.
Just as you are researching people, they are also researching you. You can make the best impression by completing your LinkedIn profile to “All Star” status, which means filling out all sections in detail.
To start, have a detailed headline. Instead of simply “Student” or “Intern,” use memorable details and keywords that people might use to search for you, such as “Ohio State Marketing Major and Communications Intern at Adobe Systems.” For your photo, post a professional-looking headshot in your best interview outfit. No prom pictures or snapshots with your dog!
For the rest of your profile, play to your strengths as a student: Build your Experience section with your current and any other internships and extracurricular leadership positions. When possible, add visual examples for the work you’ve completed (as long as it’s not proprietary to your employer), such as writing samples, PowerPoint presentations, marketing pieces and videos.
Also add optional sections, such as Courses (only including the classes that are relevant to your career), test scores (if they are good!) and Volunteer Experience and Causes. Round out your profile by filling your Skills & Expertise section with the top keywords that describe your skill set. If you’re not sure what to include, scan the internship position description for the work you’re currently doing and the job postings for the entry-level positions you hope to land after graduation. Use the same words (as long as you really possess those skills) as well as other traits you’ve picked up at school, such as writing, research, teamwork and meeting deadlines.
Toward the end of your internship, it’s a good idea to ask your internship manager and any colleagues you worked with frequently to write a LinkedIn recommendation for your profile. Recommendations are a great way to highlight your real world achievements and skills, especially if you don’t yet have a lot of experience. Don’t be shy about asking people to mention specific projects you completed, such as a report you wrote or event you coordinated. Future employers will want to see such details of your accomplishments.
3. Keep in touch.
Finally, now is the time to build a plan for maintaining the great professional relationships you are building this summer. Connect on LinkedIn with your fellow interns (you never know where they may end up in the future), your managers, colleagues and HR representatives or recruiters you have met.
If you aren’t sure whether it’s okay to do this, simply ask: “Michelle, I’m really enjoying working with you and would love to keep in touch on LinkedIn when I head back to school. May I send you a LinkedIn connection request?” Then, when you do send the connection request, be sure to customize the note. For instance, “Michelle, thanks so much for agreeing to connect with me here on LinkedIn. Thank you for your support and guidance this summer and I look forward to keeping in touch.”
And do keep in touch! Even if you don’t receive an offer at the end of your internship (some companies hold off on hiring until later in the year), make sure to stay on the radar screens of the people you’ve met. Send thank you messages on LinkedIn at the end of the summer with a heartfelt and specific message to each person about how he or she helped you over the summer. You can also post regular status updates, such as sharing interesting articles about your industry (your LinkedIn Today Channel subscription will help you find great content) or mentioning exciting projects you are working on at school. And be sure to “like” and comment on the posts of your new connections as well. If you continue to act like a colleague even when you’re back on campus, you may have the opportunity to become just that after graduation.