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LinkedIn: The importance it plays in the future success of post-secondary marketing students

Date: April 5, 2018

Executive Summary

This report analyzes the importance of the professional social network LinkedIn in the future success for post-secondary marketing students by investigating the demographics of the social network, success others have achieved using the platform, and the usage of the network by recruiters.

Post-secondary marketing students lack professional networks

Many post-secondary marketing students are graduating from college and university lacking a professional network that will help them achieve professional success in their chosen field. While many students may have heard about the professional social platform, many are unaware of how LinkedIn can help them to land jobs, develop and refine their personal brand, and network with like-minded professionals around the world.

With many post-secondary graduates unemployed or underemployed, using every tool available to them is in their best interest.

Demographics

According to LinkedIn, there are over 546 million members on the platform with new professionals joining every second (LinkedIn, n.d.). Their statistics page also states that there are 20 million companies represented and 14 million open jobs listed (LinkedIn, n.d.). The network is also the most-used social media platform among Fortune 500 companies (Golden, 2016).

For any marketing professional, the network offers untold opportunities for networking, connections, and employment opportunities.

Start building early

To increase the chance of success and relevant employment upon graduation, it is important that marketing students build their professional network and personal brand as early as possible, before graduation. A few foundational networking and branding activities include:

  1. Attending networking events hosted by their school and within the local area.
  2. Creating a complete personal LinkedIn profile, including past and present jobs, volunteer work, education, skills, and interests.
  3. Connecting with everyone within their circle of friends, family, classmates and colleagues.
  4. Joining industry-related groups.
  5. Starting conversations on LinkedIn with other industry professionals.
  6. Using their school’s resources, including LinkedIn workshops and alumni groups.

As time-consuming as it can be, especially for hard-working students, to build a personal brand and extensive network, the opportunities afforded are well worth the work.


The importance of LinkedIn in the future success of post-secondary marketing students

Background

Every year, newly graduated marketers enter the job market, eager to launch their career and put their newly acquired knowledge to work. In the past, a post-secondary diploma or degree was almost a promise of a good job upon graduation. Unfortunately, recent trends show that is not the case anymore. According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate for 15-24-year-old Canadians in February 2018 was 11.1% (Statistics Canada, 2018). While there are many factors and variables behind the numbers, there is an increasing number of news stories and social posts about university and college graduates that are unable to find jobs in their fields.

Canadian Unemployment Rate - February 2018
Figure 1. Statistics Canada – February 2018 Labour force characteristics by age group and sex – Seasonally adjusted

  

Enter LinkedIn. The professional network officially launched in 2003 and currently has more than 546 million members, including more than 14 million in Canada (LinkedIn, n.d.). The social platform is considered by many professionals to be an essential part of their professional life as it allows them to network with fellow industry professionals and builds their personal brand. However, many marketing students and graduates are unaware of the power of LinkedIn and how it can help their future employment and career success.

This report will analyze the importance LinkedIn plays in the future success for post-secondary marketing students. By analyzing the demographics of the social network, success others have achieved using the platform, and the usage of the network by recruiters and hiring managers I hope to convince current post-secondary students to join the platform.

My research methods

Bosco Anthony, a digital marketing strategist active in both Vancouver and East Africa for over seven years, offers his viewpoint on the importance of the network for marketing professionals (see Appendix A). He has also spoken at numerous events including Social Media Week, The Social Media Network, and UBC Marketing Association Gateways.

Marie Gonzales, Human Resources Manager – Operations and Recruitment at Douglas College, provided her viewpoint on the role LinkedIn plays in the recruitment and selection process as well as her advice on how students can prepare for their future careers (see Appendix B).

Secondary research includes various journals, periodicals, and authoritative websites. These resources were used to learn more about the social network’s demographics, how educators are incorporating online networking into their courses, and how recruiters and hiring managers are using LinkedIn when recruiting candidates in various fields, including Marketing and Communications.

Demographics of the social network

Since it’s origin in co-founder Reid Hoffman’s living room in 2002, LinkedIn has grown to over 546 million members including more than 14 million in Canada (LinkedIn, n.d.). The network also boasts:

  • 46 million students and recent college graduates
  • 20 million companies represented
  • 14 million open jobs listed
  • 61 million senior-level influencers
  • 40 million decision makers (LinkedIn, n.d.)

In addition, it is the most-used social media platform among Fortune 500 companies (Golden, 2016).

Every marketer knows that to be successful the product or service needs to be represented and visible where the target audience is. For a professional in the business world who are looking to meet like-minded professionals, looking for a job, or looking to solidify their personal brand, this is the place to be.

Different areas of the network

Like many social platforms, LinkedIn has several different areas and tools available to individuals to make the most of the network.

Personal profiles

While it may not be possible and/or suitable for every professional to complete every section of the personal profile, completing as much as possible is recommended. The basic personal profile includes:

  1. Work experience
  2. Education
  3. Volunteer experience
  4. Accomplishments
    1. Publications
    1. Certifications
    1. Patents
    1. Courses
    1. Projects
    1. Honours and awards
    1. Test scores (especially important for students and graduates)
    1. Languages
    1. Organization

You can also list your skills, which your connections can endorse you for, and you can receive recommendations, which are boosts to your credibility and expertise.

Company pages

Created by the businesses themselves, company pages are great sources of information. You can learn more about the organization, read company news, see if any of your connections work there, and discover employment opportunities. Many companies also have a Life section that shows work life behind the scenes, company culture, and why you would want to work there. You can also follow the company page to receive updates in your news feed.

Groups

Groups are a great way to meet like-minded people, learn more about and discuss favourite industries, and post articles and white papers. They also promote upcoming events, including webinars and conferences, and allow members to build a strong industry-specific network. Groups can be broad and cover an entire industry or narrow and specialized in a specific niche.

Jobs

The employment search options on LinkedIn are vast and in-depth, allowing job-seekers to search by title, keyword, company, or location. The jobs tab will also suggest openings based previous views, career interest, and where your connections work.

InMail

InMail is a great way to reach out to people that you haven’t connected with and for which you don’t have contact information. Many recruiters also use InMail to reach out to potential candidates on the network. The feature is only available for upgraded membership plans.

Use of social media in networking

Networking is a vital part of a professional’s career. No longer is it confined to conferences and Chamber of Commerce events; the rise of online networking on social media, and specifically LinkedIn has allowed busy people the chance to network straight from their phones wherever they are.

Yet even with the ease at which modern marketers can build and cultivate their LinkedIn network, a 2014 study by the Marketing Education Review found “roughly 70 percent of sales and marketing undergraduate students in this study had not developed a LinkedIn profile, and they seldom possessed a strategy to harness the value of this essential networking tool. “ (Peterson & Dover, 2014, p. 15).

Success users have achieved on the network

One of the definitions of marketing is “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.).  For a marketer to be successful in their field, they need to promote and sell themselves.

As the job market continues to be competitive and it becomes more difficult for college students and recent graduates to differentiate themselves from other job-seekers, networking tools like LinkedIn can be a key component for them to build their professional networks, enhance their credentials and increase their social capital.

(Cooper & Naatus, 2014, p. 1)

Many students are familiar with social media, it’s the age that they have grown up in and they’re comfortable being online, posting, commenting, and sharing. However, they may not know that they can achieve professional success on a social network that can help their career move forward and upward.

A report in the Marketing Education Review by American professors Peterson (Sales) and Dover (Marketing) details an assignment that incorporated LinkedIn. Over two semesters 119 students were required to create a LinkedIn profile, build a minimum of 20 new connections, join and participate in groups, and write and receive recommendations. The overall results of the assignment were positive, with students using the network to develop their network and further establish their professional online brand. The report also tells of two students who received employment opportunities through the social platform (Peterson & Dover, 2014).    

When first starting your career, it’s important to place a priority on networking and to continue to make time for it throughout your professional life. A Vancouver-based digital marketing strategist found that online or referral-based introductions outweigh face to face networking events. And after years of using the platform, almost 25% of his incoming messages are referrals, contracts or intros to events.

To achieve success on the network it’s important to post frequently, share articles, align all social contacts across all channels, and add personal content when adding connections so that people don’t feel like they are being spammed (personal communication, March 26, 2018).     

Other professionals have successfully used their existing connections to move into new positions throughout their career, either by announcing a need for a new job or by asking for information about a new field (Adams, 2012).

Usage of the network by recruiters and managers

Which social media networks recruiters use
Figure 2 Recruiter Nation 2016 Survey (Jobvite, 2016)

Most job seekers want to be where the recruiters and hiring managers are, and according to a Jobvite survey of over 1,600 recruiting professionals they are on LinkedIn. The survey reports that 87% of responding recruiters use LinkedIn when vetting candidates during the hiring process (Jobvite, 2016).

To make the best first impression, be sure that your profile is top-notch. Recruiters are most likely to reach out if a profile is thoroughly completed, the profile photo is professional, the list of connections shows that the person has invested time networking and connecting, the resume and LinkedIn profile information match, and the summary is short and to the point, highlighting achievements and successes (Moran, 2017).

Marie Gonzales, Human Resources Manager – Operations and Recruitment at Douglas College, stated that when looking at marketing candidates, they expect a candidate to have their own ‘brand’ and be able to market themselves. Part of self-marketing is having a social media presence and LinkedIn is one of the more prominent social media platforms.   

In addition, Ms. Gonzales says that when hiring for a professional role, such as marketing, having a LinkedIn profile shows the candidate has business-savviness and is up to date with what’s happening in their area of expertise. This can include which groups they are members of, the types of articles and updates they read, and if they follow ‘influencers in their field (personal communication, March 29, 2018).

Another way that recruiters are finding new employees is by posting employment opportunities. The network has more than 14 million open jobs and 20 million companies represented (LinkedIn, n.d.). Job hunters can research the business attached to the job posting and see how they’re connected to the company. If their connections work at the company, they could ask for the inside view and/or a referral. You can also apply to many of the jobs with a few clicks by submitting your profile.

The current job market is competitive, with baby-boomers holding onto their positions longer and millennials struggling to land a job in their field after graduation. Now more than ever personal branding and networking are essential parts of any professional’s toolkit.

A traditional resume is two pages long and quite restrictive in what can be included. Whereas a LinkedIn profile allows you to include and expand on past experiences, skills, and knowledge. You can also publish articles and participate in specialized groups to show your expertise and your communication skills. In short, a LinkedIn profile gives you the opportunity to showcase yourself to recruiters and set yourself apart from the masses.

Conclusions

The job market has grown more competitive over the years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. To gain an edge over the competition it is important to build your personal brand so that recruiters will want to hire you.

For marketers in the age of social media, one of the best ways to build your personal brand online where most recruiters are searching for candidates is on LinkedIn. A study in the Journal of Research in Business Education concluded that the recruiters in their study used LinkedIn when they were evaluating applicants. The study also found that recruiters used Facebook to discount applicants (Karen M. Hood, 2014).

The platform’s tools allow you to promote the most important aspects of your professional life, from publishing authoritative content to detailing past employment and volunteer positions. It also allows you to network with like-minded professionals that you may have never had the opportunity to meet in person and search for employment positions while researching companies.

Recommendations

To build a professional network and personal brand takes time and it’s important that post-secondary marketing students start early while they’re still in school. In addition to attending networking events, it’s important to network and build your brand online where recruiters are looking and vetting candidates.

Start by completing your LinkedIn profile to include current and past employment experiences, skill set, and professional interests. Connect with colleagues, classmates, and friends to build your network. Join industry-related groups, such as the Marketing & Communication Network (313,581 members at writing) or the Digital Marketing group (1,098,505 members at writing), post industry news, and start conversations with other professionals in the industry.

If the thought of signing up leaves you feeling a little overwhelmed, all the major public post-secondary institutions in the Vancouver area (Douglas College, Langara College, University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and Capilano University) offer LinkedIn workshops for their students. Their respective alumni associations also run LinkedIn Groups that graduates can join, giving the opportunity to tap into an even larger network with a shared history.  

Appendix  

Appendix A – Questions for Bosco Anthony – Digital Marketing Strategist  

  1. What priority do you place on networking in your professional life?  

When I started my career networking played a very rank when it came to priorities. As my business and brand grew, the networking aspect is very strategic and outcome/impact based. I focused on strategic networking and make some time for it weekly.

  • What manner of networking (face-to-face vs online) do you find provides the best connections? 

Online introductions or referral based introductions outweigh the face to face networking events. I only network at events i am part of or speak at.

  • What areas of LinkedIn do you use in your day-to-day work? 

I use messaging, look up searches, and inbound correspondence mostly. I sometimes spend time looking up news or pr announcements. Most of my correspondence comes from inbound engagement

  • Have you ever landed a job or contract via LinkedIn? If so, how did it come to be? 

25% of my incoming messages are referrals, contracts or intros to events. Most of it people finding my profile as i rank very high for digital strategists in Vancouver and have an all star profile

  • What advice would you give to post-secondary marketing students about personal branding on LinkedIn? 

Videos, Posts frequently, share articles, create a personal blurb when adding people so people dont feel like its spam, align your social contacts

Appendix B – Questions for Marie Gonzales, HR Manager – Operations and Recruitment at Douglas College 

  1. How do you research candidates online?  

If by research you mean, at the time when we are considering to hire someone who we have already shortlisted, there are times (especially for management roles) where we view their LinkedIn profiles to get more insights about them and we would ‘google’ their names, search for social media presence.

  • Do you expect a marketing candidate to have a LinkedIn profile? If so, what do you look for in it?

Yes, we expect a marketing candidate to have their own ‘brand’.  Being in the marketing field, we would expect them to know how to ‘market’ themselves, and part of marketing yourself is having a social media presence – LinkedIn being one of the more prominent social media presence.

  • What message does it send to recruiters when a candidate doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile? 

Not having a LinkedIn profile does not necessarily mean that the person is not qualified for the role he or she may be applying for.  It would depend though on the role the person is applying for.  If it is for a building service worker, recruiters would not expect that person to have professional profile in LinkedIn.  If it is for a professional role though (i.e. positions in hr, in accounting, in marketing, etc.) Having a LinkedIn profile shows business-savviness and being up-to-date with what’s happening in his/her area of expertise (i.e. which LinkedIn groups is s/he a member of? What types of LinkedIn articles and updates does s/he read? Does s/he follow ‘influencers’ in his/her field? Etc.

  • What advice would you give to post-secondary marketing students in the Greater Vancouver area about career preparation and job-searching before graduation? 

Being an undergrad student, career preparation and job-searching can occur one or even two years before graduation.

– be a student member of the professional association aligned with the program you are taking (some professional associations have student memberships.  An example is cphr-bc, we have hr student members in our association. 

– if the professional association has a professional mentoring program, sign-up as a mentee so that you are partnered with a practicing professional mentor in your field. 

– attend association roundtables, events and workshops; and learn…and network. 

– if there are volunteering opportunities in the companies/organizations that you are interested in working for after graduation, volunteer…and network.

– connect with professionals who are graduates of the same program and ask if you can ‘shadow’ them for a week or so….assess yourself re which areas of the field ignite a spark in you (be it hr or finance of whatever program it is, it will have different areas.  Example, in the hr field, there are numerous areas – recruitment, labour relations, compensation, hr systems, hr operations, learning and development, etc.), and while at their workplace, network

– connect with professionals in your intended field on LinkedIn.  Have regular interactions with them via that platform.

– go for informational meetings with professionals in your field.

– take advantage of co-op opportunities if/when available.

– make a list of companies/organizations you want to work for and ‘follow’ them on LinkedIn, this way you will always be abreast of what’s happening in those organizations and what types of jobs they’re posting.

-take advantage of various job search platform functionalities (i.e. LinkedIn’s job-search app will send you regular notifications on current job postings that are related to your experience/skills, rss feeds of company careers sites will provide you with current job postings, etc.)

– for positions that you are interested in, observe how most job postings for those positions are worded. What are the most common skills and competencies required? Do you have them? If yes, ensure those are in your resume and in your LinkedIn profile. If not, what courses/seminars can you attend to gain them?

The tips/tricks could go on and on…..but the most important of all is -network..network…network.

References

Adams, S. (2012, 1 19). True story: LinkedIn got me two great jobs. Forbes.com, p. 44.

Cooper, B., & Naatus, M. K. (2014). LinkedIn as a Learning Tool in Business Education. American Journal Of Business Education, 7(4), 299-306.

Golden, M. (2016, November 16). Get proof: The case for B2B marketing on LinkedIn [Infographic]. Retrieved from LinkedIn Business: https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/blog/linkedin-b2b-marketing/2016/get-proof–the-case-for-b2b-marketing-on-linkedin–infographic-

Jobvite. (2016). Jobvite Recruiter Nation Report 2016. Retrieved from Jobvite: https://www.jobvite.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/RecruiterNation2016.pdf

Karen M. Hood, M. R. (2014). Personal branding and social media for students in todays competitive job market. Journal For Research In Business Education, 56(2), 43.

LinkedIn. (n.d.). About LinkedIn. Retrieved from LinkedIn: https://about.linkedin.com/

LinkedIn. (n.d.). About LinkedIn | Statistics. Retrieved from LinkedIn | Statistics: https://news.linkedin.com/about-us#statistics

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster Dictionary Marketing. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/marketing

Moran, G. (2017, January 30). This is what recruiters look for on your LinkedIn profile. Retrieved from Fast Company: https://www.fastcompany.com/3067594/this-is-what-recruiters-look-for-on-your-linkedin-profile

Peterson, R. M., & Dover, H. F. (2014). Building student networks with LinkedIn: The potential for connections, internships, and jobs. Marketing Education Review, 15-20.

Statistics Canada. (2018, March 09). Labour force characteristics by age group and sex – Seasonally adjusted. Retrieved from Statistics Canada: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/180309/t001a-eng.htm

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