Using LinkedIn to make connections; learning best practices for Khoury College students

July 28, 2020

By Aditi Peyush

Students in the Align MS in CS program are no strangers to the thrill of applying for and landing their first co-op or internship.

Align enables students with a non-CS undergraduate degree to take two semesters of bridge courses to prepare them for graduate level courses in computer science. In the program, there is a fusion of interdisciplinary thinking; students from the arts, humanities, and biological sciences come together and apply their diverse schools of thought to computer science. Experiential learning in the Align curriculum is the moment where students connect their background, computer science knowledge, and career interests in their search for a relevant co-op or internship position.

While Align offers plenty of resources to help students land the position of their choice, to supplement the curriculum Ethan Selinger, Align co-op faculty and advisor, hosted a LinkedIn webinar for MSCS Align students. Selinger supports students in their search for a long-term (six to eight months) co-op or a short-term (three to four months) internship opportunity.

About the webinar’s focus on LinkedIn, Selinger explained, “LinkedIn is an important tool that allows people to build and manage a professional network. It is vital that career changers, such as our Align students, develop and use LinkedIn as a component of their job search strategy as early as their first semester in the program.

“Furthermore,” he added, “it’s our job to assist them in developing a profile that successfully demonstrates their professional brand and makes connections between past experiences and computer science.”

The webinar was held on March 27, a month before the end of Northeastern’s spring semester, typically a time when many students are on the verge of a co-op or internship search. Its goal was to give students the knowledge to optimize their LinkedIn profile for recruiters and make meaningful connections. The virtual webinar was jointly hosted by Anne Grieves, Northeastern’s career development liaison for Khoury.

Four goals were outlined at the introduction to inform the participants of what to expect:

Goal 1: Gain a comprehensive understanding of what a strong profile looks like.

The sample profile provided a comprehensive detail of a basic profile with elements that participants mastered after their completion of the webinar.

Goal 2: Draft a profile that’s optimized for your job search.

In Selinger’s words, “the LinkedIn profile isn’t a person’s resume, but should complement the resume instead.”

Goal 3: Gain knowledge of LinkedIn tools you can use to expand your network.

Grieves specifically outlined seeking Khoury College of Computer Sciences alumni to find recruiters in the tech industry.

Goal 4: Create an inviting and personalized connection message.

The final part of this webinar was dedicated to crafting an inviting connection message, which included effective examples and revealed common messaging mistakes.

The online session was complemented by a three-part structure to foster small-group communication. Volunteers from the Employer Engagement and Career Design Center joined Align advisor Ashley Armand to monitor each small group and collaborate with participants by advising them on a personal level. The importance of the small-group working sessions was stressed by Selinger, who wanted students to be able to implement the changes in real-time and have assistance in doing so.

To emphasize the importance of maintaining an updated LinkedIn profile, profile tips were scattered throughout the webinar, such as;

  • Nine out of 10 employers use LinkedIn during the hiring process, and
  • Members with profile photos receive up to 21 times more views and 9 times more connection requests than those without photos.

Though these tips applied to all students, Selinger and Grieves emphasized the importance of standing out by reiterating that “the headline makes you unique” and “the summary is a narrative of what you can write that covers experience, academic transitions, top skills, and passions.” The session also prompted introspective questions for participants to gain insight in creating their own unique and expressive headlines.

The webinar provided a lens into what recruiters look for when skimming a student’s LinkedIn profile. One of the participants, Clara, admired the constructive criticism that facilitators and peers offered, saying “I was nervous about showing my LinkedIn but Ashley and Nate Haddad [MSCS student and webinar participant] have been giving great constructive criticism, and I’m excited to make changes.”

The discourse among participants and volunteers added to the environment of peer-to-peer feedback that the event fostered. Andrew, another participant, mentioned that he wasn’t too familiar with “what to put where.” The webinar helped him, he said, explaining that before, “I was completely lost because I have no background in computer science, but I was able to use past experiences [in my profile].”

Northeastern and Khoury College’s focus on career development allows students across the spectrum of CS knowledge–from self-made hackers to more experienced ones–land an exciting work placement, covering how to build your own brand and using LinkedIn as a networking resource. Advisors and career development faculty are able to help with the co-op and internship search every step of the way. More information on upcoming events can be found here.