LinkedIn: the unsung hero of student networking

College students looking to network with future employers can use LinkedIn to build valuable connections in their desired fields.

Catherine Barrios is a career coach at the UCCS Career Center who specializes in LinkedIn profile building. She describes LinkedIn as a “professional social media platform” that provides users with access to employment resources, like networking and an extensive job board.

“For students looking for internships and jobs, LinkedIn has one of the best job boards you can access. They have jobs locally and all around the world,” Barrios said. “LinkedIn is owned by Google, so if employers are searching for your name, and you have a LinkedIn profile, that’s going to be the first thing that pops up.”

Barrios said LinkedIn can be a great resource for students looking to stand out among competitive applicant pools. Students can reach out to hiring recruiters for specific advice on preparing to apply to corporate jobs for the first time.

Barrios suggests that students take initiative in contacting recruiters for companies of interest. “It’s almost like you’re doing the recruiters job for them by reaching out first,” she said. “The whole point of recruiters is to help bring in more quality candidates, so you’re helping them out.”

LinkedIn profiles are laid out like a resume, so most of the fields can be filled in by copying and pasting. Barrios recommends students update their resumes with a career coach, then add the information into LinkedIn. Students can add volunteer experience and school projects, like research papers and group projects, to their profiles, too.

Barrios said the most challenging field to fill out is the “About Me” section, which acts as “a professional summary” of the user. “I always recommend that students think about their short-term and long-term goals and what they want to achieve,” she said. “That gives recruiters an idea of if they are aligned with the positions they have available.”

Users should fill out as many fields as possible when building their profile, according to Barrios. “The more information you put out there, the better the algorithm will match you to people or opportunities,” she said.

Barrios also stresses the importance of a quality headshot for a student’s LinkedIn profile. The Career Center offers free headshot services twice a year, and some academic departments have their own headshot workshops students can use.

LinkedIn profiles take time to perfect. “Most students don’t have a profile that is ready to use,” Barrios said. She believes that students should set up profiles earlier in college, building their networks to make their profiles more competitive before graduating.

LinkedIn also allows students to connect with UCCS alumni working in their fields of interest. There are over 45,000 UCCS alumni on LinkedIn. Students can personally message UCCS graduates to gain information about their careers.

Barrios encourages students to reach out to their alumni resources. “I had a student who wanted to work at Marvel Studios, and we saw that there was an alum working on the Black Panther movie at the time. They were able to reach out and get connected to learn about the field and how to get started, so it was a great platform for networking,” she said.

“What I like about students being on LinkedIn is that it helps them gain control of their narrative,” Barrios said. Students can book appointments to build their profile with a career coach on the Career Center webpage.

The CU System provides students with access to LinkedIn video learning courses based on their desired career and short-term goals, ranging in length from 30 minutes to several hours. Each course has a series of quizzes embedded throughout.

The courses are accessible through the Career Center webpage.

Zack Washco (he/him), senior exercise science major, scrolls on LinkedIn. Photo by Meghan Germain.