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Using LinkedIn Professionally

boston college career center

From the Career Center

Using LinkedIn professionally will help you greatly in establishing connections, developing relationships, and exploring companies and industries.  

Your LinkedIn profile is often thought of as an online version of your resume.  The basic profile you create will likely closely resemble your resume.  However, LinkedIn allows you to enhance the content of your resume and use your profile as a dynamic networking tool.

Download our complete Guide to Using LinkedIn Professionally (pdf).

Students should use this guide to:

Establishing Connections and Networking

Starting Out
Begin by connecting with people you know well.  These might include classmates, family members, friends, current and former coworkers and supervisors, and professors.  When you’re first starting with LinkedIn, aim for adding at least 50 connections.

Joining and Contributing to Groups

LinkedIn offers many groups for users.  Groups may be focused on a common profession, industry, interest, cause, or affiliation.  Users can join up to 50 groups.  Joining a group will connect you to other individuals with common interests of affiliations with whom you can share information, network, and have discussions. 


We strongly recommend that all Boston College students join the Boston College Career Community group.  This group is designed specifically for connecting current students with Boston College alumni.  The purpose of the group is to foster networking and provide a forum for students to ask career-related questions to those who have experience in the field.  Alumni members of the Boston College Career Community (BCCC) group have elected to join this group, understanding that the intention is that they will interact with students and other alumni.  Therefore, these alumni are more likely to respond to your messages and questions compared to general LinkedIn users.

Using the Search Box on LinkedIn, you can conduct a search of LinkedIn groups by keywords of interest.  You will likely receive many results for each industry or keyword that you enter.  It would be a good idea to compare multiple groups and see how active they are, how many members they have, and if the content interests you.

LinkedIn offers two types of groups: Members-Only Groups and Open Groups.  Members-Only Groups require individuals to join the group in order to see and contribute to the discussions.  The discussions cannot be shared on other social media platforms.  Discussions in Open Groups are visible by anyone and can be found using Internet search engines.  These discussions can also be shared on various social media platforms.

  • Discussions:  Group members can post discussions to encourage dialogue of interest among other members.  Discussions are often focused on relevant news or updates for the particular field or trending topics in the industry.  Commenting on others’ posts, or starting your own post, will help you gain visibility and recognition among group members.
    If you wish to start your own discussion, you may consider posting an article you recently read with your thoughts or opinions, posing a question about a specific topic in the industry, or requesting advice for your job or internship search.

  • Members:  You are able to view all of the members of a group you have joined.  Here, you can find and send messages to people with whom you are interested in scheduling an informational interview to learn more about their company or profession.

  • Jobs:  Some groups will have a Jobs tab where members can post open positions related to the group’s shared interest.

Customized Messages


When connecting with others, create a personalized message for each invitation.  Doing so will help with your professional appearance and will make a strong positive impact on the potential connection.  This message can be short.  You might thank the person for speaking with you at an event, provide an update for a former coworker, or inform a potential networking partner what you hope to learn from him/her.


Using Your Network
LinkedIn has four levels of connections:

  1. First degree connections are people you are directly connected to and likely know well.  You will be able to see their full profiles.  
  2. Second degree connections are individuals who are directly connected to one of your first degree connections but not to you.  You will be able to see your second degree connections’ full names and select information from their profiles.  
  3. Third degree connections are people who you are more distantly connected to, as they are connected to your second degree connections.  Based on the individual’s privacy settings, you may be able to see a third degree connection’s full name, or you may only be able to see their first name and first initial of last name.
  4. Group connections are members of the groups you join.  Individuals elect whether or not to accept messages from group connections, so you may not be able to contact all of your group connections directly.  See more information on LinkedIn Groups below.

As you are searching for alumni, employers, or experienced professionals, pay attention to what level connection an individual is for you.  If someone is a second degree connection, you can ask your shared connection to introduce you.  This may help encourage the person of interest to respond to your inquiry.


Find Other Alumni
In addition to the Boston College Career Community group, this tool can aid you in finding alumni from Boston College and other institutions. While the BCCC should be your primary method for finding alumni, the Find Alumni tool is an added feature for you in finding alumni in your field(s) of interest. When utilizing this tool, please note that unlike the BCCC group, these alumni have not necessarily volunteered to network with or be contacted by current Boston College students. You can narrow the search results by writing keywords or selecting from LinkedIn’s categories of:

  • Where they live
  • Where they work
  • What they do
  • What they studied
  • What they’re skilled at
  • How you are connected

Status Updates
Posting status updates on LinkedIn is a great way to interact with your connections and maintain an active presence.  Similar to other social media, when you post a status, it will be shared with all of your connections.  Be sure your posts are professional and error-free.  Some topics you may consider when posting a status are:

  • Interesting and appropriate articles you’ve read with your thoughts
  • Updates on your job, internship, or academic coursework
  • Professional blog posts you have written
  • Questions you have for other professionals

When those in your network post statuses, you can comment on or like the update.  If you comment on an individual’s status, he/she is more likely to comment back when you post something yourself.


Exploring Majors and Career Fields


The Decision Board tool allows you to organize your thoughts about a specific career field or major and receive insight from professionals you trust.  Here you can add majors you are considering and what is appealing about the particular field.  Once you have selected with whom you would like to share your decision board, you can begin conversations, ask questions, and gain insight into various fields.

The Field of Study Explorer is similar to using the Find Alumni tool and narrowing results by “What They Studied,” but it provides you with much more data.  In the Field of Study Explorer, you can search a particular major to see where all LinkedIn members with this major work, what they do, where they attended school, and where they live.

Searching for Jobs and Internships

Job Search Tool
On this page, you can directly search for jobs or internships.  It is recommended to conduct an advanced search to obtain the most relevant results.  Here you will be able to search postings by keyword, company, location, job function, industry, or experience level.

After conducting a search, you can create a “saved search,” which will provide you with updates to these results daily, weekly, or monthly via email.


Student Jobs Portal
LinkedIn has created a separate area specific for students and recent graduates who are job searching.  Here you can search for internships and entry-level jobs by job function.  LinkedIn also updates the Student Jobs Portal home page with recent job postings and companies looking to hire recent graduates.

Many companies have a page on LinkedIn that you can follow to receive information from that organization.  These pages are managed by individuals who work for that company and can provide accurate, up-to-date information.  The depth of content will vary for each company, but information may include: an overview of the company, a description of the company’s services, job or internship opportunities, and common skills of employees of the company.  

  • Follow:  When you follow a company, you will receive updates on your Home screen of LinkedIn.  This is the best way to stay informed about several companies of interest.

  • Recent Updates:  Here you can see the recent activity that the organization has posted on LinkedIn.  This might include recent job postings or other news of interest.

  • Products & Services:  Companies may provide information about the products or services they offer.

  • Insights:  A company can update this section to include more information that can help in your job search.  This is where you would find skills shared by many employees, similar companies, and recent promotions within the company.

  • Careers:  This tab includes a listing of currently open opportunities at the company and also provides insight into working for the organization.  You can view employee reviews of the company, learn what it is like to work at the organization, and understand what it would take to be successful at this company.

  • How You’re Connected:  Here you can see how you are connected to the company of interest.  One of your first-degree (direct) connections may be able to introduce you to someone they know working at this company.  Seeing how you are connected will help you see which of your contacts you may want to reach out to for this introduction so you can learn more about the company through an informational interview.

  • People Also Viewed:  On each company page, LinkedIn includes a selection of similar companies that are often viewed in conjunction with the given page.  This tool is very useful for students who are exploring jobs/internships and are searching for additional companies to target in their searches.

Exploring Interests

Under the Interests heading, you will find the Pulse section of LinkedIn.  In the Pulse section, you can identify Influencers, Channels, and Publishers from whom you would like to receive news updates.  Influencers are leaders in a variety of industries.  Channels organize news and articles by topic.  Publishers consist of journals and other news outlets from around the World.

Once you have selected interests in the Pulse section, you will see updates from these sources on your home feed when you log in to LinkedIn.  You can visit the “Your News” section of Pulse to see all of your news updates in one place.  Additionally, in the Privacy and Settings section of LinkedIn, you can elect to receive daily or weekly email updates for posts from those you follow in Pulse.

The articles and posts from the Influencers, Channels, or Publishers that you follow may serve as a source of inspiration when creating your own status updates or discussions in groups.

Additional Information

Privacy and Settings
As LinkedIn is a social media platform, you may desire to change some of your privacy settings.  To do this, hover the mouse over your profile picture in the top right corner of the screen, and click “Privacy and Settings.”  Here you can edit who will see updates on your activities (e.g. if you add a new Experience to your profile), what others will see when you have viewed their profile, and visibility of other aspects of your profile.  

Under the Communications label, you can change how often you receive emails and which emails you receive.  This includes emails from other members, groups, news updates, and LinkedIn updates.   You can also indicate who is allowed to send you messages and what types of messages they can send you.  As you will be using LinkedIn for networking, it is recommended that you accept Introductions and InMail from “Anyone on LinkedIn.”

In the Groups, Companies & Applications section, you can update your settings for these aspects of LinkedIn.  In order to stay current in your field and updated in your job/internship search, you should opt to receive group digest emails at least weekly.  If you select “Groups Order and Display,” you will be able to further update your privacy settings for each individual group.  On this screen you will see a “Member Settings” option for each group.  In the Member Settings, you can opt to allow fellow group members to send you messages via LinkedIn.  Allowing group members to message you will be very important for your networking with a broader range of individuals.

Who’s Viewed Your Profile
LinkedIn provides information on who has viewed your profile.  This information is interesting to know, so you can understand who is searching for you and viewing your profile.

People You May Know
Once you have begun establishing your network, LinkedIn will suggest “People You May Know.”  These people are suggested based on shared connections, prior work experiences, or similar groups.

LinkedIn Premium
A basic LinkedIn account is free.  However, LinkedIn does offer paid accounts which give you access to more features of LinkedIn.  There are plans created for Job Seekers which will move your application to the top of the recruiter’s list, compare you to other applicants, and allow you to see salary data for jobs. Check LinkedIn for pricing.


For more information about LinkedIn or to have your profile critiqued after incorporating the suggestions in this guide, please contact the Career Center.

Please note: LinkedIn is constantly updating their site and adding new features.  This guide will be updated on a quarterly basis to reflect those changes.