In addition to putting his best foot forward, Doug Tsao is now putting his best face forward, too.
A first-year law student, he created his LinkedIn profile after hearing about it during orientation in the fall. Now he’s getting a professional head shot at a LinkedIn photo booth the Office of Personal & Career Development (OPCD) set up in the law library.
“I’ve been using it mostly as a resume, but it’s more valuable as a way to connect with potential employers,” Tsao said. “I’ve had a few informational interviews turn into job interviews, and I have established more personal connections through LinkedIn.”
Another photo booth at the spring internship and job fair in February helped nearly 400 students, including first-years and sophomores, add a great professional looking headshot to their LinkedIn profiles. For the uninitiated, LinkedIn is a social networking site. But unlike Facebook or Twitter, which often feature fun, humor and parties, LinkedIn focuses on professional connections and networking.
“Students call LinkedIn ‘a professional version of Facebook’ and have no trouble using it,” said Ladd Flock, associate director of College To Career Community Partnerships in the OPCD. “It’s really our students’ first professional network. We are teaching them how to leverage this ‘electronic Rolodex’ to connect with alumni, faculty, employers and other professionals who can help them take the first steps with their careers.”
But imagine a Rolodex holding 4,000 names and adding a new card or two every day. The ever-growing LinkedIn Wake Forest University Career Connectors group includes about 3,000 alumni and 1,000 students as members. Wake Forest parents, faculty and staff also are invited to join the private group, which serves as a great place to initiate conversations about career paths, seek advice or request informational interviews.
“We encourage our students to browse through the group members’ profiles to look for perspective and inspiration about a variety of career paths,” Flock said. “They can see how someone with a liberal arts degree like history can carve a career path into marketing, or what entry level positions and titles these successful role models took to get started. They can explore, connect and engage right from their residence halls.”
Building this LinkedIn group is just one of many new innovations created by the OPCD. This is not the college career services office of years past. Structuring the office to include not only career and professional development, but also mentoring; innovation creativity & entrepreneurship; leadership development and the family business center enables students to explore their interests and develop the necessary competencies and experiences to achieve post-graduate success.
The OPCD is focused on building a “College-to-Career Community” that stretches beyond the boundaries of the office space. Inviting alumni and parents to join the LinkedIn group helps surround a student with great career advice from all directions.
Flock said young alumni have been a driving force behind the LinkedIn group and seem particularly interested in sharing what they’ve learned since graduation. “They’re telling us that mentoring through LinkedIn is a meaningful way they can give back to the University – by offering tips and advice as they launch their own careers.”
In April, the OPCD team will launch a major outreach to students that will teach them how to use LinkedIn to jumpstart their career development process. Matthew Moran, (’12) a history major, just received an offer to join global public relations firm, Edelman, headquartered in New York City, after beginning his job search with LinkedIn training from Flock.
“I knew I wanted to work in New York, so I looked for Wake Forest alumni who worked there in the public relations and marketing fields on LinkedIn,” Moran said. “I pulled up 20-30 names and started connecting with alumni who gave me great advice about tailoring my resume and the hiring climate at their firms.”
Moran’s LinkedIn connections helped him interview and start down the path toward a position at one firm before he ultimately decided to accept an offer from Edelman. He starts his new job in June.
Moran says he found the Wake Forest alumni very willing to connect with him and offer useful advice. So what will he do when next year’s seniors start emailing him?
“I’ll pay it forward. 100%.”