Tap into one of the most powerful business tools on the planet by joining the Center for Online Learning's Career Services group on LinkedIn.

Social media use for hiring is at an all-time high.

According to Jobvite's 2014 Job Seeker Nation Report, 93 percent of recruiters are likely to look at a candidate's social profile.

Their social media channel of choice?

Hands down, recruiters prefer LinkedIn.

When searching for job candidates, 94 percent of recruiters use the business-oriented social networking service that has attracted more than 300 million members.

Surprisingly, however, most people prefer Facebook; only 36 percent of job seekers are active LinkedIn users.

Saint Leo's undergraduate career advisor in the Center for Online Learning (COL), Katrina Wahlstrom, wants to position the university's online students and alumni to be more visible to employers, many of whom are looking to hire Saint Leo graduates. She also wants to see online students become skilled users of this indispensable professional site.

With those goals in mind, COL has launched a LinkedIn group – Saint Leo University|Center for Online Learning|Career Services – and is encouraging all current online students to join.

Benefits of joining

Students who feel more comfortable using Facebook than LinkedIn are not alone. The Jobvite report states that 83 percent of job seekers use Facebook, but only 65 percent of recruiters use Facebook when looking for job candidates.

And while recruiters are influenced positively or negatively by what they see a candidate's on Facebook page, LinkedIn remains the leading professional site for finding qualified job candidates.

"This means that just as important as building 'brick-and-mortar' resumes, students need to develop their LinkedIn profiles, which is how they can be found by potential employers and by other professionals looking to network – and then be sure that their profiles are aligned with their traditional resumes," Wahlstrom says.

In addition to increasing professional visibility with employers, LinkedIn is invaluable in developing a personal brand: the values, ideas, skills and experience that you want to come to mind when other professionals think of you.

According to Wahlstrom, while your LinkedIn profile is a vital component of your personal brand, so is engagement on the site. The groups you join, the discussions you choose to participate in – and what you say in those discussions – are important ways to develop your brand.

"Participating in discussions leads to virtual community, connecting with like-minded people and establishing networks and relationships. And that's especially important for online students."

An opportunity to 'get your feet wet' with LinkedIn

The COL Career Services LinkedIn group is a closed group, which means that members need to be approved in order to join. This discourages outsiders, but members of the group are always able to invite other professionals to join the group.

"The advantage for students is that they 'get their feet wet' with LinkedIn without any pressure," says Wahlstrom. "It makes it more comfortable if you're just starting to use LinkedIn and get used to the platform."

Wahlstrom says she will be posting career-specific, as well as industry and employer-specific, questions. This will give students the opportunity contribute to discussions in a way that can help them develop their brand and highlight their strengths.

Wahlstrom also hopes that becoming active in the Saint Leo group will help students develop the confidence to join other relevant groups. And with more than 1.5 million groups on LinkedIn to choose from, starting out 'close to home' is a smart way to begin.

Being engaged contributes to college success

The COL Career Services LinkedIn group also will be a good way for online students to stay current with Career Services activities and offerings, receive helpful career information and connect with other students.

In addition, Wahlstrom says that engagement in clubs, associations, social media and groups contributes to academic performance and overall satisfaction.

"I encourage all online students to join the group as soon as possible – and to become engaged in other ways, as well, by joining any of the many clubs and associations COL has to offer," says Wahlstrom.

"Research shows, particularly for online students, that as soon as you begin to establish relationships with other students, faculty and staff, and the more interactive you become, the more likely you are to stay with your degree program through the long haul and complete your degree."

To locate COL's Career Services group on LinkedIn, click here.


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