One of the most common emails that plagues student inboxes isn’t the day’s fifth Canvas update, an announcement for another Urban Outfitters sale or even an unnecessary reply-all to a club listserv.
It simply reads: “Hi, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
LinkedIn’s default friend-request message is familiar to most members of Penn’s student body, who overwhelmingly have accounts on the business-oriented social networking site. Especially during the on-campus recruiting frenzy that has swept Penn’s campus in recent weeks, students are scrambling to update their accounts and grow their networks.
Students say that most of their friends at Penn made LinkedIn profiles their freshman or sophomore years, but some have even made accounts back in high school. A quick search for University of Pennsylvania on the site yields 137,891 results. Penn itself has even tapped into the craze, creating a “University of Pennsylvania Alumni” group that allows current students to connect with alumni around the world.
College senior Adeline Zvosec, who has 168 connections on LinkedIn, said she is on the “less-active” end of the spectrum in terms of how much she uses the site compared to her peers — she goes on only to update her jobs and positions or to accept connection requests. She created her account during her junior year when she was going through OCR to find an internship, which she described as “really late” compared to her peers.
Zvosec, who is currently participating in OCR, said she doesn’t think LinkedIn is a tool that many students use to find jobs. Rather, she said LinkedIn is a good way to supplement the recruitment process.
“It’s definitely a way for us to showcase ourselves to recruiters — if you Google my name, my LinkedIn profile is one of the first things to pop up,” Zvosec said.
She uses the site to maintain ties with people she meets through networking events rather than to create new ones.
“I don’t really use it as a tool to establish a connection, I just use it as a way to supplement a connection that’s already made,” she said.
College sophomore Bryan Rodriguez, on the other hand, is an avid LinkedIn user. He has 500+ connections, a carefully written bio, lists of jobs and awards and up to 21 endorsements from acquaintances for skills he has listed on his profile including leadership and public speaking. He said that having a strong profile can increase his exposure to possible recruiters.
“When you see people comment on and like your jobs, you see people noticing you,” he said.
At the end of last year, he added his job at Philadelphia Legal Assistance to his profile. Soon after, he received a message via LinkedIn from a recruiter at a Philadelphia law firm. After messaging back and forth about Rodriguez’s interest in a law career, the recruiter offered him an internship at the firm.
Rodriguez added that though most of his sophomore friends have created LinkedIn accounts at this point, he noticed students on pre-professional paths, like pre-law and business students, creating accounts even earlier.
Wharton and engineering sophomore Robert Patrick Dowling said that reading the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, changed the way in which he uses LinkedIn. He said that the book teaches that the social network should be used to help spark meaningful relationships that occur in person.
“A lot of people at Penn like to look at [LinkedIn] as a business transaction, but it's actually an opportunity to get to know people in a more meaningful way,” Dowling said.
Dowling was able to test out the book’s teachings this past weekend at an event in the Penn Club of New York with speaker, journalist and Penn and Daily Pennsylvanian alumnus Yochi Dreazen, who specializes in foreign affairs. Dowling used LinkedIn to research him before the event and read some of the articles he had written, then used his knowledge about the articles to approach and talk to Dreazon after the event.
“I felt that maybe we had formed a meaningful relationship to make something happen in the future,” Dowling said.
College sophomore David Ongchoco, who maintains a blog about entrepreneurship, said he uses LinkedIn as a way to find people to write about, adding that one or two people out of every 10 that he messages usually responds. He also uses the site to professionally network, and, more recently, has used the site to find a speaker for an event for his nonprofit, YouthHack.
Still, though LinkedIn can be a tool for making professional connections, students don’t necessarily see it as being a key part of getting a job.
“I still think in the job process its all about the personal face to face connections that you make,” Zvosec said.
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