Monday, May 10, 2010

Common LinkedIn Mistakes Among College Students

By: Dan Klamm

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for college students seeking internships and full-time jobs. With more than 45 million users, the site lets you tap into a wealth of connections for the purpose of career networking. Beyond this, LinkedIn gives you a platform to develop and express your professional identity. If you don’t have a website or blog, it may be the only means by which to represent yourself as a budding professional online.

As such, the way that you conduct yourself on LinkedIn has far-reaching implications as you start your career. A strong LinkedIn profile, with sharp descriptions and glowing recommendations of your work, can provide a potential employer with a very positive impression of you. On the other hand, a poorly-crafted profile or a rude LinkedIn networking encounter can detract from your professional image in a big way.

Here are some common mistakes that college students make on LinkedIn, along with advice for avoiding these pitfalls.

The generic invitation to connect

If you’re going to reach out to someone that you don’t know, make sure to include a personalized message with the invitation to connect. Whenever I get an invitation from a student with the generic language, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” I cringe. If you send this to an alum from your school, or to someone working at your dream company, it indicates that you’re not putting a whole lot of effort into building a relationship. He/she may think you’re just trying to connect with mass numbers of people and may not even be genuinely interested in talking with him/her as an individual.

It takes two minutes to come up with a customized message. Aim to answer the questions of what you have in common with the other person and why you’d like to connect. It can be as simple as, “I’m a current senior at University X, your alma mater. I’m interested in pursuing a career in retail management and, given your career path, I’d love the opportunity to connect.” By crafting this brief message, you’re showing yourself to be a thoughtful individual with a real reason behind connecting.

Even with someone you already know – maybe an internship supervisor or classmate – the invitation can be a great way to show that you value the person and also to remind him/her of your career goals. An example: “Lilly, how are you? I miss Marketing 509 with Professor Smith! Anyway, I wanted to connect on here so that we can help eachother in our respective job searches. I am looking to pursue brand management positions in Boston. Let me know if I can be of any help to you.”

Lack of selectivity

Just like a resume, your LinkedIn profile is a marketing document for you. Everything that you include in your profile should enhance your personal brand and be relevant to your goals. One of the biggest mistakes I see is students listing out everything they’ve ever done on LinkedIn. Just like entry-level resumes are supposed to be limited to one page, your LinkedIn profile should be brief and targeted as well.

This means that it may not be appropriate to list all of your previous jobs. The other day I saw someone’s employment history section, which listed, “Food Server – ABC Dining Hall,” “PR Intern – Company Y,” “Bartender – ABC Cantina,” “Office Worker – Family Business,” and “PR Intern – Company Z.” He had so much clutter that it took me a few glances to realize he actually had (quite substantial) PR experience. There’s nothing wrong with eliminating irrelevant jobs from your work history.

Similarly, it may not be best to list all of your academic awards and activities. A limited selection of activities can provide a nice glimpse into your college experience. A barrage of 8 clubs and 14 awards (none of which are easily recognizable by name) may just make an employer skip over that section of your profile, potentially missing an important activity hidden within. Try picking the most meaningful awards and activities to showcase.

Spelling/grammatical errors, inconsistencies

I’ve seen everything from misusing medium-difficulty vocabulary words to incorrectly spelling the name of one’s university. Just as you would carefully check over your resume for errors, you should proofread your LinkedIn profile. Remember that this is your professional identity out there for the world to see.

Additionally, be consistent with how you deliver information within the profile. If you use bullet points to describe your responsibilities at one internship, and you use full paragraphs with first-person narrative to talk about your responsibilities at another, this will look weird. Every minor choice you make on your LinkedIn profile shows your attention to detail, and more largely, reflects on your professional identity.

Weak headline

The headline is the space on your profile right under your name, and it can say whatever you want it to say. This phrase will also appear elsewhere on the site below your name. If your headline simply reads, “Student at University X,” this doesn’t tell me a whole lot about you. You have leeway to be creative; put some personality into this. Most importantly, clearly identify your career interests.

You can broadly classify yourself: “Emerging public relations practitioner with interests in social media and brand management.”
Or, you can include more specific information: “Fashion Design student at Syracuse University seeking a summer internship in fabric design in the New York City area.”

You can also choose to identify by your current job/internship title, but make sure that it’s directly relevant to where you’d like to go in the future. For example, I wouldn’t recommend your headline reading “Analyst, JPMorgan Chase” if you’re looking to switch into non-profit human rights activist work.

Remember that this is the way that you’ll be identified throughout the site, and it is the first thing that people will see upon opening your profile. Make sure that you’re using the headline to your advantage.

No recommendations

LinkedIn has a built-in utility for collecting recommendations from previous supervisors, colleagues, classmates, or anyone who has had experience with your work. You’re missing a big opportunity if you don’t have recommendations. It can be very powerful for a potential employer to see your previous colleagues endorse you.

The key to asking for recommendations is to ask people who are truly enthusiastic about you and your work. The only thing worse than having no recommendations is having a lukewarm recommendation from someone who doesn’t really know you or doesn’t value your work. That’s why I always encourage students to request recommendations from people who know them well — professors, supervisors, and peers — so that the recommendation is both genuine and specific in its praise.

Once someone agrees to write a recommendation for you, it never hurts to give them some very general guidance on things you’d like to see emphasized. For example, you can say, “As I will be pursuing work in social media marketing, I’d really appreciate it if you could touch on my experience assisting in the development of your company’s Facebook fan page.”

LinkedIn is a wonderful way to begin crafting a strong professional identity and forging connections with relevant players in your industry. By being mindful of these common LinkedIn missteps, you can succeed in utilizing this dynamic tool for your personal branding and job search endeavors.

Dan Klamm is the Outreach & Marketing Coordinator for Syracuse University Career Services. Connect with him on Twitter @DanKlamm and read his Career Blog for College Students.

Friday, May 7, 2010

How to choose a bar association

The sheer number of bar associations and attorney trade associations can make you dizzy! Bar associations serve many different purposes, from continuing legal education to networking, from professional and business development opportunities to referrals. In many cases, you can become a student member of bar associations. First, though, you must be able to navigate your many choices. This list should help you get started:

• First, you typically will have to be a member of your state’s bar association in order to practice law in that state. To become a member, you usually have to graduate law school, pass the jurisdiction’s bar exam and be sworn into the state’s bar (in some cases, you may be sworn in by motion.) To find out jurisdiction-specific bar requirements, go to

• Your local bar association may also interest you. Local bars serve attorney members in specific counties, cities and towns. In addition to local bars, many states also have additional statewide bar associations that are not mandatory to join but worthwhile to consider—from referral services to continuing legal education, those state bars can provide you with valuable networking and business development opportunities. A list of many state and local bar associations can be found at

• Next, you may also become a member of a national bar association, such as the American Bar Association, which has many different sections and divisions for members. To see a list of ABA sections, divisions and forums, go to

• There are also various specialty bar associations that you can join. Specialty bar associations serve attorneys who work in a specific practice area, work environment, or type of work. For law students, these associations can be a great source for information about working in a particular field and getting started in that field. As some examples, check out:

o The American Intellectual Property Law Association at

o The Association of Corporate Counsel at

o The National Legal Aid and Defender Association at

o The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at

o The American Immigration Lawyers Association at

• Finally, there are bar associations that serve specific groups of attorneys—women lawyers, for example, or attorneys from various minority and ethnic groups. Below are just a handful of examples:

o The National Association of Women Lawyers,

o The National Bar Association,

o The Hispanic National Bar Association,

o The Minority Corporate Counsel Association,

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association,

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Researcher Says Law Students Need to Learn to Read Like Lawyers

Posted Apr 19, 2010 5:30 AM CDTBy Debra Cassens Weiss

Most law students are told they need to think like lawyers. But a Pennsylvania State University researcher says students also need to read like lawyers.
The scientist and higher education professor, Dorothy Evensen, formerly worked as an item writer for the reading comprehension section of the Law School Admission Test, according to a press release. Now she studies law students’ reading strategies.
Evensen found that the better law students spent more of their reading time using strategies that involve setting expectations, asking themselves questions and connecting with the overall purpose of their reading, according to a law review article summarizing her research. Students who had lower grades spent more time using strategies such as paraphrasing and rereading, according to the article by Leah Christensen, who is now a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
Evensen collaborated with three other researchers to develop a test that measures law school reading skills and will be explaining it in a book aimed at law professors.
“We contend that all law school teachers are responsible for facilitating the development of necessary and extensive literacy skills among their students,” Evensen says in the press release.