In a world of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, LinkedIn may seem like the older, more formal cousin of the social media family. At its core, LinkedIn is a social networking platform for professionals. Though the site is over a decade old, it is still unfamiliar to many college students who are only beginning to think about entering the workforce.

“LinkedIn is not something the students normally use,” said Beth Chancy, assistant director of University of Richmond Career Services. “It’s not the way they connect socially.”

Despite this lack of familiarity with the platform, college students and recent college graduates make up the fastest growing demographic on LinkedIn. To prepare students to use LinkedIn effectively in job searches and networking, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies collaborated with Chancy to host a series of workshops designed to meet the specific needs of Jepson students.

 “We want the students to put their best foot forward,” said Chancy. “They have access to alumni if they know how to use LinkedIn.”

Students participating in the series attended two workshops during October. The first workshop provided the students with an understanding of the uses of LinkedIn and the components of a strong profile. Chancy led a discussion of how to choose a professional photo and what information should be included on a profile. Students also learned how to write compelling invitations to connect on LinkedIn. At the end of the workshop, students were tasked with connecting with Jepson alumni who had volunteered to give the students feedback. This exercise not only showed students how to write a well-worded invitation, but it also fostered relationships between Jepson School students and alumni.

 “Messaging the Jepson alumni was a bit nerve-wracking at first. Here I am, a measly undergraduate hoping to soon head into the workforce, and I was reaching out to these alumni who have become well-established in their careers after Richmond,” said Amelia Mitrotz,’16, a senior who participated in the workshop series. “After sending them a personal message to connect and expressing mutual interests, I received messages back from alumni with tips for my profile, as well as an openness to discuss their careers and the offer to help me connect with other Spiders.”

During the second workshop, students discussed the feedback they received and used critical thinking skills to critique profiles. The end of the session focused on using LinkedIn as a tool to learn about companies and to apply for jobs.

“My perception of LinkedIn changed from a site that I knew employers could use to look me up, to a social media outlet that I could actively use to connect with alumni, potential employers, and really tap into the professional world. It’s something I perceive I will use more regularly, which I think could have great advantages,” said Mitrotz.