As career fair season kicks into high gear, the Eli Broad College of Business wants students to know the importance of networking before and after these employer events take place.

LinkedIn is arguably the most effective social media platform for professionals, and according to Desiree Melfi, communications manager for undergraduate entrepreneurship program, engaging on this platform is just as critical as a first impression in a job interview.

Desiree Melfi

Melfi dedicated an entire class to LinkedIn communication and the art of building an effective profile.

“I look at LinkedIn as a place to showcase your professional footprint,” Melfi said. “It allows students to create diverse networks and reach people via introductions that they normally may have not known.” This is critical for students who are just starting out in their careers or hoping to network and secure their first full-time job.

In her role, Melfi oversees the overarching strategy and execution of the program’s communication, including social, digital, and print media. She also leads an introductory entrepreneurship course; to emphasize the importance of social networking to the entrepreneurship community, Melfi dedicated an entire class to LinkedIn strategies.

We sat down with Melfi for a deeper dive into LinkedIn networking and how Broad College students can make the most of the platform as they follow up with target employers.

How do you put your best foot forward when creating an effective profile on LinkedIn?

“Start with a professional photo, strong headline, and engaging summary. Pull the reader in with a personable summary, highlighting your skills and attributes.

The summary is your opportunity to sell yourself. It is your place to tell your professional story. Make it reflect your personality and use it to highlight your skills, experiences, and talents. An engaging summary leaves the reader both knowledgeable about who you are but also compelled to want to ask you more questions.”

Is it OK to have a LinkedIn profile if a student doesn’t have any real professional experience?

YES! Perhaps this is when it is the most important. I venture to say that growing your professional network is one of the most influential things you can do for your career. Often times it isn’t what you know, but who you know. LinkedIn can act as a catalyst for building strong professional relationships.

When you are just starting out, focus on the main three: professional photo, strong headline, engaging summary.

Once that is established, add in education and experience (including internships and volunteering). Don’t sell yourself short here. Just because you are in the early stages of a career doesn’t mean you lack the skills an employer looks for in a valuable employee.

After meeting a potential contact, what is the best way to reach out to them via LinkedIn?

The best time to reach out would be within three days, if not sooner. Remind them of where you met, and talk about any future collaboration or engagement you are looking forward to.

What is the best way to reach out to a company or employer via LinkedIn?

See which of your LinkedIn contacts works at the company and reach out to them first. Ask for insight on the company or an introduction to others that work there. The tricky thing is not to come off too strong – but focus on building a relationship.

What if you don’t know anyone there? Can you still reach out to someone who does?

It’s OK to reach out, as long as it is done in a professional manner. When done right it can show initiative and drive. These are skills that can’t be taught in a classroom!