“Do you have a LinkedIn account? Every time we ask them this question, at the start of the Personal Branding course we run at ESCP Business School, 100% of the students raise their hands. But when asked about the way they use this social network, their answers converge on this type of comment: “I know I have to be there but I don’t know how to act and actually use it”.
Why do these students, who are often addicts to Facebook and Instagram, seem to maintain a circumspect relationship with this social network, even though research highlights the positive effects of using LinkedIn on their career? ( Davis et al ).
Several hypotheses can be put forward to explain their paradoxical position.
Appear more than appear
It is clear that many students feel compelled to be present on LinkedIn but do not know exactly why. Their presence on Facebook, Instagram and more recently TikTok, has become for them “an implicit standard of rigor” where they rather easily expose “metaphorizations” of them (according to the words of De Rigail , 2013). They have thus become accustomed to taking part in “digital worlds” that they have selected, to maintain or expand their friendships, or quite simply to show themselves and be seen.
Far from these personal aims, LinkedIn corresponds more for them to a social norm developed by others, to which they must adhere to claim to develop their professional networks, and which they often have difficulty identifying and choosing.
While students have become accustomed to talking about themselves on social networks, they often find it easier to show their personal identity than their professional identity. Their photos, their participation in events and their passions are exhibited more easily than their backgrounds and achievements. “Appearing”, sometimes accompanied by artifices or projections of oneself, thus tends to be an easier process for these young adults, than “appearing” with the help of facts and achievements in the eyes of a newcomer. professional sphere.
The challenge of LinkedIn is to expand their network beyond their close circle of acquaintances. But young people sometimes stop at this stage, not daring to ask for more experienced people. They struggle to boost their profile, through their activities, through reactions or posts. Many feel they have little legitimacy in relaying information, reacting to the activities of others and creating information.
LinkedIn offers four types of potential to its members:
- the visibility
- persistence (by retrieving posts)
- content editing
- association between people.
Many students are content to exploit the potential of visibility, at the very least, by filling in the sections with copy and paste of their CVs, and therefore by remaining a shadow on LinkedIn with the feeling of having accomplished their duty. They then miss out on the opportunities offered by this social network, which has 700 million subscribers worldwide and 20 million members in France (64% of the working population).
Students therefore have to (re) think about their presence on LinkedIn, following three objectives.
To distinguish oneself
The first objective is to encourage young people to enrich their declarative identity in order to differentiate themselves. Students should understand that their LinkedIn profile can only be a copy of their CV. They must move away from a logic of substitution to move towards a vision of complementarity between these two tools. It’s about saying more and making people want to know more.
This starts with fairly simple actions. The “info” part is often not or too little information and does not attract the attention of potential recruiters. During training that could be considered as generic, certain choices of specializations or achievements (dissertations, projects, etc.) make it possible to differentiate one student from another, to estimate his potential and his areas of interest.
Many topics are also relevant and under-used by students such as investments in associations, achievements, group memberships and monitoring of people or organizations. It is therefore a work to be carried out with the students, to bring them first of all to identify in their course what they could highlight.
Boost your profile
The challenge then is not to be satisfied with this declarative work. The challenge for students is to dare to switch to active use of the social network: to make new contacts, post information on their subjects of professional interest and participate in groups.
This implementation has an essential prerequisite for them: to know why and for what to initiate and develop these steps, in order to move towards an active posture . The coherence of these activities must therefore be designed to establish their digital credibility. This therefore means getting out of their usual spontaneity on social networks to think about its activity and its purposes.
Manage your reputation
The number of people in the network is certainly an indicator, but insufficient if one aspires to be spotted. The diversity of the members of its network (organizations, positions, training) also indicates the social capital that can and could have a student, future employee tomorrow. Moreover, the number of people who have read, reacted and commented on the posts represents a key tool for measuring the audience of their personal brand and especially its evolution.
There are tools, such as Shield or the Social Selling Index, that measure the effects of activity on LinkedIn. These tools include the process, beyond quantitative measures, in a dynamic and not a static perspective.
Ultimately, LinkedIn allows you to give and go beyond the first impression you can have on an individual. It gives a digital depth to a person through the three facets of his personality: declarative, active and calculated.
As the philosopher Alain said, “the secret of action is to get started”. Concerning LinkedIn, this step of activating the profile, which every student has often conscientiously constructed, is therefore crucial for their professional integration. However, they still have the choice to think about their particularities, to invent their own ways of using the functionalities of the social network and to adapt to the professional contexts to which they aspire.
LinkedIn therefore not only aggregates constraints but can also be seen as a space of freedom to allow these young people to show who they are, or could be, in a professional sphere. On condition of accompanying them.
Author Bio: Geraldine Galindo is a Professor at ESCP Business School