When you are applying for summer internships, it is important to use every resource you have at your disposal. LinkedIn and Handshake are great tools to use to make connections, find new networking events, and potentially secure internships. However, you may not know how to make the most of each platform. Check out our guide to using LinkedIn and Handshake effectively!
LinkedIn is a platform that can be used to connect with members of the Columbia community, recruiters, and industry professionals. It is one of the most common professional services used today, so understanding how to use it effectively could help you with your internship search.
LionSHARE, offered by the Center for Career Education through Handshake, is a platform similar to LinkedIn, but it is exclusively for students and alumni of Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of General Studies, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of the Arts. For Barnard students, Handshake serves the same purpose. It is a great platform for applying to internships as well as a way to take advantage of resources offered by CCE and Beyond Barnard like appointments with advisors, information on upcoming events, and guides to assist you in obtaining an internship.
Barnard Connect is a newly launched website where Barnard students can reach out to alumni. This is a network of around 500-600 alumni around the world who have volunteered to serve as mentors to Barnard students. On the website, you can search by what is interesting to you, such as career interests, majors, academic interests, and student organizations. From the data so far, Beyond Barnard reports that about 85 to 90 percent of the messages students send on Barnard Connect are replied to by alumni. The platform gives students a lot more flexibility by allowing them to have a one-off conversation, exchange emails, or even video chat directly in the platform with alumni.
Here are CCE and Beyond Barnard’s best tips to effectively use the aforementioned platforms:
Make sure to completely fill out your profile
This is pretty straightforward, but it is still an important thing to remember. A-J Aronstein, dean of Beyond Barnard, believes you need three elements to get started on LinkedIn. The first element is a profile picture. It doesn’t need to be a professional or formal headshot, just a photo from the midriff up. Second, he suggests that people use a cover photo that says something a little more about them. Do you work in a lab a lot? Maybe choose a photo of you working in the lab. Are you from Chicago or thinking about internships in Chicago? Post a photo of the Chicago skyline. The last element is a solid summary of your interests in your biography, which is key to cultivating a conversation with alumni because it is an important part of who you are as a student. It can be really beneficial to lead with some interesting stuff you are doing. For example, mention your research on robotics if you are a science major, or your thesis on slave narratives if you’ are a history major. In the last sentence of your biography, Aronstein recommends stating that you are interested in connecting with alumni, particularly those that share your interests, and that you can be reached at your Barnard or Columbia email address. This shows that you are both interested in talking about specific topics and that you can easily be contacted.
Both career offices have workshops called Linkedin Labs, which students can come in and talk about what their LinkedIn profile looks like and how to improve it. You can find out more about these workshops on CCE’s website in the weekly roundups section. For Barnard students, you can subscribe to the Beyond Barnard newsletters to receive information about upcoming workshops.
Add posts periodically
When it comes to LinkedIn, Handshake, or LionShare, you should keep an updated profile. It is important to keep your industry interests current because these websites target messages and job opportunities to students based on the industries they are interested in. You don’t have to share a ton of information like your major or GPA; but the more information you put in, the more likely it is that employers looking for specific majors, class years, or GPAs will reach out to you.
Optimize your career center through these websites
For Barnard students, Handshake serves as the gateway to all resources at Beyond Barnard, so you should check it regularly and look for upcoming events and opportunities that might be interesting to you. It is important to go to events and meet alumni in person. They are here to answer your questions and you should take advantage of that opportunity. Also, if you want to schedule an appointment with your respective career adviser, you should access Handshake or LionShare ahead of time as the adviser's schedules can fill up very quickly. In addition, think about scheduling appointments before you have an interview and before you have to submit an application.
Furthermore, even if you can’t find the time to set up an appointment with your career center or feel more comfortable working on your professional portfolio alone, both career offices are constantly uploading new guides, podcasts, videos, and other resources on their respective websites.
Reach out to alumni
Alongside Barnard Connect for Barnard students, students can use different LinkedIn groups, the Columbia alumni directory, and the Odyssey Mentoring Program to connect to Columbia alumni. In addition, students can participate in University-sponsored networking opportunities such as career fairs and use the aforementioned platforms to have a follow-up with alumni or professionals that they would like to connect with.
Aronstein stated that many first-years and sophomores who work with Beyond Barnard get their first internship through a partnership with alumni. In other words, your future internship may not be posted anywhere. Instead, you can create an opportunity for yourself by reaching out to people and companies that interest you.
When it comes to LinkedIn, you need to think of it as a place to expand your network. LinkedIn is a great space to initiate conversations with strangers who share your affinities. If you search for an industry, a company, or a job title and filter by Columbia or Barnard, you are almost guaranteed to find the alumni who work in a similar field or position to the one you want to work in. You should click connect (not message) on their LinkedIn profile and add a note—you can’t message someone you’re not already connected to unless you have a LinkedIn Premium membership. You have 300 characters to make a very quick first impression, so it is crucial to express how the alumni can help you and why you are interested in speaking to them. Aronstein strongly discourages asking for a reference or job upfront. Instead, he stated that it would be more appropriate to ask them to look at your resume once you have met with them or had a substantial conversation over the phone with them.
Of course, it is important to keep in mind that some alumni will not reply to you. So you should have a tracking system for who you have connected with and what you have asked them. Often, people will not respond to your message but will accept your connection request. Once they do, you can send them an email saying you are excited to connect with them online and you’d love to talk with them on phone and meet them in person.
Remember that none of these websites is the be-all-end-all for your internship search. Feel free to use a multitude of platforms to ensure that you secure the internship you want. Happy searching!