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LinkedIn has over 300 million members in more than 200 countries, and its fastest-growing demographic is students like you and me! More than 39 million students and recent college graduates are on LinkedIn making connections and searching for jobs and internships. So how can you stand out in this sea of business users?

It’s simply a matter of building your personal brand and making more meaningful connections. The best part is, you don’t even need the premium version…you can enhance your network and online presence for free!

First, it is helpful to know if you are a passive or active user. You can’t just post a profile and expect recruiters to come find you. That would be too good to be true. Here are some signs you are a passive user:

  • Have fewer than 50 connections
  • Do not have a professional photo
  • Do not have a custom headline
  • Not a member of groups
  • Do not send customized messages and invitations

If you fall into this category, you are missing out!

If you need help building out your connections, start with friends and family. You never know whom they might know. You can also connect with classmates, professors, or previous coworkers… don’t worry if their career is relevant to you or not. However, if you are reaching out to someone you do not know or just met, it is important to write a customized message in order to make a more meaningful connection and avoid the pitfalls of spam. If you can’t send them a customized message with an invite due to privacy settings, try reaching out to them through a common group. This is the best way to bypass privacy settings! As a precaution, however, don’t sacrifice quantity for quality. It is better to have 50 connections who can advocate for you rather than 200 people you don’t really know.

You can also ask a connection to introduce you to someone in his or her network.

“Hi Sally, I see you are connected to John Doe. Do you know him well? If so, would you please introduce me? I would love to connect with him and talk about x, y and z.”

Another quick tip is making sure you have a professional photo on your profile. LinkedIn experts say you are 70% more likely to get clicked on with a photo. If you don’t have a professional photo already, career services takes $5 pictures at its career fairs.

Once you have your headshot and experience listed, customize your headline to showcase your skills. DON’T just repeat your current job title. If a recruiter is looking for someone with your skills, you want them to easily find you. It’s also a great way for connections to get a snapshot of your strengths like: Project management, business development, or leadership.

Lastly, join groups that pertain to your industry, your customer’s (or potential customer’s) industry, location, and affinity groups such as Daniels at DU or University of Denver Alumni. This is a great way to grow your network and find commonalities with professionals you want to meet. With the free version, LinkedIn allows users to have up to 50 groups so you do not have to be too picky (and remember, it’s a great way to make messaging new connections easier).

For more information on how you can improve your profile and take advantage of all LinkedIn has to offer, check out LinkedIn for Students.

Have fun building your network!

Amy Geisert is an MBA candidate and Graduate Assistant at the Suitts Graduate & Alumni Career Center.