Regardless of industry, major or back­ground – networking is the missing “link” to the ultimate goal of finding your career success.

Pairing academic achievements with earned experiences is only half of the way to your dream job. What frustrates many new graduates is finding the right job opportunity. The good news is, whether you realize it or not, you’re always networking – in both the obvious of places and the unexpected.

One tool that many young professionals are utilizing is a social networking site called LinkedIn. Here are some quick and practical ways to put LinkedIn to work for you and one way to keep it from hurting you in the future:

  • The old adage, “You never know who you’re going to bump into,” exists for a reason. Remember to send the “invitation to connect” to individuals after you’ve met. Once you get in the practice of sending a follow up message, it’s easy to stick with it. It could be a critical contact meeting at a Reds game or grocery store or as glaringly simple as connecting with your fellow classmates. In five years you’ll be established cohorts that could benefit from staying in touch.
  • Utilize the “Network Activity” feature. It’s the Facebook cousin of “News Feed.” Take it a step further and link it to your other social media accounts like Twitter or Facebook. This is a great way to establish a professional, online presence. Post articles on your areas of interest, pose questions for discussion or share job / volunteering opportunities.
  • See who’s viewing you! More often than not, visitors to your  LinkedIn page leave a footprint, making a good reason for you to visit, message or contact them.
  • ‘Tis better to give than receive. Networking, like friendship, is a two-way street. Introduce others, give (deserving) recommendations of others and share information with your network that they’d be interested in. Better yet, join groups in your areas of interest to share information and stay up-to-date on key issues – perfect for preparing for an interview.
  • Be mindful of your online presence. You’re building your personal brand one contact, posting and group at a time … but nothing can totally replace good ol’ fashioned face-to-face networking. Be sure to use LinkedIn and other resources as ways to enhance your relation­ships, not replace them. Organizations like the Chamber of Com­merce, Legacy and many local non-profits have great young professional events to attend.

 This article first appeared in the College of Mount St. Joseph’s CareerWatch newsletter.