Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday that I was a stressed college senior attempting to balance classes, an internship and a post-grad job search without losing my sanity. (Seniors: It worked out just fine for me, and you’ll survive, too!)

As graduation nears, public relations students are asking to connect via LinkedIn and reaching out regarding potential job opportunities. These recent activities reminded me that LinkedIn serves as an incredibly powerful tool for job seekers, but forgetting proper etiquette can hurt your chances of forming relationships and finding your first post-grad gig.

So without further adieu, I’d like to share LinkedIn dos and don’ts geared toward career-hungry college seniors:

Do: Share a personal message when asking to connect, especially if you do not know the contact well.

I cannot stress this enough. Unless you’ve known the professional for years or work together on a regular basis, you should always include a personal message when connecting via LinkedIn.

See? LinkedIn's default message isn't personal. It's your job to jazz it up.

LinkedIn’s personal message feature lets you build relationships and start the conversation, so use it to your advantage.

  • Let’s face it: Professionals aren’t super humans, and they don’t remember every single face and name they meet. If you haven’t chatted with the professional for several months, do the PR pro a favor by reminding him/her how you met.
  • If you’ve never met the professional before, explain why you want to connect with him/her.

Many professionals will not accept your connection if you don’t give them a reason to do so. It only takes a few extra minutes to write a personal message, so do it. A little effort goes a long way, my friends. (Did I mention you should always proofread?)

Don’t: Cut straight to the chase.

I can’t believe I’m stating the obvious, but I’m afraid I must.

If you’re a graduating senior, we know you’re looking for a job. But if you approach a professional and ask him/her about job opportunities and nothing else, you’re going to burn the bridge.

It’s fine to mention that you’re job searching and looking for opportunities, but remember that our field is about relationships. Take time to build connections before asking professionals to help you find a job.

I’m willing to help anyone who takes time to connect and build a relationship with me, and I know my colleagues feel the same way. So reach out. Learn about the professional’s current responsibilities. Ask for job search advice. Seek on-the-job tips from him/her.

Don’t: Connect your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

Unless 70 percent of your tweets focus on industry-specific links, sending tweets to your LinkedIn feed isn’t a savvy idea. If you tweet several times per day, you’re flooding your contacts’ LinkedIn feeds with information that may not be relevant.

As a student, do you really want your LinkedIn network to have direct access to what you’re eating for dinner that night? Do you want your drunken Thursday night tweets showing up on their LinkedIn feeds at 7 a.m. Friday morning? (Drunk tweets and private accounts are another blog post for another day…)

Do give yourself the option to share relevant tweets with your LinkedIn network by adding the “#in” hashtag to your tweets. If you’re not sure how to enable this feature, check out Twitter’s tutorial. 

Do: Fill out your entire profile.

I know recruiters who do more than half of their scouting through LinkedIn. Use this to your advantage by making it easy for them to find you.

Fill out your title. Add your industry. Write a short, concise summary using strategic keywords. Choose your skills and expertise tags.

Professionals: What advice would you offer to graduating seniors? Can you share some best practices?

This post was inspired by Faye’s LinkedIn etiquette post. Check it out and learn how to be on your best LinkedIn behavior.