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A fresh year is ahead, and college students and recent graduates should consider performing a tune-up on their LinkedIn profiles. With shopping, office parties and finals, you may have overlooked your social media chores—perhaps even let some of them slip your mind. Not to worry. Performing a LinkedIn profile tune-up can get you right back where you need to be.

Fill in the blanks
Below your basic data and just above your summary is a new feature: Add sections. Among the choices are Certifications, Volunteer Experience & Causes, Test Scores and Honors and Awards. You don’t have to add each one, but don’t overlook a great opportunity to highlight relevant information that could get you noticed by the right people for the right reasons. Include as many choices as you can with information that is relevant to the career you are interested in.

Ask for recommendations
Your Linkedin profile says who you think you are; a recommendation says what others believe you to be. Look through your more credentialed contacts and identify one or two who’ve really seen you perform consistently and over more than a single project, semester or short period of time. Be magnanimous towards any response, affirmative or otherwise. You may get a rejection now, but a great review down the road. If the person you’ve asked agrees to provide a recommendation, be specific about what you’re interested in having included in the content. Production, quality, creativity and the ability to organize and coordinate projects are infinitely more valuable than testimonials about what a swell person you are.

LinkedIn Alumni
One of the newest features to LinkedIn, and one especially helpful for undergrads or those going on for their masters degree, is LinkedIn Alumni. By visiting http://www.linkedin.com/college/, you’ll have a pretty extensive list of students and faculty from which to reach out. Remember that LinkedIn and Facebook are both social media sites, but that’s where the similarities end. Be cautious in which invitations to accept and which contacts to approach for networking, but don’t overlook this important resource.

LinkedIn Groups
Networking is about actively engaging others, and LinkedIn Groups is where you really have a chance to make an impression on people in your desired field. Groups are also where you can commit serious faux pas by posing or exaggerating, but as an undergrad or graduate student positioning yourself for a future position, you can make a reputation of being a great inquirer. The experts tend to be generous with individuals who asks intelligent questions, and that’s how high-value connections are identified and made.

Also relatively new in LinkedIn Groups is a dashboard feature for each group. In the figure below the stats for a LinkedIn group, Corporate Communicators, are displayed showing the size of the group, a breakdown of members according to the seniority of their positions, demographics and comment activity. As there are hundreds of various groups, you’ll want to only join those most directly related to your field, and then, only those that are very active. To find the stats on a particular group, go to the group site and under the group title, select “more” where you’ll find a pull down menu with Group Stats.

Into the New Year
Though any time is a good time to review and tweak your LinkedIn account, the start of a new year, before classes resume, is a better time than most. Use these pointers to tighten up whatever stage you find yourself in your career, but then use the momentum of a tune-up to be a regular, active networker.

Photo courtesy of mariosundar via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).