They’re linking in with a professional business image

August 7, 2009
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Plante & Moran is known for hiring a lot of people fresh out of college each year, according to Jeff Antaya, chief marketing officer. These young Millennials are tech-savvy and quite familiar with social networking sites such as Facebook.

“When I went to college … there were fewer (networking) options available to you. Most of them were taking someone to lunch or writing them a letter. Today, the richness of the Internet provides us so many different options to build and maintain our network.”

In the way that Facebook is used to make social connections among friends and friends of friends, LinkedIn provides these connections for businesspeople.

“LinkedIn is that same kind of thing from a business perspective. I have found it to be a really powerful tool,” he said.

To acquaint the new hires with LinkedIn, Plante & Moran offers a training program called “Leveraging LinkedIn: Tips to Better Utilize Social Networking Tools.”

“We put together a program that goes through and tells people how to put a profile together, some etiquette around accepting invitations, asking for recommendations, how to use some of the advance find capabilities. … It’s kind of a basics course and we decided to add that to our entry-level training courses.”

With laptops at hand, the course takes new staff through the set-up of a LinkedIn profile and explains the site’s features and how to utilize them in the business world.

“It gets people started in a really safe environment,” said Antaya. “You have to remember you’re putting your image forth in your professional role.

“Not only does anything you say reflect on you, it reflects on the person who you work for. There’s probably a little more seriousness about it and that can cause people some hesitation about getting started. You just have to get your understanding and get comfortable with this new tool and what the parameters and boundaries are.”

Jennifer Taylor, a recent participant in the program, at first struggled with the notion of what was proper for the workplace.

“I had heard about LinkedIn through school; I just wasn’t sure if it was something appropriate for work,” said Taylor, a Grand Valley State University accounting grad.

Taylor said many of her peers are familiar with social networking, but are unsure how to use it in a business-related fashion. She noted that it is important to keep bad habits in check when transitioning from the informality of Facebook to the business style of LinkedIn.

“When you use something like Facebook, it’s really easy to transfer over some of those habits,” Taylor said. “On Facebook, it’s so casual, because you’re such good friends — small things like spelling that you’re not as careful about.”

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