Tips from Campus is a monthly column written by WWPR member Jordan DeJarnette exploring a wide range of topics from a student’s perspective including guidance to young PR professionals beginning their careers in public relations.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Washington Women in Public Relations

I was first introduced to the ingenious concept that is LinkedIn during my freshman year of college in a first year studies class.  Twitter and Facebook were already familiar to me as a resource to connect with friends, but the thought of a professional social media network had never crossed my mind.  Since then, and especially in my senior year as I am starting to think about employment after graduation, LinkedIn has quickly become one of my most visited, and useful networking resources.

Like most people, I am connected to anyone that I have personally crossed paths with — from friends, to past employers and even professors.  I was speaking with my mentor last semester as school was starting to get into its final weeks about tips I could use to help secure a fall internship.  One of her first questions to me was, “Have you reached out to employees of the companies that you’re interested in on LinkedIn?”  I was confused. “But, I’ve never met them before,” I quickly responded.  She proceeded to let me in on one of the best kept secrets for young professionals — it’s okay to connect with people that you’ve never met before.

The art of cold contacting on LinkedIn only works if you go about it the right way.  First of all, when you try to connect with someone, check out if you have any mutual connections.  If so, contact your personal connection and ask if they would mind introducing you to the said person.  If you have no connection to them, send them an invitation.  On LinkedIn you can’t send In-mail unless you’re a premium member, so an invitation is the only way to communicate with someone you don’t know.  In the comment section of the invitation, I start off by letting the individual know I am a young professional looking to get in the PR field and express that their certain position is one that really interests me.  I go on to say that I would love to talk to them about how they got their start and the steps they took to get where they are today.  My mentor pointed out to me that she, as well as other professionals, are for the most part always willing to speak with someone who’s just starting out.  She said that she got where she is today because of a helping hand and wants to give that same help back to someone else.

As a young professional, LinkedIn is just one more beneficial resource to add to your networking tool belt as you start to make your mark on the world.  So go ahead, connect away!