It’s who you are to employers, grad schools, future colleagues, and people you’re gonna want to stay connected to. Including those ‘old people’ who may just hire you someday.
If you’re not on LinkedIn, you simply don’t exist in the working world.
To get you started, here are 10 must-dos for students and new-ish grads on LinkedIn. For the most part, my top tips are about getting your profile into tip-top shape (see what I did there?!).
1) Upload an appropriate photo.
Far too many LinkedIn members don’t have a profile photo. It’s their loss, because profiles with one get 14x more views.
It just makes the whole experience real – for you and for other members and employers. I’ve even heard of hiring managers or potential connections using it a first filter – no profile photo? You’re out, before you even got the chance to interview or get connected.
Find (or take!) a high-quality photo of you alone, professionally dressed, facing forward. Nothing inappropriate. No party shots, cartoon avatars, or puppy pics! LinkedIn is not Facebook or Instagram, and it’s definitely not Snapchat.
And don’t be creepy, like this guy…
But just as creepy as his profile pic? Not having one at all.
Don’t forget to smile!
2) Write an informative but punchy profile headline.
This is a short, memorable professional ‘slogan.’ It’s the one thing you want a recruiter, hiring manager, or future co-worker to know about you. Tell them what you’re excited about now – and if you can say it succinctly – the great stuff you want to do in the future.
For example: “Honors student seeking marketing position” or “Engineer building game-changing consumer products.”
Need ideas? Check out profiles of co-workers you admire or recent alumni. A great way to find successful grads is LinkedIn’s awesome Alumni Tool. It lets you narrow down alumni of your school by where they work, live, and more. Most alumni will gladly respond to a connection request from a student or new grad who has a shared alma mater.
One other thing: Avoid lame clichés. Don’t be a “code ninja” or an “SEO guru.”
Same goes for buzzwords like “strategic,” “creative,” and “responsible.” They’re on the list of the most overused (and meaningless) on LinkedIn profiles.
3) Don’t cut corners on the Summary statement.
This section is the main place for you to stand out; it colors in and adds a ‘story’ element to your experience and your aspirations.
Think of the Summary like the first few paragraphs of your best-written cover letter: Concise about your experience, qualifications, and goals – and if you can, with a compelling narrative weaved throughout. Describe what motivates you, what you’ve done and are skilled at, and what makes you unique. Be clear and confident (even if you’re really not – only you has to know that!).
And you want to use keywords and phrases that recruiters might search for. Go with terms that are well known (e.g., ‘product management,’ ‘graphic design,’ ‘data analysis’) but if you have a very specific skill set, don’t be afraid to mention it here.
4) Be smart about your experience.
List the jobs you’ve held and a brief description of what you were responsible for and what you accomplished. You can choose to make it either more or less detailed than your resume. What really matters is that you’re not leaving out critical details about your work history. If you’ve held more than one job somewhere (including a promotion), list all of them with dates so that people can see you progressed and took on more responsibility. You can even add public work projects, photos, or videos to specific jobs you list (more on that in #8 below).
And think broadly about your “experience.” Be sure to include volunteer activities if you have them, under “Volunteer Experience & Causes.” 41% of LinkedIn recruiters say they consider it on par with full-time paid work experience. And 20% of hiring managers in the U.S. say they’ve hired someone because of volunteer experience. It’s also a good profile addition because it tells people something unique and personal about you; it reveals your passions and rounds you out as a human being.
5) Complete additional profile sections tailored to career starters.
Don’t have a lot of work experience? Don’t worry! Your profile can still rock.
I mentioned volunteer experience above; you should also list all (relevant) part-time or unpaid work, including contracting or internships, you want people to know about. And you can list organizations you’ve been involved with or support as well.
If you earned a prize or recognition (whether in or out of school), you can list it under “Honors & Awards.” You can also list classes, languages, certifications, or team projects that demonstrate the skills you’ve worked hard to acquire.
Personally, I recommend you include your GPA if it’s north of a 3.3 on a 4.0 scale. Most profiles don’t list test scores – perceived to be a bit showy, not to mention largely irrelevant to ability to perform in a job – but it’s there if you’re thin on actual work experience and are particularly proud of how you scored on stuff like the SAT/ACT, GMAT, LSAT, GRE, etc.
And don’t forget to list all of your education. Include your major(s), minor(s), and any study abroad or summer programs.
Remember: Don’t be shy — LinkedIn is an appropriate place to show off your achievements, experience, courses, and GPA. Let the world know!