LinkedIn is a social networking website with the largest online professional network in the world, the fastest-growing demographic being students and recent graduates. LinkedIn provides you with the resources to access various professional networks, key decision-makers, recruiters, and learning opportunities that will help you in your search for meaningful work. Just having a LinkedIn account will not guarantee you a job, however, many recruiters have successfully hired using a social network and, the largest percentage hired using LinkedIn. As this tool continues to evolve, creating a captivating profile is essential to effectively self-market, generate connections, identify leads, grow your professional brand, and make a professional online impression.
LinkedIn Profile Essentials
Aim for an All-Star rating. There is nothing more disappointing to your audience than an incomplete or poorly maintained profile. Make sure you have completed all of the suggested sections to generate an All-Star rating; this will increase your visibility and encourage other professionals to connect with you. If you want to be 40x more likely to be viewed, pay attention to your Profile Completion Meter and ensure the following sections are complete:
- Skills (+5), current position, two past positions, photo, location, summary, education, industry, and location
- At least 50 connections
Use the following tips to create an effective profile that will help you stand out:
- Come up with a targeted and attractive headline.
Do not fall into the mistake of using your automatically generated job title and company name as your headline. You must stand out and grab the attention of the reader by describing what you do, and what added benefits you can offer the reader. Try to be rich with keywords when possible, as well as clear, intentional, and succinct to fit within the 120-character limit.
- Increase your views with a good photo.
This is often a person’s first glimpse of your profile; if you do not have a photo that represents your personal brand, you may be leaving the wrong first impression. With access to high-resolution phone cameras these days, you do not necessarily have to get a professional photo taken. When taking your own headshot:
- Ensure that the quality of the image is clear, you are in a well-lit space, and that the background is not distracting.
- Look directly at the camera and smile.
- Avoid wearing accessories like hats or sunglasses that may hide your face.
- Avoid using a cropped photo from a group picture.
- Dress appropriately for your career goal.
- Build a conversational and informative summary.
Ask yourself what you want your target audience to know about you. A well-crafted summary is an opportunity for you to highlight your skills, experience, and your future career aspirations while characterizing elements of your personality in the tone you are writing in. When writing your summary consider:
- Making your first two lines captivating as this is all that is displayed at first glance.
- Writing in first or third person, keeping in mind first person is seen as more direct and intimate.
- Incorporating industry keywords to be more visible in recruiter searches.
- Including information on your background, what you can offer, your professional goals and
a call to action.
- Show your experience.
Always add rich descriptions to your experience sections. These can reflect the STAR technique you used to develop your resume descriptions and interview answers. In addition, emphasize the skills you gained in your day-to-day tasks and include details of your various accomplishments from your paid or unpaid part-time, full-time, or summer work experience. Listing in bullet points is often the preferred format.
- Share your accomplishments.
Add in additional sections to showcase some of your other accomplishments that might set you apart from your competition. Including information on additional certifications or awards received can be impressive.
Highlight your project work. Do not minimalize your project experience; describe the practical experience you gained so that readers can see how this translates into on-the-job skills. You can provide a relevant URL to the project and connect your team members who are also LinkedIn members.
- Showcase your education.
List all of your post-secondary education. Typically after you have completed post-secondary you would not need to list your high school education here. Some employers and recruiters may have a preference for seeking out candidates that graduated from a specific school or program. Notable accomplishments such as achieving a high GPA, or relevant courses can be included in the description to show that you are a high-performing candidate.
- Promote your skills.
Paint a picture of what you can offer a recruiter or an employer. Start by listing at least five skills you have learned throughout your academic, volunteer, and work experiences. As you develop more skills, update your profile to reflect this. Identify both soft skills that are transferable from one field to another and hard skills that you learned during formal training or on the job and ensure that they relate to your job goal. When your connections endorse you for your skills, you increase your credibility and improve your search ranking.
- Personalize your URL.
By default, when you start your LinkedIn account you are given a public URL. With the increase in LinkedIn’s popularity, you may want to use your URL to promote yourself in the signature of your email address, on your resume, and on your business networking cards. Personalizing your URL allows you to make it shorter and more memorable and ultimately enhances your personal brand.
- Include Multimedia.
Make your profile more visually appealing by adding photos, videos, or slideshow presentations. This gives a reader an opportunity to see examples of your work, similar to an online portfolio.
- Build your connections through common interests and community.
Do not wait until you graduate to build up your connections, spend time increasing your contacts now. Aim for 50 as you are starting out, but the more connections the better. You can connect with friends, classmates, professors, or people that you have volunteered and worked with. Be proactive in your approach, you can start by syncing your email contacts to create a list of suggested connections. Only send invitations to those you are comfortable connecting with; avoid randomly adding people that you do not know so that you can keep up-to-date and help each other through recommendations and information about opportunities that are relevant to you.