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 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!
Meanwhile the SocialU101 offers, 6 LinkedIn Do’s & Don’t’s for College Students, offers some very important DON’Ts:
1. DON’T be a pushy LinkedIn inviter
Honestly, this topic could take up an entire post by itself. In this case, however, my answer is simple: send LinkedIn requests the same way you would flirt with someone at a party – the goal is to come off confident, but not too obvious. The “over-eager requestor” is a classic example of someone who comes off as too obvious and aggressive.
Over-aggression is counterproductive in two ways. First, college students and entry-level employees usually connect with LinkedIn users to get things from them and cannot reciprocate much back. In the professional world, networking is much more about mutual self-interest – I’ll connect with you because we can both help each other get ahead. Not so with a college student.. Aggressively requesting an industry professional right after you meet them makes it obvious that you want them to get you a job and furthers this “gimme” perception.
Second and more importantly, meeting someone in person and then requesting to connect in the span of 10 minutes cheats you out of an opportunity to get noticed and prolong your interaction. Requesting someone right after they give you a presentation almost guarantees they forget about you. They are obviously away from their office, so your request to connect will be buried by other emails. If they do accept you on the Linkedin mobile app, the chance they actually view your profile is pretty slim because they are busy getting back to their office or finishing up the presentation. The end goal in sending your request should be twofold – get them to remember you and have them view your profile.
2. DON’T overly rely on LinkedIn job postings
These postings are open to the entire LinkedIn user population, so the acceptance rate is rather low. With some exceptions, high-paying, highly sought-after jobs don’t get posted there because companies have no problem finding qualified applicants. Even if companies do post good jobs on Linkedin, the chance that a random Linkedin user can rise to the top of the applicant pool is limited. A better approach is using Linkedin to gain footing with higher-ups inside a company and having them be your agent during the hiring process, as I said above in the DO section. However, good luck beating these applicants out as a random Linkedin job posting applicant. I’m not saying you shouldn’t cast a wide net, especially in this economy, but don’t put many eggs in the Linkedin job posting basket. Diversify.
3. DON’T be shy!
Join groups you’re interested in and follow companies that intrigue you. When you join groups, you expand your searchable network to all group members, which is an obvious plus. Also, by posting in groups, you encourage others to interact with you and view your profile, inflating your Linkedin footprint. Following companies give you talking points with interviewers and keeps you up-to-date with company news. Linkedin passed 150 million users in February of this year so being a shy and inactive user makes you part of a crowd of 150,000,000. So, stand out, be active, and leverage this amazing social network.