Listen. If you're like me, you were once scared of LinkedIn. Maybe you still are. I have vivid memories of signing up for a LinkedIn account freshman year of college not having any idea what in the world I was doing. I believe my thoughts in that moment were, "Why am I doing this?" "Professional work experience? Dude, I'm 18 years old." "I'm not even looking for a job for another 4 years." "All these people in suits look stuffy." "What even is this?"
Sound familiar? I get it. I understand where you're coming from. At first, LinkedIn doesn't seem as attractive as Instagram, or as funny as Twitter, or as personal as Facebook. But I promise, it's equally (if not more) as cool and important as all of those sites combined.
Career fair season is taking its toll on campus, and I've been getting non-stop questions from friends and peers about how to use LinkedIn. And not just about how to set it up, but how to set it up to win. Here's the thing, according to U.S. News & World Report, roughly 95% of recruiters utilize LinkedIn as a major sourcing and recruitment tool. Let me say that louder for the people in the back.
95% OF RECRUITERS ARE USING LINKEDIN TO FIND AND HIRE YOU!
So now that you've heard me loud and clear, let's get you a winning profile on LinkedIn!
1. First things first, make an account. (I'm not going to explain how to do this because at this point everyone knows how to type in an email and create a password.)
2. Upload a professional head shot! Think of this as your own personal logo. It's your branding statement - the first thing recruiters will see when they find your profile. You want to make sure it's professional, clean, and a good representation of you. This is not the time to upload a selfie, your fraternity/sorority composite, a picture with your significant other, or a senior pic from high school. You want this picture to look mature, polished, and poised. Here's a little secret: it does not have to be taken on a professional camera! That's right. You can take a head shot on your phone! Put on a professional outfit (even a nice, scoop neck, solid-colored long sleeve works for women and a simple, solid-colored shirt with a collar works for men), grab a friend, find good lighting and a neutral background, and take a picture from the chest up. Feel free to do some simple editing on the photo if you really want to make it pop. I recommend AirBrush, Tezza, and VSCO as great, free editing apps. Learn more about DIY head shots in this blog post.
Ex. This picture was taken in the hallway of my sorority house. I threw on a turtle neck and a blazer, grabbed my friend Lilli,
and had her snap a pic on my iPhone. Then I edited the lighting a little bit and BOOM. LinkedIn ready.
3. Tackle the Experience, Education, and Accomplishments sections. These sections are the easiest to fill-in because they can be copy+pasted from your resume. If you don't have a resume yet, that's totally okay! You can still fill all of these in fairly quickly. Depending on who you talk to, recruiters have different preferences for how they want to see the "Description" portion filled out. Some prefer it to be in paragraph style because they want to know more about your experiences than what is simply listed on your resume. I once heard a recruiter advise, "Use LinkedIn to tell the whole story. Resumes give me the quick points, LinkedIn fills in the details." I've also heard some recruiters say, however, that bullet points are fine in this section. They like to scroll and scan, so bullet points help them quickly get a comprehensive understanding of you. Ultimately, both ways are good and neither will hinder you from getting a job. If you feel like your resume simplifies your experiences, then use the paragraph style! If you have multiple data points, certifications, or specific results, however, maybe bullet points are more fitting for you. Whatever you decide, just be sure to stay consistent. And above all, definitely include something in the "Description" portion. Nothing looks more lazy or more careless than a half-filled-in LinkedIn profile.
4. Tackle the Headline section. Similar to the professional head shot, this is the other thing recruiters will see first when they source your profile. This is also how you will come up in other LinkedIn users' search results. Most people list their current position/internship and current company in their headline. For example, my headline is "Marketing Intern at Center for Career Opportunities". Over the summer, however, I was interning somewhere else, so my headline said "Digital Marketing Intern at Compassion International". Whatever you choose for your headline, just make sure to keep it current and updated. If you do not currently have a job, don't stress. You can still put something impressive in your headline. Think about what clubs and organizations you are involved in. For example, "Director of Communications for Purdue Student Government" sounds official. "Outreach Committee Leader for Purdue Dance Marathon" sounds great, too! If it's your freshman year and you're not involved in extracurriculars yet, don't fret. "Management and Marketing Student at Purdue University" gets the job done. Once again, at least put something in your headline. Otherwise, LinkedIn will automatically populate it on its own and we don't want that.
5. Tackle the About section. This is probably the thing I see empty most often on college students' profiles. And I'm choosing to believe it's because you're just not sure what to put there. Let me give you some ideas! First and foremost, you definitely want to fill this section out. It goes back to what that recruiter advised about letting LinkedIn tell the whole story. I'm sure you've heard that you should leave soft-skills off of a resume. So where do those soft-skills go? The About section, baby! Construct a polished, simple, 4-5 sentence paragraph about you, what your strengths are, and what kind of work you're pursuing. Let's say your major is human resources, you're gifted in communication, collaboration, and leadership, and you're seeking an internship for the summer. Here's an example of a paragraph you could throw together: Gifted in communication, collaboration, and leadership, I believe my extracurricular and previous internship experiences make me a well-rounded student and strong candidate. Studying HR in the Krannert School of Management has taught me to be detail-oriented, results-driven, and a true team player. Eager to expand my experience, I am pursuing an internship for Summer 2020 in human resources or talent acquisition.
*The About Section's Best Kept Secret: This a great opportunity to toss in your StrengthsFinder Top 5 strengths.
Employers eat that up. I promise.*
Okay, now that you're profile is complete we can get started on strategy. Check out Part 2 of this blog post called How to Use LinkedIn to Get a Job to learn how/what to post on LinkedIn, how to use it to your advantage, how to connect with employers, and so much more!