With more than 950 million members, LinkedIn is the world's largest online professional networking site. It’s currently considered to be the best networking tool for students and new and established professionals to engage with other professionals, learn about organizations, search for job and internship openings, connect with groups of interest, and have a professional presence online. Below are eight tips for making the most of LinkedIn.

Liz Hruska headshot wearing green long-sleeved shirt with golden fall leaves in background
Liz Hruska, CCAPS Career and Internship Services
  1. Look the part. A great profile picture is important, although it doesn’t need to be taken by a professional. A nice cell phone camera can do the job. Find a spot that offers bright but diffused light and choose a plain background. Wear professional clothing and minimal jewelry and remember that you can typically only see your neck and shoulders in the profile picture. Smile authentically (a so-called full Duchenne smile with teeth and genuinely happy eyes scores best!) and select a photo that truly looks like you. Attend a campus career fair and you’re likely to have the opportunity to get a free headshot photo. AI generators are gaining in popularity, and can be a viable image option in a pinch. Remember to update this photo every year or so. Add a background image! You can even create one in Canva (a free, open access tool anyone can use). Have this image relate to your overall professional brand.
  2. Write a good headline. Your LinkedIn headline is the text that shows up directly beneath your name, and it’s important that you give these words some thought. Along with your name and photo, the headline is the other piece of information that appears when people search your name. If you don’t add your own headline, it will default to your current title and employer, which may or may not fit with your objectives. Instead of using a default headline such as “Team Member, MooCow Creamery,” use your headline to position yourself strategically, especially if you’re looking for an internship or job. This LinkedIn article suggests your headline should say more about you than just your title. 
  3. Make a clean URL. It is possible to customize your LinkedIn profile URL so that it does not include the extraneous numbers and letters that LinkedIn generates. Click here for instructions for how to do this.
  4. Build your network. A network of 200+ connections is a great goal. Decide on your own parameters for accepting and requesting connections. Some people won’t accept connections unless they’ve worked directly with the person requesting the contact. Others welcome as many connections as possible. Once you are connected with someone, it’s easy to reach them via email or phone, just click “Contact” and “Personal Info” on the right side of the screen to reveal a drop-down of contact details. Often, people are more responsive to emails than LinkedIn messages. Find more information about how to request an informational interview.
  5. Write and receive recommendations. Recommendations add credibility to your profile and allow viewers to gain objective insight into work style, skills, and personality. The best way to get recommendations is to start by writing a few for others in your network. It’s often understood that if you write a recommendation for someone else, they’ll write one for you.
  6. Complete every field. The more complete your LinkedIn profile is, the better. Look for any holes that need filling in your work history. Complete the About section using the first person voice and double check that all your positions are fully built out. With each entry in the Experience section, tell a story in the first person voice, including everything you would put on your resume. Beyond that, some profiles include specific coursework completed, descriptions of awards received, or work samples. Just think of LinkedIn as a reel of your best projects. You can always also provide a link for a personal website or digital portfolio. We actually discourage users from posting a resume on LinkedIn so that if a hiring manager is interested, they will have to ask you directly, giving you an opportunity to have a direct, individual interaction with them.
  7. Learn from other profiles. Once your profile is up and running, explore other job titles out there. As you review the profiles of people working in roles that interest you, pay attention to the path they pursued to get there. You can often get this information just by looking at their work history. For example, the title “Buyer” is used frequently on LinkedIn, and with a little digging you may learn that a typical stepping-stone to that position is a role with a title like “Business Analyst” or “Merchandise Planner,” often preceded by skill-building internships or leadership activities.  
  8. Search the jobs board. LinkedIn also has a handy “Jobs” section, which can alert you to opportunities that match your professional interests. CCAPS students and alumni alike have found both internships and full-time positions using this tool. You can upload your resume just for this purpose, and there is often even a one-click “easy apply” option. To get going on this function, click on the “Jobs” tab at the top of your profile, then select “Update Career Interests” to refine job and internship categories and geographic areas that match your goals. This is an especially helpful tool if you are considering a relocation.

LinkedIn is a dynamic tool that’s constantly changing. It’s okay not to know how to do everything on this platform. Chances are a quick Google search will reveal that LinkedIn has already created a helpful step-by-step tutorial to answer your questions. If you’re a U of M student or alumni, work with Career & Internship Services to further leverage LinkedIn to accomplish your own professional goals.

Liz Hruska provides career development support as the interim associate director with Career and Internship Services in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies