Liz Hruska, Career & Internship Services
With more than 500 million members, LinkedIn is the world's largest online professional networking site. It’s currently considered to be the best networking tool for new and established professionals (and, yes, current students too) 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.
- 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 and select a photo that genuinely looks like you. Remember to update this photo every year or so. Further reading here.
- 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, for example, “Team Member, MooCow Creamery,” use your headline to position yourself strategically, especially if you’re looking for an internship or job. Updated example: “Health Services Management Student Seeking Summer Finance Internship.”
- Make a clean URL. It is possible to update your LinkedIn profile URL so that it does not include the extraneous numbers and letters that LinkedIn generates. By making a cleaner LinkedIn URL, you can insert it on your résumé or in your email signature. See instructions for how to do this.
- 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.
- 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. They’re often tacitly reciprocal, meaning: if you write a recommendation for me, then I’ll write one for you.
- 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 summary section and double check that all your positions are fully built out. As a rule of thumb, include everything you would put on your résumé. 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.
- 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 discern 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 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.
- Job search engine. 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 résumé, and there is 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. Work with Career & Internship Services to further leverage LinkedIn to accomplish your own professional goals.