LinkedIn is the genius pairing of social media and career networking. The social media aspect of LinkedIn breaks the ice by adding a warm element to the whole process of developing career leads and opportunities. Fortunately, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool even if a person has little or no experience in his or her chosen field.
A fundamental understanding of what LinkedIn is and what it is NOT is the first step. Although LinkedIn is definitely social media, it’s social media dressed up with a clear career focus. It is for this reason that LinkedIn is not appropriate for those casual pictures of you and your best friends in Ibiza during the summer holidays, or even pictures of you and your dog at the park.
Where the Focus Should Be:
The focus is to tune to directing traffic to your profile that generates opportunities and connections to help you in your chosen field. Although the platform makes allowance for a slightly casual touch and there is definite encouragement in terms of marketing your skills, interest, and personality. In addition, refrain from anything considered unprofessional.
Better Profile Pictures
Pictures should be professional-looking. This does not mean that you actually have to have professional photographs taken. It simply means that pictures should convey a polished image, free of background props and people. A conservative headshot is best. This basically means that skimpy clothing and other types of casual and unprofessional attire should be a no-go. Your profile picture should reflect a clear professional image.
Top Tip: Remember, the first thing people see is your profile picture and don’t forget that first impressions are crucial. To get a professional look, take the photo in white and black.
Achievements and Experience
The work experience portion of LinkedIn should not list duties and responsibilities, but rather accomplishments and experiences that show promise and ability. Even students or recent graduates can create a powerful LinkedIn profile if they list club affiliations, academic achievements, internships, and volunteer work. Employers don’t care if you have had paid internships or unpaid internships, it is the experience that matters. In addition, references provided by lecturers/professors at your university can add more credibility to a profile.
Be descriptive in listing experiences and achievements in your LinkedIn profile summary. Explain how you approached your responsibilities/experience and what you did to overcome obstacles that led to your achievements. When requesting a reference, make it specific and relevant so that the reference shows some skill or attribute you displayed.
If you worked with Mrs. Smith at a charity shop, you might remind her that the two of you worked together and tell her something memorable you did. This gives her a very specific memory to attach a more detailed and compelling reference to. Detailed references that are specific rather than general create more tangible credibility. Companies that are looking for people with a specific skill set get a better feel for you and what you can do when references are specific and detailed.
Top tip: Try and get a mix of academic and professional recommendations, there is no such thing as too many recommendations.
When requesting to add someone to your profile, be sure to clearly state your purpose for adding him or her. After they accept you, thank them. On this note, once you’ve stated your reasons for wanting to add someone to your profile be sure to converse with them from time to time, otherwise there is no real purpose for adding them. LinkedIn is about networking. In order to use this powerful tool to the best of its abilities your actions have to be purposeful and show direction.
Top Tip: LinkedIn now sends daily emails about connections’ work anniversaries, this is a great reason to get in touch with people you have not spoken to in a while.
Strategies to further enhance your profile
There are many additional ways that you can create an impressive profile on LinkedIn. Be sure to keep a bio that provides a compact snapshot of your skills, abilities, and career direction. Give your bio a personal feel by speaking in the first person, however, keep it professional.
Instead of starting your profile with your name and or title, write a headline. A headline is a great way to introduce yourself to potential employers. Refresh your profile every year by adding updates to keep everything fresh and current. Add videos and pictures of your accomplishments/projects. This gives potential employers real examples of what you are capable of.
Top Tip: Try and add as much detail to your profile as possible. If you have a published article or essay, ensure that you mention that on your profile and leave a link to the article.
Another way to enhance your profile is by joining LinkedIn groups that fit the direction of your career and aspirations. Joining a group or groups shows an active interest in developing yourself as a professional. It’s also a great way to actively network.
Top Tip: As groups show your career aspirations, try and avoid taking a scattergun approach when joining groups.
Things you should avoid
Poor photos that are blurry, unprofessional, or low quality create a bad initial impression. Add subjective statements that say nothing specific about what you have accomplished and you have a muddled profile; a profile that sounds canned and manufactured, telling potential employers absolutely nothing about you. Profiles that don’t speak about your accomplishments using facts and numbers are easily passed over.
Even though you may be a student or recent graduate, highlighting the fact that you have little or no experience in your career choice AND not listing relevant school achievements and volunteer work is a big mistake. This mistake gives potential employers the idea that you’ve done nothing related to your career interest. In addition, profiles that lack references and have missing or ill-written bio’s tend to fall into the poor category as well.
Linkedin is not Facebook
Another bad move is adding random people to your profile that actually have no related significance to your career objectives in any way. All of which will lead to an overlooked profile.
Although LinkedIn is social media, it’s not Facebook. Facebook is for purely social/entertainment purposes, and with this in mind, much of what you may see in a Facebook profile may have little or nothing to do with a person’s career aspiration. Although Linkedin is more of a professional platform, it’s an option, not a suggestion.
There are many components to create a powerful LinkedIn profile. Fully utilising all components can make a profile becomes memorable and effective. However, just as there are measures that you can take to create a great profile there are, of course, steps that create poor and ineffective LinkedIn profiles.
A LinkedIn profile should be a cohesive, purposeful, and well-directed description of whom you are and where you want to go professionally. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out. Your college work, whether you are still a student or a recent graduate, is your career. Excellent performances shown in coursework, clubs, experiences, and volunteer work are still highly effective ways to showcase your talent and potential.
If you would like our careers team to have a look at your LinkedIn profile, drop us a line and we will be happy to give our feedback.