Raise your hand if you have a Facebook. Now if you have Twitter. Tumblr. Pinterest. A YouTube account. A blog. Chances are you have at least one, and potentially all of the above. We’re all so plugged in to social media that the etiquette of navigating it has almost become intrinsic; don’t use hashtags on Facebook, don’t slam people on your blog, etc.
But what about LinkedIn? It’s a perplexing mix of social and professional that’s confusing enough to have even the savviest of collegiettes scratching their heads. So if you’ve ever thought, “Wait, you want me to friend request my boss?!,” here are seven handy tips to help navigate the (sometimes murky waters) of LinkedIn.
1. Personalize your connections.
LinkedIn is basically the Facebook of professional networking. It’s free to use; your profile is essentially a resume; and in place of “friends” you have professional connections. You can check out "Everything You Need To Know About LinkedIn" and "The Do’s And Don’ts of LinkedIn Etiquette" for more info.
We’ve all been cautioned against getting too chummy with employers or professors on Facebook, and rightfully so. So when it comes time to click that little “connect” button on LinkedIn, you might feel a slight twinge of apprehension, especially if it’s someone you worked with three years ago and haven’t seen since.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to be shy,” says Veronica Soto, the assistant director of career events at the University of Miami. “[LinkedIn] is a way to maintain those connections.” But if that mental image of your former boss sneering upon seeing your invitation continues to linger in your mind, Soto highly recommends taking advantage of a personal touch. “Don’t just use that canned response they have, ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network,’” she says. “You could say something like, ‘We worked together two years ago. It’s nice to see you again! Let’s reconnect on LinkedIn.’ Or, ‘You met me at the career expo, and I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn connections.’”
Making connections is the bread and butter of what LinkedIn is about. Without connections, even the most stellar of profiles will accomplish nothing. A strong group of connections is a huge resource for professional success, so don’t be afraid to get networking.
2. Make sure your profile is 100% complete.
According to Forbes.com, “Nothing screams ‘rookie’ like an unfinished profile.” If you wouldn’t want to walk into a job interview dressed sloppily and feeling unprepared, than you wouldn’t want to do your LinkedIn profile halfway. This is the online equivalent of your resume, so make sure it represents the best you have to offer. “The good thing about LinkedIn is that on the right hand side it’ll give you a little checklist of things you need to do to complete your profile, and they offer assistance,” says Soto. “It’s pretty user friendly.” So no excuses!
Before you apply for any jobs or internships, set aside some time to tie up any loose ends on your profile. Make sure all the sections you’ve started are completely filled in before inviting potential employers to come take a look. You don’t have to kill yourself trying to remember every single scholarship and award you’ve won throughout your college career, but be sure that things like job descriptions are sufficiently fleshed out.
3. Have a nice professional photo.
The shot of you and your BFF stumbling out of the bar together may make your hair look shiny and your butt look cute, but keep it far, far away from LinkedIn. “A smiling portrait is always great. You want to look approachable and professional,” says Elyssa Goodman, who worked as director of social media for Markham Media. “NEVER like you just left a frat party after too many games of beer pong.”
Soto agrees. “The perfect photo for LinkedIn is a picture of just yourself. You can get a professional headshot done, or you could just crop a nice photo of yourself. You definitely want to keep it professional, classy,” she says. “No friends, no partying pictures, nothing like that.” Full-body shots are okay but unnecessary, and be smart if you’re cropping a photo of yourself wearing a tube top; the illusion of nudity might get some raised eyebrows.
The ideal photo? A mug shot of your adorable face smiling at the camera.
4. Keep it relevant.
A typical resume limits your list of experience, awards, and accomplishments to a single page. LinkedIn, however, has unlimited space for you to list every job you’ve ever had since you were a camp counselor the summer after eighth grade. It can be tempting to list all of it (“OMG look how awesome and experienced I am!”), but keeping your profile focused is key. “What you list should directly reflect what job you're looking for,” says Goodman. “If you're looking for a job in sales and you've happened to work as a sales associate in a store, that definitely counts. Sometimes the little things add a great deal of positive information.” You can take the opportunity to expand what’s on your resume; if you have so many internships that they no longer fit on one page, LinkedIn is the perfect place to include them all.
It’s important not to overdo it, but you should feel free to list anything that you feel makes you a better professional candidate in your chosen field. Leadership positions are always attractive to potential employers, and Soto recommends joining groups and organizations that are related to the jobs you’re looking for. Alumni groups on LinkedIn can also be extremely beneficial. “To make them relevant to yourself you’ll want to participate,” she says. “Either by reading the articles, reading the postings that are going on, or commenting on them, especially if you’re looking for a new opportunity. You want to be involved and start getting your name out there.”