Since it launched in 2003, LinkedIn has become the go-to career networking site for many collegiettes. The purpose of the site is to allow members to foster professional relationships and pursue career opportunities. However, it can be difficult to figure out how to actually use your profile to get employed. Check out these tips for creating your best LinkedIn profile possible and using it to land the job that’s right for you.
1. Make your profile thorough
You should make sure to complete every section of your profile with as much detail as possible. Your LinkedIn should act as a comprehensive bio of all the information relevant to your professional life; it’s pretty much a resume.
“LinkedIn gives you a whole host of options in terms of providing details about your experiences, even if you are still in college,” says Neal Schaffer, social media strategist and author of Windmill Networking: Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn. “This ranges from the Education and Professional Experience (if you have any) section to things like Projects, Test Scores, Courses, Certifications, and Volunteering & Causes. The more details you add to your profile that are aligned with your personal brand and the career you are looking for, the better and more complete picture hiring managers will have of you.”
An incredibly important aspect of your LinkedIn profile is the experience section. You should use this section to showcase any and all practice you’ve had in your field of interest. One of the main things that employers look for when considering you for a job is the previous experience you’ve had at similar jobs.
As Schaffer says, you should also include any volunteer work you’ve done. Whether it was done with your sorority, during an alternative spring break trip or as an individual effort, volunteering experience is very valuable to many employers and will make you stand out. LinkedIn offers a Volunteering & Causes section where you can list the organizations you’ve worked for, your role in these organizations and descriptions of your work.
Finally, make sure to include a professional picture on your profile. Seeing you will make employers feel like they have a more personal connection with you. This picture should be a current headshot (only your head, neck and maybe a little of your shoulders should be showing) that clearly shows what you look like (no flashy accessories). Don’t forget to smile!
And of course, make sure to proofread your profile!
“I’ve looked at other people’s profiles to see how I can improve my own and found a few profiles with spelling and grammatical errors on their profiles,” says Roxanna Coldiron, a senior at Hiram College. “If LinkedIn is going to be your online business card, make it count.”
2. Network properly
When you create your LinkedIn profile, you should first connect with all of your friends and family members who also have profiles. You never know who these personal connections might be able to introduce you to. You can then move on to people you know on a professional level. This includes former coworkers and classmates, past employers and professors. This will expand your network to people in your field of interest who may be able to introduce you to new opportunities. Remember to send a short, professional, personalized message when you request to connect with these people in order to be polite or in case they don’t remember who you are. Here’s an example of a possible message:
“Hi…, I met you at…” or “I was introduced to you by…I would like to add you to my professional network. Thanks in advance.”
However, connecting with people you hardly know, have only met once or twice, or have never met is a different matter.
3. Get new connections
“I think you should always connect with those who you personally know first,” says Schaffer. “From there, based on common connections that you find with people working for target companies, contact them and ask them for an introduction. Getting introduced from someone who knows you well is always going to be your most successful way to network on and off LinkedIn!”
If you have someone specific in mind, go to his or her profile and click on the “Get introduced through a connection” button. You can then send the mutual connection of your choice a personalized introduction request with specific reasons why you would like to connect with this person. However, remember that if you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking this mutual connection for an introduction in person, then you definitely shouldn’t do it over LinkedIn.
“I’ve definitely looked for former coworkers who now work at other agencies I’m interested in,” says Chelsea, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I’ve had some luck reaching out to a couple of them to see if they can connect me to anyone helpful.”
If you don’t know anyone in an industry or at a company well enough personally for it be professional to ask for an introduction, there are other ways to go about getting your desired connections.
“I believe that the most valuable part of LinkedIn is using the Advanced People Search when you need to find someone for a particular objective and then seeing who in your network can help you make the introduction,” explains Schaffer.
The Advanced People Search can help you find people to connect with and relevant career opportunities that you may never have come across otherwise. While the regular search tab only allows you to search by a person or company’s name, advanced lets you search by keyword, industry, location, group and much more. The Companies tab is another useful tool that allows you to search companies that currently have job openings by relevance or keywords.
Once you’ve found someone new you want to connect with at a company or in an industry you’re interested in, there are still only certain situations when it’s appropriate to send a connection request. You need a valid basis for why you want to connect with him or her. Think of it this way: you would never just run up to a random person on the street and introduce yourself for no particular reason. This same rule applies to LinkedIn connections.
You should first explore the person’s profile to see what LinkedIn groups he or she is a member of. If he or she is in a group that is relevant to you, you should go ahead and join it as well. However, you should ONLY do this if the group is truly related to your field of interest. You can then break the ice by sending a personalized connection request message explaining that you are members of the same group.
4. Join groups and participate in discussions
Being a member of groups relevant to your career field can help you get many new helpful connections.
By joining groups that are relevant to the field you’re interested in, you’ll be able to chat with experts and possibly learn about job opportunities. People post job openings in these groups all the time. Posting a little bit about yourself (work experience and skills relevant to the group) and when you’ll be looking for a job (once you graduate in May, for example) and then participating in discussions in these groups can get you noticed as a viable option to head hunters looking for employees. Taking part in these discussions can also give you new viewpoints and information about your career field that can help you in the future.
“LinkedIn does offer a number of communities where you can have discussions on a wide range of professional topics: LinkedIn Groups,” says Schaffer. “By joining a community revolving around an industry or a discipline that you want to work in, you can not only learn a lot and ask questions through the discussions, but you can also reach out and contact a potential hiring manager directly even if you aren’t a first degree connection.”
Make sure to join groups such as your college’s alumni group, your sorority’s group, etc. You can also search for groups using keywords related to your interests and expertise. LinkedIn even has an official group specifically for students and grads and a Student Jobs Portal where you can find internship listings. Once you join a group, be sure to sign up for e-mail notifications about new job postings so you don’t have to check back every single day.
5. Recognize legitimate recruiters and respond to them
If a head hunter or recruiter does contact you via LinkedIn, you first need to determine whether the message is legitimate or not. If the recruiter is asking you to pay a fee for his or her services in the first message he or she sends you, you can go ahead and assume that the message is a scam and report it to LinkedIn. If he or she isn’t asking you for money and the message you were sent seems at least somewhat personalized, you should do some research on the company he or she claims to work for to determine if the company has a good reputation and is a company you would possibly like to work for.
If you think that the recruiter is genuine, you should then take time to respond to the message he or she sent you. Open a discussion by asking what opportunities are available. If he or she responds and you’re interested, you can ask to talk on the phone or e-mail to talk about setting up an interview outside of LinkedIn.
Good luck with your job hunt, collegiettes!