So, you’ve built a beyond amazing resume. Community service, internships, job experience—you have it all. And, being the #girlboss that you are, you’ve had a LinkedIn account for like, the past three years. But unfortunately, that doesn’t matter if employers aren’t looking at your profile, or worse, can’t even find it. How can you take your LinkedIn account to the next level, increasing the chances that a potential employer will find it and actually want to stay on the page once they do?
1. Engage with others (effectively)
LinkedIn is a professional community where you can (and should!) engage with others. This can include sharing original content, such as a portfolio or recently published pieces, commenting on other peoples’ posts or participating in discussion. You can also connect with others by following certain companies or organizations and by joining groups—particularly those centered on helping people to get recognized by employers in their field(s) of interest. By being an active member on LinkedIn, you’ll increase site traffic towards your personal account and appear more often on the main home feed and within group activity, thus gaining a more recognizable presence on the social platform.
2. Make the first move
If you’re looking to break into a certain career field or get an internship at a specific company and you can find the recruiters on LinkedIn, be proactive and connect with them yourself instead of banking on them eventually finding your page.
Of course, there are definitely certain guidelines that you should adhere to when reaching out to a recruiter or employer to ensure that you come across as your best and most professional self. Donna Serdula, an expert on optimizing online presence and the founder of Vision Board Media (known for its incredible LinkedIn Makeover services) affirms, “A college student can absolutely send a connection request to a recruiter or even potential employer as long as they provide a personalized message.” Make sure your message is concise and to the point (hint: proofread, proofread, proofread!), and make sure your message doesn’t sound like you’re asking for a job out of the blue. Serdula emphasizes that a message to an employer on LinkedIn is not the place to ask for a job, but instead to share your interest in and your desire to learn more about the company. “The secret is coming across as friendly and inquisitive versus desperate and needy,” she explains.
You can then hold the recruiter’s interest by participating in discussions that the recruiter begins through a status or forum, or by joining and engaging in a group that the recruiter is a part of (which can easily found on that person’s page).
“Show your engagement,” says Serdula. “Get involved and like, comment and share.”
3. Give the right first impression
Your LinkedIn photo is the very first impression you’ll give someone who is looking at your profile. So is yours one that will convince a recruiter or employer to do more than simply glance at your page and move on to the next candidate? As a college student, you probably can’t justify going out and paying for a professional headshot. But, that doesn’t mean you should settle for taking a selfie and calling it a day (seriously, never use a selfie as a LinkedIn profile picture)! A professional and high-quality picture can completely take your LinkedIn account to the next level and can even be the deciding factor on whether employers take you seriously as a potential intern or future employee.
If you’re at a loss of where to get a photo of yourself, try having your roomie or a photographer friend take a quality snap of you against a blank backdrop. Depending on how different you look and what year you are, you may even be able to comb through your high school senior pictures for a good headshot. If all else fails, see if your college’s career services department takes headshots for a reduced price—they may even offer them for free!
4. Customize your URL
Take your URL from a long line of random punctuation marks and letters to a clean and concise mini description of exactly whose profile it is. First, head over to your LinkedIn profile. Then click “Edit public profile & URL” at the top of the right-hand column. Then look over to the right-hand column again and find where it says “Edit URL.” This is where you can see your current URL. Click on the editing pencil and take out the extra symbols after your name to create your very own customized URL.
Not only will this SEO-friendly customized URL make your LinkedIn account one of the top Google hits should anyone search for your name online, but it will also allow you to easily share your profile with others. Says Serdula, “Customizing this link makes it easy to include on your resume, business cards, email signature [or] other social media profiles.” It will be easy for others to remember and thus easy for you to market yourself as a branded young professional!
5. Let people know you want to be found
LinkedIn isn’t a place where you have to maintain an overly successful appearance all the time; it’s fine—beneficial, even—to let others know you are up for something new.
In addition to joining groups focused on recruiting new candidates to a certain field, using your professional headline is a great way to communicate to others where you stand work-wise—just be sure to remain somewhat subtle in your job search.
“Create an engaging narrative that acts as a digital introduction. Use your summary to tell the world who you are and how you help people and businesses,” says Serdula. And for all of you with “Seeking new employment” splattered across your profile, Serdula suggests replacing it with the less overt “Open to opportunities.”
Already employed but looking for something new? You may want to think through letting your professional colleagues and boss know via LinkedIn that you are open to advancing into a different career path. After all, your current employer might get rid of you proactively before you find a new job if they know you’re planning on leaving! So use discretion and think carefully before deciding whether or not you want to communicate such a message.
6. Don’t forget to let employers know where they can find you
Far too often, a LinkedIn user will have an amazing profile with everything from previous work experience to honors and awards and organizations they are a part of completely filled out. They seem like a great hire, a must-have employee and are attracting successful amounts of traffic to their page. But there’s just one problem: they fail to let anyone know where and how to contact them.
According to Serdula, “Opportunity can’t knock if it doesn’t know which door to knock on.”
Therefore, you absolutely must include your contact information on your profile in an easy-to-find way. At the very least include your personal or work email, but if appropriate, feel free to also include a personal website or online portfolio, social media handles and a cell phone number.
7. Get recommended
Particularly if you’ve had a killer internship experience or have a great professional reference that you’ve made, getting a personal recommendation can tremendously enhance your LinkedIn profile. Not only will recommendations make you a more credible and employable candidate, but it will allow your profile to be seen by more viewers because it will show up on the recommender’s personal page as well as your own.
When making a (courteous!) request for a LinkedIn recommendation, make sure you tell the person why you are asking them specifically. What have you done for them or shown to them that makes you a great person to recommend? Also give them a quick idea of what specific skills, traits or services you want the person to recommend you for. Did you meet deadlines exceptionally well? Were you always willing to take on new projects? Were you a great team player? If and when you do receive a recommendation, be sure to send a thorough thank you message to your reference, and even return the favor if applicable! But, needless to say, remember that not every supervisor or connection you contact may be comfortable or feel justified giving you one.
8. Master LinkedIn SEO
LinkedIn uses a Boolean search engine, which means that the content you include within your profile can make or break whether your page is seen by recruiters searching for similar candidates. Make sure you complete each and every part of your profile in order to maximize its appearance in searches—especially your professional headline, which is one of the most SEO-sensitive fields on LinkedIn, according to Serdula. But don’t forget to fill out the more generic information too, such as your geographic location, your major and minor and your interests, which can all be enormously helpful in maximizing your appearance. Also be sure to include targeted keywords that are specific to the industry you are interested in.
“Your profile will only be found for keywords that exist within it so be very strategic when writing your profile. Identify upfront what keywords a person would use to find someone like you.” Serdula says. “Once you know your keywords, make sure to sprinkle them throughout your profile in a natural, organic way. Use [them] as part of your narrative—not as a bulleted list.”
So while your profile shouldn’t read like a laundry list of overused industry terms, be sure to be specific enough with your word choice in order to be the top hit on an employer’s search.
9. Make yourself click-worthy
Recruiters check out countless potential employees and interns on LinkedIn every single day, meaning that many won’t even continue on to your full account page if you haven’t captured their interest almost immediately with your thumbnail, name and position title. So, to grab their attention, make these things pop! Once again, it’s vital to make sure that your thumbnail picture is appropriate and represents you as the young professional you are. To ensure that recruiters know they have found the right potential new hire, also be sure your name is listed as they would expect to find it (as in, no nicknames). And where you should really focus on enhancing your LinkedIn account to ensure a recruiter will follow through to your full page is your professional headline—again, an extremely SEO-sensitive area. How? Make it detailed but concise, leaving the recruiter knowing exactly who you are and interested in learning more about you.
Utilize the space you have to list one to three of your roles, experiences and even interests. For example, if you’re a writer, you can write, “Editorial Intern for X Company | Contributing Writer for Y Company | Web Content Enthusiast.” Take special note of the use of the “|” pipe divider or vertical bar punctuation mark, which, according to Serdula, allows you to list targeted keywords that will give your fully-optimized LinkedIn profile an increased search ranking.
LinkedIn is all about being proactive. It’s a social network, and to completely master it, you have to know the best practices in order to attract employers, remain an active participant and abide by its professional social norms. Most of all, be social: sitting back and waiting for the employers to come to you may sound easy, but doing so is extremely limiting. If you’re willing to put yourself out there, the interview and job offers will be floating on over in no time!