With over 500 million members, LinkedIn is basically the largest professional networking website in the world. 40% of members log in daily to post, search for jobs, recruit job candidates, and connect with people across the globe.
It has become one of the best resources for college students to research companies, apply for jobs and internships, and find mentors—but tons of students aren't utilizing their LinkedIn accounts. If you're a first-timer, it can feel difficult to navigate, and hard to connect with people if you don't have professional contacts yet. But if you can learn to utilize LinkedIn, it will become one of your most important resources when looking for jobs and internships, especially now when everything is happening virtually.
So, if you're ready to step up your online presence and use it as a tool to reach you career goals, read along for the best ways to make your LinkedIn useful and intentional.
Refresh the basics of your profile.
One feature that every LinkedIn profile should have is a professional headshot. According to one study from LinkedIn, profiles with photos are 21 times more likely to get views, and 9 times more likely to get connection requests.
The photo doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, just make sure that you are dressed professionally (think a blouse or collared shirt and blazer), and that the image genuinely reflects who you are as a person. For example, if you’re interested in working in the fashion industry, choose a chic, stylish outfit that will show the world that you keep yourself updated on the latest trends. Are you an author? Snap a photo of you holding a book near your face or on your lap, so that people will notice it right away when they see your photo.
Once you’ve got that settled, add a short biography outlining your educational background, your career goals, and why you’re passionate about your current job or industry. Make sure that you provide context for your education and career paths, and inject your personality into your story. People that visit your page are much more likely to maintain interest if they feel like they have a genuine connection to you!
Connect with people you know.
Even if you only know a handful of people on LinkedIn, connecting with them is a great way to begin building your network. After all, that’s what LinkedIn is built for!
If you import your contacts from Facebook and your email service, you will be able to quickly find people you know that can offer you endorsements and advice as you enter the professional world. From there, LinkedIn will recommend new connections to you, based on who you know.
If you attend career fairs, are a member of clubs on campus, or volunteer with local organizations, get contact information from people you meet and then connect with them on LinkedIn. They can be a source of information about businesses and organizations you’re interested in, and may even be able to connect you with hiring managers when you’re looking for an internship or job.
Include your professional history and highlight your achievements.
The ultimate purpose of LinkedIn is to help you find professional success. This will be much easier to do if your achievements are clearly listed on your profile for potential employers to see.
When filling out your profile, always list your current and past work experience, in addition to your educational background. Even if you don’t have work experience, don’t leave this space empty. Volunteer work is important experience that can catch the attention of a recruiter if marketed correctly. Include the name of the company or organization you worked for and your position there, and list three or four bullet points highlighting your most important duties and achievements during your engagement.
Use present-tense, dynamic language that demonstrates your capabilities as a leader and a team member, and those will jump out at readers as they review your profile. For example, instead of saying you “worked on a research project” try saying that you “gathered, analyzed and tested data to draw conclusions for a research program.”
List your skills and get professional endorsements.
There is an entire section of your profile dedicated to highlighting your unique abilities, so take advantage of it! Share information about the technical and soft skills you’ve developed that will set you apart from the crowd and impress people visiting your profile.
These skills don’t need to be prestigious, or even directly related to your career path; many abilities can be adapted to suit a variety of jobs. LinkedIn allows you to add up to 50 skills, but 5-10 skills is usually a good start. Once you’ve shared your skills, ask current or former colleagues and mentors to endorse you. Politely send them a simple message asking if they’d be willing to endorse you for a specific skill, and remind them of how you used it at work or in school to aid the success of a project.
Share your accomplishments.
LinkedIn profiles allow members to feature a number of accomplishments, including publications, projects, certifications, and languages learned, each in their own organized category. Use this as an opportunity to expand upon the achievements that you initially mentioned in your biography and share details of your efforts.
Include information about the project or skill itself and elaborate on your role. Were you the sole leader of the endeavor, or did you work with a team? What skills did you learn from the experience? How did it shape your professional ambitions? The more connections you can draw between your accomplishments and the skills that you listed in your biography and the skills and endorsements section, the more opportunities there will be for recruiters to see your remarkable abilities and how you can use them to the benefit of their company.
Keep track of companies and organizations that interest you.
LinkedIn doesn’t just let you connect with people – it allows you to follow companies, organizations and movements that interest you. You will be able to see regular updates from the pages you follow, including job postings and the announcements of events, such as professional mixers and career fairs.
You’ll also be able to see who works for a certain company, giving you the opportunity to connect with employees who currently work for companies you’re interested in who can offer you advice when you’re applying for a position there. You can also learn more about the culture of the company and the benefits and growth opportunities that will be available to you as an employee. This can be a great resource, allowing you to determine what pathway is best for you if you’re juggling offers from multiple businesses.
The site can definitely seem intimidating, especially if you don’t know how to use it. But if you can rebrand your LinkedIn and learn to use it to build your professional network, it can become one of your most important resources when searching for internships, connecting with recruiters and marketing yourself to potential employers.