The Do's and Don't's of LinkedIn

At some point in your life, you probably thought of LinkedIn as "Facebook for adults". Unfortunately, we all now are adults, and most of us in the college realm are also seeking jobs and internships - if not for right now, then definitely for after we graduate.

While having a spotless LinkedIn account isn't a hard requirement for most jobs you'll find posted, it's still absolutely crucial to have a LinkedIn account: it'll give yourself a more professional online persona for hiring managers to factor in when they're considering you, it'll earn you access to all sorts of new knowledge, and best of all, it'll open you up to be contacted by recruiters. That's right: Recruiters might actually be the ones to contact you.

Of course, if you don't sell yourself as a decent candidate, they won't contact you at all, so without further ado, here's are the do's! (And don't's, of course!)

Image from Giphy

Do: Add a hip header image

The "hip" part is optional. You can go for something simple like a picture of campus, or you can find a nice stock image that reminds you of the industry you're trying to break into. That being said, be a little more selective that you would on Facebook: try to avoid group photos, quotes, etc.

Don't: Send out 1,000,000 connection requests

I speak from experience: Very little good comes out of adding every random stranger LinkedIn suggests. When LinkedIn uses the word "connection", they mean it: you want to make sure you're adding people you already know or would like to know, somebody you can have some sort of one-on-one relationship with.

Image from Tumblr

Do: Reach out to strangers you'd like to learn from

Just because you shouldn't be sending out connection requests all willy-nilly doesn't mean that you can't connect to strangers at all - in fact, the best way to take the best advantage of LinkedIn is to do just the opposite!

If you see someone in your feed who you've never met but find interesting, go ahead and send them a connection request! For example, someone I follow shared a post by someone who combines two career fields I'm interested in. I sent her a connection request introducing myself, and soon enough we were having a phone conversation discussing each of the career fields. I got a ton of great advice from that, and I know that she's available if I ever have questions in the future.

Don't: Pick a profile image that's not a clean shot of your face

Remember, the photo icon will be very tiny and can't easily be enlargened like on Facebook. If your profile pic is a full-body image, or too goofy, or simply unprofessional, then it's going to leave a bad impression of you if a hiring manager or recruiter decides to look you up after reviewing your resume.

What's worse than an imperfect photo? A photo that's not of you at all. I've seen people put drawings or logos as their profile image, and it's extremely uncomfortable. Mainly, it tells recruiters that you don't take professionalism seriously.

That being said, you don't want to leave the photo blank, either. That just leaves the hiring manager with a lot of questions (like, "Why is this person being so shady?"), and even if you have a decent answer, they generally prefer to move forward with candidates they're certain about than the wild cards.

Photo from Giphy

Do: Fill out your profile as completely as possible

On your resume, especially as you gather more and more experience, you'll want to start leaving off positions that are too old or too irrelevant for the job you're applying for. But LinkedIn is a great place to get it all in: club participation, volunteer experience, jobs, internships, co-ops, competitions. You can even throw in awards and skills and coursework and all sorts of other stuff. Not only do you get to see all your bragging rights in one centralized place, but the more positions you list, the more likely that recruiters will find you when they're searching for new people to fill their jobs.

Don't: Leave it at the generic profile link

When you first sign up for LinkedIn, your profile URL will look something like: That's ugly. Make sure you change it to something like /in/firstlast or /in/first-last, so that when you share your url with others, it looks cleaner and it's more memorable.

Do: Start your bio with a compelling couple of lines

LinkedIn redesigned their whole layout last year, and the way that bios work now is that they'll show the first couple of lines of your bio and then have you click to view the rest.

Your bio is something like the equivalent of a resume's objective statement or an application's cover letter: it tells people what you're all about. Of course, the bio can also be a lot more creative and fun, which means it's a real bummer if nobody ever reads it because the first line didn't catch their eye. So write something that raises questions, that makes total strangers more curious to find out just what exactly you're all about.

Image from Giphy

Don't: Say "Actively searching" in your headline

As a general rule, you want your headline to say what you do for work and where. If you don't already have (or used to have) a position relevant to your career, you can either talk about your school and major or you can simply list the industry you plan on entering.

But don't put "Actively searching" or any of its variants. With a lot of potential employers, it'll make you look just a little needy, and while the effect won't be super huge, it's still reason enough to make a more professional headline.

Do: Interact with others' posts

The more you like, share, and comment on other people's posts, the more attention you'll grab. It'll give recruiters an insight into what you're all about when they check out your activity, and it can also help to form relationships - I know people on LinkedIn who interacted with enough with influencer's content that when they began searching for a new job, that influencer was actually willing to share and recommend them, because they had turned that simple connection into something with value.

Don't: Post personal or funny content

Everything on LinkedIn should be related to business or the professional world in some way. Things like family vacations, dog pics, sage advice from a failed relationship...there are some awesome platforms where you can share that with people who will care, but on LinkedIn, you start to run the risk of rubbing people the wrong way.

Besides, there are some things that you just really don't want your professional connections to see.

Photo from Pinterest

Do: Join groups relevant to your interests and participate

For example, I'm a member of at least two groups that are relevant to my career, as well as a group for the UCSB Communication department. This is an awesome way to not only get more relevant content that you can learn from, but it also gives you an extra channel to share your voice and network.

Don't: Use the default connection message, especially on strangers

When you send a connection request to some, you always have the option of including a note. Do it! If it's someone you know well, you can probably get away with ignoring the note, but if it's someone from work who may not know you on sight or somebody you met at a networking event, then you'll probably want to remind them of who you are and how they know you. If it's a stranger, then let them know why you'd like to connect with them - did you see an interesting post from them you'd like to discuss? Or maybe you want career advice. Whatever it is, be clear. A lot of people refuse to accept connection requests if they don't have a note. And sure, there are people who will accept every request, but if you're planning on getting any value out of the connection request, then you want to start it out the right way.

So yeah. Introduce yourself. Make sure they know who they are, so they'll actually be inclined to accept.

Image from Giphy

Do: Brag about your awesome LinkedIn page once it's finished

Meet someone at an event? Let them know to connect with them on LinkedIn.

Applying for a new job? Put your snazzy LinkedIn profile link on your resume.

Sending an email to someone other than your best friends? Include the link in your email signature like a total pro!

By encouraging people to reach out to you, you're creating a really amazing chance to use LinkedIn for its full potential.

Thumbnail image by Tracy Le Blanc