LinkedIn provides professionals and those entering the job market an easy and inexpensive way to build a wide professional community, create a self-controlled professional online presence, and connect – both actively and passively – with employment possibilities. Current research shows that as many as two-thirds of employers either check out job candidates or search for potential employees online, especially by way of LinkedIn.
In view of the potential value of LinkedIn for Kemper Scholars, I recently attended a workshop on how to enhance one’s LinkedIn presence and better make use of the site’s possibilities. The presenter, Sima Dahl, had some helpful suggestions about how to use the site to “promote your personal brand.” I followed up with my own research, and I am sharing what I found out with Kemper Scholars and others here. I urge you to work on your LinkedIn page soon.
Some overall recommendations:
- Your LinkedIn presence needs regular attention.
- The value of your LinkedIn profile rests on the keywords you use to describe yourself, your accomplishments, and your skills. The keywords are how potential employers will find you. The English language has more words than any other, so there will often be a great many synonyms for most words. It is important to know how employers describe the skills and abilities they seek. Read job postings and industry newspapers. Use the words most commonly used in the field when you describe yourself. If you find, say, “computer skills,” “tech skills,” and “IT skills” used interchangeably, be sure to use all three somewhere in your profile.
- Do not limit your connections to people only in the career area you are now interested in. Your contacts have their own contacts and can lead you to relevant connections. You never know who someone else’s connections are and what their knowledge base is.
- Before you prepare your LinkedIn profile, think about how you want to be known (consult your “elevator speech), what type of opportunities you are looking for, what would make someone notice you (it is usually going to be your experience, accomplishments, and skills).
- Your LinkedIn page will be catalogued by Google. So even someone who does not initially look for you on LinkedIn may be led there by a Google search of your name.
- Your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts may also be searched by potential employers, but LinkedIn is viewed as your professional presence. So do not confuse the sites. Use only professionally-related status updates, links, or postings on LinkedIn.
Tips on Enhancing your profile
- LinkedIn has an alert function that tells your contacts when you have made any change in your profile. Before you make a series of upgrades and changes, turn off that function so your account does not send out a whole series of alerts in a row. To do that: click on the Profile pull down menu at the top of your page and choose Edit Profile, scroll down to Connections. At the bottom of the Connections dialog box, on the right, you should see the words Customize Visibility. Click there. The page you will go to has many kinds of settings. On the Profile tab you will see one for turning alerts on and off. Turn them off for the time it takes to upgrade your LinkedIn pages. Then remember to turn alerts back on! While you’re there, look at the other setting options under profile and under the other areas like “communications.” They’ll tell you what you can do to customize the pages.
- Remember that it is easy to change your pages, so do not think of this as the final or perfect version!
- Create a Headline. A headline gives you the opportunity to describe what you think are your major skills and accomplishments. If you do not have a headline (and most people with whom I am connected do not), then your latest position automatically becomes your headline. Here is a problem with that: Let’s say in Summer, 2013, you had an internship at an accounting firm. That was your headline – helpful if someone wants to hire an accountant — until you got back to school in September and became president of your sorority. You added President of Theta Iota Gamma to your positions – a good idea because it is a leadership role. But now “President of Theta Iota Gamma” is your headline because it is the latest position. Probably not so many people are looking for a sorority president through LinkedIn. So do a headline. Here’s the one Sima Dahl, who did the workshop I mentioned above, has on her LinkedIn page: “Social Media Speaker, Trainer & Coach | LinkedIn for Sales | Social Networking for Business | Personal Brands for Staff.” You see that she used lots of keywords to lead potential customers to her site. I recommend you do not put things like one student’s page I saw: “Hard-Working, Organized, and Focused Undergraduate Student at [XYZ] University.” That may all be true about him, but these are not the kinds of keywords that people will be looking for and they are not easily demonstrable. If he had said something like “Successful Entrepreneur” and then listed his own lawn care business is his positions, his claims become factual.
- Create a Summary. Your summary is your “elevator speech” in writing. Here you can give details about who you are, what you have done, and what your interests and values are. Make it specific, interesting, and concise. It will be a sample of your writing, so have no grammar or usage errors. Be sure to write in a professional rather than an academic style.
- Be sure you have a good headshot that makes you look professional. This should be a head shot – not an action photo — no one else in the picture, including your pet! Wear professional clothes. Stand against a plain wall when your photo is taken – no brick walls, trees, cars, dressers, kitchen cupboards in the background, no arm of someone cropped out. This is not the place for the photo of you standing above Machu Picchu; that goes on Facebook or Instagram. You can find all the “don’ts” I listed in photos on LinkedIn right now, by the way, and they look pretty amateurish and certainly unprofessional. How long does it take to do this right? Digital photos are free – have someone take a lot to be sure you get a good one.
- Your list of experiences or positions is the proof for the things you claimed in your headline and summary. Definitely list your leadership positions on campus and your volunteer work. There is no need to mention it was volunteer work – you get the same experience whether you are paid or not.
- If you have multiple LinkedIn profiles, eliminate all others.
- Be sure you use the same name everywhere that you can control. It won’t be helpful if all the campus news articles about your activities refer to you as Skip Jones but your LinkedIn name is William Robert Jones.
- Include your various email addresses. Your email addresses, however, should be professional sounding and include your name. Do not connect email addresses like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Add job-related courses, publications, etc., to your profile.
- Once your page is upgraded, be sure to turn alerts back on.
- Every week or so do something like adding a relevant update about yourself. For example, “Just completed a successful fundraising campaign for Habitat for Humanity, raising $5,000 through the Political Science Club Service Committee’s fall carnival.” Or “Proud to have been named MVP for the Conference Soccer Tournament.” You can link to stories or media (TED talk?) relevant to your career interest with a sentence about what you found interesting or valuable. Look to see what your contacts may be doing for ideas.
You may think that you are too busy to do this, but think again. After the initial investment, keeping up takes little time, and it is one of the most valuable free tools you have to advance your career. I’m betting many of you find plenty of time for Facebook. Spend just a bit of that time on LinkedIn.