My eldest daughter, who is 19 years old and a second year undergraduate, recently applied for a student mentoring programme, which required that she have a profile on LinkedIn AND be able to demonstrate active use of this networking tool.
Needless to say she was fairly daunted by the prospect of creating a public profile on LinkedIn, so in response to her plea of: “Help, what do I say and where do I begin?”, I found myself creating a basic undergraduate’s crash course on how to create a good LinkedIn profile.
Then it occurred to me that there are probably plenty of other undergrads out there, who also don’t know how to get started on LinkedIn, so here are the tips I put together. It’s not an inexhaustible list, by any means, but it has helped my daughter to make a good start and now she is well on her way to joining groups and connecting with fellow students and potential employers.
So I hope it encourages a few young people to have a go too. It’s definitely worth getting started now while you are still at university, as it will alert future employers of your existence and could open doors to finding work experience. A profile on LinkedIn will ensure your name will come up when someone searches for you on LinkedIn. In fact, think of your LinkedIn profile as an online CV.
1. What kind of photograph should I use for my LinkedIn profile?
First of all, you’ve got to remember that LinkedIn is essentially a networking site for business professionals. So it makes sense to have a professional image of yourself. Preferably smartly dressed and taken recently. Avoid blurry pictures taken at parties or on holiday in beachwear. It does not give the right impression! Do not leave the image section blank, it will put potential contacts off: “Professionals with a photo on their profile are seven times more likely to be viewed”.
2. How much detail do I put in my profile?
A detailed profile gives you a much stronger presence on LinkedIn. It is similar to a CV, so do include your current work position (even if you are working part time in a supermarket), work experience and past education, as well as interests, qualifications and skills/expertise. Have your CV to hand as you complete the profile and follow LinkedIn’s prompts and completion tips, which are very useful. When completing your work experience, rather than just listing what you did at a company, put down the benefits you brought to that business and the skills you used – even if you were only there for a few weeks.
3. How do I describe myself in the sub-headline?
The sub-headline appears beneath your name and is a very important part of your profile. Do use keywords relating to the degree that you are studying, i.e. Undergraduate: BA (Hons) Architecture. Look up the profiles of your contemporaries at University or alumni who you particularly admire.
4. What do I put in the summary?
DO NOT overlook the summary – it’s your chance to shine in 2,000 characters. Write it in the first person and don’t be afraid to include personal goals, which could be as simple as saying you are looking for an internship over the summer. Your summary should be a blend of personal and professional, highlighting your skills and strengths and summarising your experience, achievements and the benefits they bring. Use sub-headings and bullet points to break up the text. Don’t forget to include key words to help you get found.
5. Proof read your whole profile
Just as you should never send out your CV without checking it thoroughly, the same goes for your LinkedIn profile. Check it and then check it again. Typos and bad grammar give an unprofessional impression.
6. Customise your URL
LinkedIn will give you a profile URL, which can be used to access your profile directly. It will contain letters and numbers, but you can change it so it has your own name. Set your profile to public and create your own personal profile, i.e. http://www.linkedin.com/in/JaneSmith
7. Be active on LinkedIn
Join groups and contribute to discussions. Plus share regular comments and links to useful web content using your status update box.
8. Who should I connect with?
There are two schools of thought on whether you should accept requests from people you don’t know. One is that it creates more opportunities (open networking), the other is that it is better to stick to connecting with people you know. I recommend that you stick to linking with people you know (school, university, work, etc). However, don’t forget you can connect with folk you come across in LinkedIn groups.
9. Personalise LinkedIn connect requests via in-email
When inviting people to connect with you on LinkedIn, don’t just send the standard connect request – “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Take the opportunity to write a short, personal message that will make you stand out.
10. Update your profile regularly and collect recommendations
As you acquire new qualifications, achievements or promotion, don’t forget to add them to your profile. This will help you stand out and add to the perception of you as a well-rounded character. Share your work on your LinkedIn profile – it’s a great way to showcase your skills to future employers. Similarly try and collect recommendations from employers (past and present) or from work experience placements.