LinkedIn: What to do and what to avoid
LinkedIn is an excellent tool for students looking to cultivate their careers. You can use it to highlight your work experience, stay up-to-date on industry news and connect with professionals and peers who can influence your career growth. . However, getting started on LinkedIn can be daunting — what should you share with your growing professional network? Our career development specialists Matthew Geddes and David Cataford share best practices for creating an effective LinkedIn profile and maintaining your online presence.
1. Creating your profile
- Personalize your LinkedIn address
- Upload a professional photo
- Keep your About section brief
- List career interests, expertise, and awards in your headline
- Overuse words like motivated, passionate, etc.
- Write your About section in the third person
- Restrict your visibility
The very first step in your LinkedIn journey is to set up your profile. This is an opportunity to tell your peers (and potential employers) who you are, what you do and what career goals you have.
Undergraduate career specialist David Cataford suggests building your profile in steps, starting with filling in your profile and all the sections. A common mistake students make is not completing their profile, so make sure to take the time to select a personalized LinkedIn address, upload a professional photo and write an exciting professional summary.
2. Sharing your work experience
Contrary to your resume, which should be tailored to the job or industry you’re applying for, your LinkedIn profile can list your full work history (if you want to share it). David suggests tailoring the About section to the type of career path you’re interested in instead of a specific position. For example, if you want to work in finance, you can speak to your broader passions in that industry, like “helping businesses achieve their financial goals”.
Should you be including all the details of your job responsibilities? That depends. Graduate career specialist Matthew Geddes asserts that if the position is relevant to your career path – sure.
If it’s not directly related to what you hope to do, it's better to highlight transferable skills and accomplishments instead of just listing your duties. In addition, you can be creative and highlight significant projects (like a capstone assignment or a thesis) in the Experience or Projects section.
3. Connecting with people
Remote working has made it easier than ever to network as most people are comfortable connecting online. Connect with people you already know, and then go from there.
"Think about connecting with other students, professors and people you worked with in previous or current jobs," says David. If you want to connect with someone, check if you have a mutual connection that could introduce you. If not, then send out a connection request, but always include a personalized note. "Don't say too much, just say that you came across their profile as you were researching a company, or a skill set, or a position, and you would like to connect with them," explains David. If they don't respond, then follow up and try it again. Networking takes time, so be patient, and your connections will grow as time goes by.
4. What to share, publish or interact with on your feed
Consider joining relevant LinkedIn groups, following companies and influencers you like, and following relevant hashtags that align with your career goals and even personal interests. Then, you can move on to connections and request recommendations from people who know you well.
To get the hang of LinkedIn, spend some time observing how others use it. Once you're more comfortable with the platform, you can begin to like or comment posts to create a presence for yourself, as well as endorse skills for people in your network.
Matthew suggests, "Thank a user and highlight one thing they said that resonated with you or stood out to you. Be positive and humble in your comments; people love comments and it helps them gain traction on LinkedIn. This could be a person you plan to reach out to (say, in a week) to connect with — because you’ve made an effort to acknowledge them, they’ll likely accept a connection request from you."
5. Finding work opportunities
Use LinkedIn to identify relevant recruiters and potential hiring managers and introduce yourself. When it comes time to apply for the job, always apply through the company site - this goes for any job posting you find on a job board.
In addition, you may wish to use LinkedIn to identify employees at companies of interest who are doing what you are interested in doing. Connect with them and ask for an information interview to learn more about the position of interest, what the company looks for in candidates and get advice on how you can present yourself as a strong candidate.
LinkedIn is a fantastic tool that is sometimes underutilized or even overused. Make sure to set realistic and attainable goals following the SMART method (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely.) Some examples include:
- Use daily for a minimum of five minutes a day, six days a week
- Conduct one information interview a month with someone on LinkedIn
- Comment on four posts each week
- Connect with at least five people a week
You may also use your LinkedIn profile to help others and share information. "If you do lots of things for others within your network, it will give you good karma, and this good karma could result in you landing a lucky break," explains David. This may include writing recommendations, endorsing others' skills, commenting and sharing articles.