Here's what a recent grad's LinkedIn profile should look like
Employers don't want to hire college kids; they want to recruit young professionals. And one of the best ways to show you're the latter – even when you're still green – is to build a professional presence on LinkedIn. After all, it's the world's largest online professional network, which, according to its website, is accruing more than two new members per second. You should be one of these new members, showing off what a catch you are to the 364 million-plus professionals on LinkedIn.
How do you stand out as one in a million – rather, 3.6 million? The first step is creating a stellar profile. Start here:
Write a compelling headline. Your headline is the text below your name and above your location. It's "the most important piece of real estate on your entire LinkedIn profile," writes millennial workplace expert Lindsay Pollak in her book, "Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders." Along with your photo, this headline is the first item recruiters, hiring managers and other professional contacts will see – so use these 120 characters wisely.
Catherine Fisher, senior director of corporate communications at LinkedIn, suggest this template for a headline: "what you're doing now" plus "what you hope to do." She gives a few examples: "2015 USC Grad Seeking Entertainment Marketing Position," "Marketing Grad and Social Media Branding Specialist Seeking Internship" or, if you're still in school, "Econ Major and Aspiring Financial Analyst" If you get stuck, Pollak advises looking at the profiles of other people in your industry whom you admire. How do they describe themselves in their headlines?
Upload a professional photo. Great news: Potential employers are searching LinkedIn for someone with your skill set and experience. Bad news: They don't want to hire a mysterious gray avatar. Upload a photo of you, alone, in at least semi-professional gear. Take this step, and your profile will be 14 times more likely to be viewed, Fisher says.
Summarize your story. While a résumé distills you to a black-and-white list of bullet points, a LinkedIn profile allows you to show some personality and tell your story in its summary section. "This is the way to stand out and make recruiters want to meet you," writes U.S. News blogger Marcelle Yeager, in a post about quick ways to improve your LinkedIn profile.
As LinkedIn itself suggests on the helpful resource, students.linkedin.com, use the summary to "[d]escribe what motivates you, what you're skilled at and what's next."
List your work experience. Include internships and jobs – including part-time gigs – here. And don't be shy about showing off what you learned. "[Students] should be confident in the skills they've acquired, and they can really show them off in their profiles," Fisher says. Say you wrote press releases, learned how to code or managed social media in your internship or part-time job. Show off that hard work by listing it in your experience.
Results speak volumes, too, Fisher adds. Did you streamline the process for press release approvals, code a website or add 500 new Twitter followers? Include those results in your profile, or even upload relevant documents, like the press release you're most proud of.
Add your skills. You have the opportunity to add skills below the Experience section, so – go on – add coding or social media. When you do, your connections can publicly endorse you for those talents.
Don't forget to include your education. What was that you've been doing for the last four (or five or six) years? Oh, yeah. Filling out your Education section yields 10 times more profile views than leaving it blank, Fisher says. In addition to adding your university and areas of study, Fisher suggests uploading impressive examples of school work. (Even if you want to keep writing press releases, that term paper about oil in the Persian Gulf shows you're a critical thinker with writing skills.)
Describe your volunteer work. Give some, get some: More than 40 percent of hiring managers perusing LinkedIn view volunteer work as work experience, Fisher says.
Show off honors and awards, organizations and projects. The opportunities to boast on LinkedIn are endless. Don't be shy about flaunting your points of pride. If you feel good about these experiences, there's a good chance employers will feel the same – and they won't know about these achievements unless you spell them out in your profile.
The Extra Credit
Continually update your profile. "Don't build your profile and then abandon it," Fisher says. As you gain new skills and experiences – no doubt thanks to your standout LinkedIn profile – add them.
Ask for recommendations. Good: You wrote in your profile that you're skilled at writing press releases. Even better: Another professional publicly attests to this skill, too. "[A recommendation] serves as that seal of approval from your connections and offers credibility to your professional brand," Fisher says. She suggests asking peers, mentors and former managers and professors for recommendations. And give them some guidance, she adds. For example: "I'd appreciate if you could provide examples of how I excel in team environments."
Join groups. Fisher suggests searching for LinkedIn groups related to your target industry. For one, she says, you can likely learn a lot by reading what industry experts have to say. And two, if you share something relevant in a group discussion, hiring managers, future co-workers and other professionals who can help your career will see it. "It's really about being present and showing up to where the people are," Fisher says.
Publish posts and status updates. Take advantage of the publisher feature to write short-form blog posts about industry trends you've noticed, news items you're following and assignments you've been working on. Sound daunting? Fisher points out that can you start by writing much shorter status updates, which, say, link to an interesting article you read.
Yes, this is extra work, but by sharing updates, engaging in groups and accruing a few A+ recommendations, you show potential employers that you're a serious (and hirable) professional. As Fisher puts it: "If you take the time to be thoughtful about how you show up on LinkedIn, it'll pay off."
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