By Jonathan Olsen
This isn’t your Dad’s LinkedIn!
Today’s LinkedIn is much more than an online resume. The career networking site now lets you share actual samples of your writing, artwork, photos, videos, documents, and projects – so it can be effectively used as your professional portfolio. Making your LinkedIn profile a true expression of yourself and your unique achievements can give you a competitive edge by highlighting any applicable skills that may set you apart.
For this reason, LinkedIn is a great tool for college students and recent grads. But as Michelle Barbeau pointed out on iGrad, young people often have trouble creating a LinkedIn profile despite their social media savvy on other popular sites. They don’t feel like they have any experience, connections, or valuable knowledge to contribute to a professional networking site. Nevertheless, building professional connections is what new graduates need in order to establish their personal brand and start a career.
So what if you don’t have much in the way of work experience? List any transferable skills acquired during volunteer positions, classes, projects, hobbies, sports, etc. These also give potential employers a better understanding and broader picture of who you are, as well as the interests, values and experiences that you can bring to the table. Any number of transferable skills such as interpersonal communication, writing, organizing, problem solving, management, and leadership are applicable to future jobs.
By building a LinkedIn portfolio, you will show that you are serious. By highlighting your abilities and achievements, you will impress potential employers. By making connections, you will get recommendations and endorsements. Supposedly this is the best way to market yourself today.
I’m a recent college graduate who has been working on building my LinkedIn portfolio. While checking to see if I’ve covered everything, I thought I’d review the steps with you, along with various tips and other information I’ve learned while researching the process.
1. Complete Your Profile
You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it count. Your profile should emphasize an area of expertise or niche that you are passionate about, or in which you truly stand out. The way you tell your story depends on whose attention you’re trying to attract. Whether it’s potential employers, business partners, customers, or other professional contacts, understanding your audience will help you tailor your LinkedIn profile to speak directly to them.
Look at the LinkedIn profiles of other people in your industry for ideas, but don’t just copy them. You must personalize your profile so that it reflects your own unique style and point of view. While keeping it professional, you can still have a little fun and share some insight into who you are. For example, you can upload or link to blog posts, videos, presentations, images, and websites. The more you include, the more people will have a reason to engage with you.
Begin your LinkedIn profile with the following basic information:
Photo – Choose a high quality headshot that’s clear and recognizable, of you dressed in a manner suitable for your type of work, against a non-distracting background.
Title/Headline – This field automatically fills in with your most recent job title, but take advantage of the space to make yourself memorable with a catchy headline. Use 3-4 top keywords you want to be associated with, something you’d like to be known for, or what you are most proud of. It might be a personal motto, mission statement, career goal, desired job title, employment objective, future goal, or descriptive phrase, such as: “Chess Master/Math Tutor,” “Aspiring Legal Professional,” “Honors Student in Interdisciplinary Studies,” “Recent Graduate Seeking Work in Public Relations,” or “Freelance writer open to full-time writing and editing opportunities.” Tech consultant Carmen Fontana got my attention with this headline: “Tackling Tech Ops puzzles with an engineer’s eye, an innovator’s heart & a comedian’s wry humor.”
Industry/Location – Include your industry and location as it helps customize what you see on LinkedIn, and it will encourage people in your industry and region to connect with you. If you’re not sure what industry you want to go into, just choose one from the list that interests you the most or that best matches your major, and you can always change it later. If your specific industry isn’t on the list, you will have to pick the next closest one. You can only choose one industry even if you have experience in more than one.
Background Photo – Add a custom 1400×425 pixel image to the top of your LinkedIn profile to make it stand out visually. The background photo won’t be visible on your public profile, but it will be visible to your connections and others who view your profile while signed into LinkedIn. Use a professional quality picture that matches your personality, your business, and your profile. You can be creative in your design while still being professional. My background image is an extreme closeup of a Minecraft screenshot, so the blocks look kind of like 3D bar graphs or stacks of green boxes.
Contact Info – Don’t forget to click on the little Rolodex icon and add your contact details; this includes mailing address, phone, email, website(s), and Twitter account.
Public Profile Settings – Click on “View Profile As” to manage your public profile settings. Choose “Make my public profile visible to everyone” to get it indexed by search engines so your profile will be searchable on the web. You can also edit your settings to show only the information you want to make public.
URL – Online visibility plays a huge role in job hunting these days. LinkedIn lets you personalize your public profile URL, but you need to claim it or you will just get a generic one. Add your first and last name to the end of the standard prefix (e.g., linkedin.com/in/yourname). Include your middle initial if someone else has the same name. Once this is done, add the URL to your resume and other social media profiles, too. If you have a blog or website, you can attract connections with a “Connect with me on LinkedIn” button that links to your profile, like this:
LinkedIn makes it easy to include all of the following Sections under your profile:
Summary/Autobiography – Write a well-written summary of your background, goals, experience, education, skills, accomplishments, and other important details. Think of it as a kind of cover letter. Use this area to speak directly to your target audience, including phrases or keywords they might be using to find you. You can even add a welcome video or an interesting fact about yourself. This small touch of transparency will help you connect on a personal level with anyone who views your profile. It also helps complete your “story” and offers something your resume doesn’t. Since I don’t have much work experience, I included a list of bullet points highlighting various qualifications and transferable skills that I have.
Work Experience – Since you’re just starting out, you will want to list all of your past and current experience including any work you do for the family business, college jobs, tutoring, blogging, freelance work and internships, whether you get paid for it or not. Also include letters of recommendation from those jobs. As you gain more professional experience, you can eliminate some of the earlier, less important jobs that don’t relate to your major field.
Volunteer Experience – If you don’t have much in the way of job experience, your volunteer work can highlight valuable skills especially if it’s in your desired field. If you don’t have anything to put down for this, make it happen!
Education – Record your degree, major, GPA, honors, activities and societies. I also included a graduation photo and a copy of my unofficial transcript.
Projects – Include a slide show, research project, video presentation, or other project that you’re proud of, such as a school assignment or independent study, with a link to the document or website where people can view it.
Blog Posts – LinkedIn includes a blog feature so you can post directly to your LinkedIn page. Writing a post can increase your visibility and demonstrate your expertise in a certain subject.
Courses – This is a great place to list your independent study, non-credit, and continuing education classes.
Certifications – List your professional certifications like A+, MCITP, CPR, EMT, etc.
Honors & Awards – Did you receive any honors, awards, or scholarships? Now’s your chance to brag about them.
Patents – Do you have a patent? Show off your innovation and expertise.
Test Scores – Along with your academic achievements, this provides evidence of your knowledge and aptitude.
Languages – Are you bilingual or fluent in another language? It can be an advantage for many jobs.
Organizations (and positions held) – National Honor Society, 4-H, Boy Scouts, Teen Pact, etc.
Publications – Have you published a book, article, conference presentation, or other work? Here you can list the title, publisher, publication date, URL, and description.
Causes – Check off the causes you care most about from the following choices: Animal Welfare, Arts and Culture, Children, Civil Rights/Social Action, Disaster/Humanitarian Relief, Economic Empowerment, Education, Environment, Health, Human Rights, Politics, Poverty Alleviation, Science and Technology, Social Services.
Additional Info – Here you are free to put anything else you want like interests, hobbies, personal details, advice for contacting you, etc. This is a great place to add a call to action. Tell people what site they should go to for more information, or the best way to contact you. Because if you spend all of this time crafting a great message but don’t lead the viewer anywhere, all of your work will have been for nothing.
The “Profile Strength” meter on the upper right side of your profile will go up as you add content. The higher your profile completeness, the more likely you are to appear in search results. LinkedIn specifically recommends that you should include: Photo, Industry/Location, Summary, Current Position/Job Description, Previous Position, Volunteer Experience, and Education.
Even if you only have enough information to fill in a few sections right now, keep in mind that you can always add more later. Under your profile summary at the top, you’ll see two sections that you can add to your profile. Click “View More” to see the full list of sections that are available.
2. Add Media
Once you have all of your sections in place, you can add rich media artifacts to the summary, experience, and education sections. Embellish these sections with photos, videos, documents, and presentations. This is where you can really make your profile stand out, and it’s what turns your online resume into a complete portfolio. These items won’t display on your public profile, which is the version of your profile people see when they’re not signed into LinkedIn. But they will be visible to your connections and LinkedIn members who view your profile while signed in. LinkedIn highly recommends including work samples or projects to fully optimize your profile.
3. Add Skills
Adding essential keywords to your profile will help to increase your visibility and ranking in search results. Look at ten job ads that relate to the career you want, identify the significant keywords used, and make sure they are listed under the “Skills” section of your profile. LinkedIn recommends listing at least five top skills. Aim to get endorsements for each of them.
4. Rearrange Sections
Feel free to choose how your LinkedIn page will be organized. You can arrange the sections to put education on top, or emphasize work or volunteer experience first. It all depends on your goals, and what you want to show off the most to your target audience. Rearrange the different sections until your profile looks its best.
5. Make Connections
In general, connecting to more people is better than connecting to only a few people. LinkedIn recommends having at least 50 connections. So begin your network of contacts now so they will be there when you need them. The more meaningful connections you build, the more likely those people will be able to help you. You may think you don’t know anybody important. But here is a list of connections you probably already have:
Family and friends
Instructors and mentors
Co-workers and colleagues
Connections from volunteering
Church and club members
Start searching for people you already know – or hope to know – and send them invitations to connect. Personalize each connection request with a reminder of how the person knows you, or why you want to connect with them. Be honest when asking to connect. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell someone that you’re hoping to work in their field or industry and that you want to learn from them.
Offering to help someone can also make a lasting impression while helping to expand your network. Contact a person in your desired industry and offer your services for free. Do a good job, add them to your contacts, and they will likely recommend you and introduce you to other people in their network.
Search for alumni from your school, especially those with the same major as you, and join Alumni Groups on LinkedIn. Alumni often feel a “connection” to former classmates, and they will be familiar with your educational background, even if you never met. When asking to connect, be sure to say something like, “I see we’re both accounting grads from ASU.”
If you want to invite someone who is not on Linkedin, send them an email with a link to your LinkedIn profile, and an explanation about how to join. And, of course, please connect with me! I’d be happy to accept invitations from Homeschooling Teen readers, but be sure to add a note saying where I know you from.
6. Join Groups & Follow Companies
Once your profile fully demonstrates your expertise and experience, join groups based on a common interest or skill (like journalism or SEO). Some groups are open and others require permission to join. You can find LinkedIn groups by searching for “Groups” in the search field at the top of your homepage. There are groups for just about everything, from “Creative Designers and Writers,” to “New Grads in Nursing,” so you should be able to find a group that relates to you. Look at the groups that someone in your field whom you admire has joined and join them. You can also follow companies related to your industry and career interests. The logo of each group you’re in and company you follow will be displayed at the bottom of your profile.
7. Get Recommendations
Recommendations from other people will give your LinkedIn profile extra credibility, and shows that you have the savvy to ask someone for this favor. Ask co-workers, professors, teachers, or classmates who are familiar with your abilities. Try to get one recommendation for each position. If the person isn’t on LinkedIn, ask them for a written letter of recommendation, which you can then scan a copy of and upload to your profile. Along with recommendations, which are like personal references, you should work on getting endorsements for each of your skills, which are important as well. If you can recommend or endorse someone, be sure to do so, and they will be more likely to do the same for you. But never give a recommendation to someone you cannot personally vouch for.
8. Review & Revise
Your LinkedIn profile says everything about who you are professionally, so make sure your profile is 100% complete and compelling. It’s important that your profile gives an inviting first impression. Bare-bones profiles indicate people who do only the minimum required, and profiles without a photograph will appear unfinished or even suspicious.
Since so many LinkedIn profiles look the same, be sure to do something creative to make your profile stand out. This will help you to attract people who already know you, people who have similar interests, and people who might find your skills useful.
When writing and revising your profile, be professional. Use the right words, proper spelling, and correct grammar. Avoid slang and text speak. Employers look for people who know how to express themselves in complete sentences. Ask someone else to proofread your LinkedIn page and give you constructive feedback.
9. Update Your Profile
Update your profile regularly, at least as much as your jobs, education, and needs change. Make sure to add each new degree, job, award, etc. that you receive. That will be easier than trying to go back and remember dates and details later. Also don’t forget to change out your work samples, videos, etc. as you get better ones. Click on the “Notify Network” button to publish an update to your network about any important profile changes.
10. And Finally…
LinkedIn is the world’s largest career/business networking site and it is often where employers first look when hiring. I like how writer/bloggerdescribes LinkedIn: “Think of it as the Facebook page that can give you a job. As much as possible, log in to your account every day. There’s always somebody new to connect with, something new to discuss with your groups, and there’s always a new company to discover.” Take part in group discussions, or at least read them. Exchange ideas, tips, goals and experiences with your connections. Re-post or share relevant articles and blogs, especially posts that were written by you. LinkedIn also has lots of articles to read that can help you reach your career goal, so it should be your main resource when looking for work. But don’t just take my word for it. Click on the links below to find more information and tips:
Connect with me on LinkedIn! Click here for my Profile.