If you are using LinkedIn as a “professional Facebook,” it’s time to re-evaluate your profile. When used correctly, LinkedIn eases the networking process and provides you with relevant opportunities to further your career. Follow along as I dissect each piece of a proper LinkedIn profile to ensure you are the master of your future.
The Profile Picture
LinkedIn is meant to make professional connections. Your high school senior pictures aren’t going to cut it.
Find a friend or family member who has a camera, or even a quality phone camera, and take a professional headshot. Although this is meant to be a professional profile, don’t be afraid to show some personality in your outfit. Put your hair in a ponytail or wear a sweater instead of a sport coat, as long as it’s suitable for the workplace and not the clubbing scene, connections will appreciate the transparency.
The same goes for your background photo. Are you passionate about graphic design? Design your own background with your logo and brand colors. Want to keep it simple? Upload a plain colored background to make your profile picture the center of attention. As long as you feel it properly represents your personal brand, I say go for it.
Your headline is the first thing you see under a connection’s name when trying to connect. The best way to approach this is to communicate your job status. However, keywords are important. If you are a college student working a retail job and use that as your headline, LinkedIn will recommend you retail jobs and you will attract retail employers when they search. In this situation, “Advertising and Public Relations Student at Grand Valley State University” would work in your favor. It is so easy to forget but so important to keep this updated throughout your career so that you will continue to attract relevant opportunities.
This is arguably the most important part of your profile. Use this opportunity to set yourself apart. How are you different from every other student, intern, or job candidate in your industry? This should be done in two to three paragraphs. Don’t get carried away and re-write your cover letter or, worse, entire resume. Emphasize your strengths, passions, and/or inspirations. In a concluding sentence, describe your end-goal.
I have spent countless hours engaging with connections, making new ones, and applying to jobs. Use your time wisely. LinkedIn can suck you in just like any other social platform. If you’re smart, you’ll consistently engage with the same few people/brands until they start to recognize your profile. This technique has helped me get many looks from crucial connections in my job search.
If you have an updated resume, this step should be easy as pie. If not, it’s a good way to get one started. The way I see it, you can learn valuable lessons from every position. If you’re lacking content for this section, you can include those retail jobs and college waitressing positions. In the job description, pull a few accomplishments or displays of leadership to highlight. The important thing to remember here is that there is no need to go into excruciating detail on every project you worked on.
This is your highlight reel, not a documentary.
The same rules apply for LinkedIn as they do for your resume. Unless the person reading it is an alum, you think it will give you a competitive edge, or you don’t have any progress toward a college degree, don’t include your high school education.
License & Certificates
Don’t have any? No problem. This section becomes more or less relevant depending on the position you are applying for. Anything that shows you have digital or software knowledge should be displayed. This is the place to show you are keeping up with trends and have hands-on knowledge in your industry.
Skills and Endorsements
Think of your top three skills. Make sure they are relevant to the positions you will be applying for. LinkedIn will assess your compatibility with various job postings and show you the best ones that require your skillset. They will also appear on your profile for your connections to endorse. An endorsement means that connection can verify your ability to perform that skill. It confirms that you are knowledgeable on a subject and provides backup for your claims. You will have the option to show these on your profile or hide them. Show, show, show!
If you are like me and you’re applying for internships or full-time jobs out of college, it isn’t necessary to have LinkedIn recommendations. These will accumulate as you get to know your co-workers and complete projects, especially where you are highlighted in a leadership role. That being said, when the time comes, ask for a recommendation. It also doesn’t hurt to offer one back. These can be especially helpful when convincing future employers of your value.
Think of this as your “Awards and Achievements” section on your resume. Be sure to list any special projects or awards prefaced in your bio or experience sections. Again, stray from including high school accomplishments such as national honors society or volleyball team captain. This is where you realize you need to get more involved in college! (May I suggest PRSSA?)
Pretty self-explanatory here – follow the companies you are interested in. Whether it’s journals you read, brands you trust, or companies you’re applying for, interests give others a sneak peek into the content you are consuming. Be intentional about following industry-specific sources so your feed is up to date with the latest innovations and conversations.
Now that your profile is in tip-top shape, LinkedIn can start working for you. Happy connecting!
Teagan Epley is a senior at Grand Valley State University studying advertising and public relations, with a minor in business. She is our VP of Member Services for GVSU PRSSA and an Account Associate for Grand Valley’s student-run PR firm, GrandPR. Her aspirations as a public relations professional include deepening her skills in media relations, social media, and design. In her free time, Teagan enjoys watching movies or exploring Grand Rapids.