A recent Forbes article reported that these days more than 70% of jobs are being found through person-to-person networking. Today’s tech-saavy young graduates are particularly poised to utilize the bustling super-network of professionals, known as LinkedIn, to build their networks and jumpstart their careers. Before you dive into the virtual candidate pool, here are five tips for using LinkedIn the right way and avoiding some common pitfalls.
1. Keep it professional.
LinkedIn has many of the same features as other social media platforms like Facebook, however, its purpose is absolutely unique. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites, LinkedIn is purely and solely professional. And thus, when using the site, it is really important to keep it that way. One really easy way to ensure that your LinkedIn profile and networking efforts remain pristine is to avoid oversharing via other social media platforms. Don’t link your LinkedIn profile to a personal Facebook or Twitter account. All of your posts on LinkedIn are cached on your profile and accessible by any employer that might be checking you out online. An inadvertently unprofessional moment on Facebook or Twitter could find its way into their research and reflect poorly.
2. Show your face.
Prospective employers want to get a sense of who you are and the profile shot absolutely plays a role in that research. If you don’t already have one, have someone take a close up photo of you, dressed professionally and presentably coiffed, that lets the reviewer really see your face. No photos on vacation or ones where your buddy is obviously cropped out because we can still see the phantom arm around your shoulder. Also, it’s not a beauty contest. Rather, this photo should convey energy, positivity, and professionalism. You may take some artistic license with the image depending on the industry. Finance professionals should probably keep it traditional, but folks working in marketing or Silicon Valley might be able to get away with a more playful version of the profile shot.
3. Show your work.
Many young graduates will not have a ton of past work experience to fill out their profiles, but this doesn’t mean that you do not have skills and experiences to showcase. Young graduates should include everything that highlights the skills that professionals in your industry value. This could include community service and volunteer experience, leadership roles in school and university clubs/organizations, part-time or work-study jobs, athletics, etc. You can also post presentations or projects from your academic work that you feel are particularly impressive or touch on important skills that you’d like employers to notice. Including extra-curricular activities, projects, and volunteer work in your profile shows employers that you are able to balance a lot of different responsibilities as well as demonstrate your willingness to stretch yourself into new and challenging areas.
4. Keep it consistent.
Got a resume? The information listed on your resume should match what is on LinkedIn. Employers will look at both when considering you for a position and any discrepancy will raise questions or could result in your being cut from the pool of applicants. Check names, dates, affiliations, etc. and verify that everything lines up. Also – and I can’t stress this enough – spell check and grammar check both your resume and LinkedIn profile please! Have someone else do it if you feel like you aren’t seeing the mistakes anymore. Pro tip: Read your resume backwards sentence by sentence. This will help you see mistakes that your eyes might gloss over when reading it straight through.
5. Don’t be shy.
Your visibility on LinkedIn increases with every connection you make, group you join, project you post, and comment you make. The website encourages participation and rewards those who are active by moving your profile into other’s line of sight. Utilize your networks (schools, friends, family, etc.) to start building your own personal network of contacts. Ask friends, colleagues, and connections to introduce you to those with whom you want to connect. Word to the wise: if you make the effort to connect with someone new, make the connection for real. Don’t just ask to connect and disappear. Try asking a new contact to meet for lunch or coffee. If this person is an accomplished professional in your field, you might ask if they would share some advice with someone who is just starting out. By making the effort to connect in the real world, you will make a lasting impression, even if that lunch never happens.
LinkedIn is an incredible resource for building important connections that can kick-start, restart, or rejuvenate your career. Use it wisely!
This post was written by Greta Daniels, our former Director of Alumni Relations.