LinkedIn can be used in many different ways, from being your professional profile to show the world you are worth employing, to contacting people who might give you good information about roles you are applying for, connecting with employers or people who might help you on your career path right through to actually being head-hunted.
If an employer wanted to find more out about me, what would they find? My Facebook is locked down so they wouldn’t be able to see all the photos of my knitting. My followers on Twitter have no idea of my real name and only know me as an adventurous soft toy panda who has strong opinions on Real Ale. Google me and I’m either a Land Surveyor, a Business Management and Teacher Training Tutor or a Managing Director. None of these things really help an employer know who I am and how I would be a good employee for them.
Find me on LinkedIn and I am a woman with nine years’ experience in Higher Education professional roles, working across three Russell Group Universities in different departments. I am an accredited strengths practitioner with skills in group work development amongst others, all endorsed by current and former colleagues. I have gained skills through a variety of experiences which I might not have told you on a tailored CV. My work at the Royal Albert Hall and job mentoring students with disabilities means I could bring a broad perspective to your workforce. Am I worth spending your time interviewing? I hope that I am!
Start with your photo
People don’t often remember a name but they usually remember a face. If you are trying to connect with an employer you previously met, they won’t remember if you are called Tom, Matt or Dave but they will remember roughly what you looked like. Make it professional and friendly and show an employer what you will look like in their role. Remember this isn’t Facebook or Instagram and we don’t want to see you in a club, on the beach or with your friends. Dress how you would for an interview and look at the profiles of other people working in the same sector to reference how you should professionally present yourself. Research also suggests that you are more likely to receive a response to a LinkedIn request (and to receive invites) if you have included a profile photo.
What’s your headline?
The next thing to think about is your headline. You could just go for ‘Student at the University of …’ but that really doesn’t tell me much about you. Are you studying Classics and want to be a TV presenter? Do you do Economics and run the Finance Society? Make it specific and be aspirational if you want. Try something like ‘Former Brand Manager, Currently Specialising in Global Media and Communications’, ‘MA (res) Student in Classics and Ancient History | President of the Classics Society’ or ‘Finance Student Looking for Graduate Roles in Audit’.
Use an ‘attention grabbing’ summary
Your summary is where you can really grab peoples’ attention and tell them exactly what you want them to know about you before they either spend time quickly scrolling down the page and missing some of your key strengths or, more likely, clicking away from the page altogether. Think of the key skills employers are looking for. Not sure what they are? Just have a look at job adverts for the roles you’d like to go for and see what skills they are asking their candidate to have and use those same words when highlighting your key skills and achievements.
Showcase relevant skills
The rest of the profile is up to you. Like a CV, it still needs to make an impact very quickly so bullet points are a good idea when detailing your previous experience. Think about not only what you did in each role but how you did it as well. What skills did you develop and use in each position?
Skills are very important for an employer and LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to not just tell an employer what skills you have but get them endorsed by colleagues or friends. If you aren’t sure what skills an employee would value, look at the profiles of people already doing the roles and see what skills they say they have. If you have those skills too, make sure you are listing them and asking people to endorse you. If you don’t have them yet, think about how you could develop them so you can add them to LinkedIn very soon.
LinkedIn gives you the chance to tell an employer about more than just the few things you put on a tailored CV to show exact skills and experience. Think about everything you have done and how it might make you employable. Consider sports you have played, societies you have been in and awards you have won. Always make sure you are clear about how each experience has grown your skills and experience.
Bring your profile to life
Unlike a CV, LinkedIn can give you the opportunity to embed media or upload documents to give more focus to what you are telling an employer. Maybe you were interviewed on the radio about a project you were doing – put an audio clip up. Maybe you produced a poster for an academic conference about your research – put a pdf up. Really bring your profile to life for an employer so it goes beyond just words.
Contact your university careers service if you would like advice and information to help develop an effective profile to ensure that it it shouting to the world that you are employable. Having a professional profile online for employers to find just might make the difference between getting an interview and not.
Finally, you can watch my colleague Charlie Cunningham’s Getting Started with LinkedIn video below.