If you’ve been in college or the workforce for any extended period of time, you have probably heard people talking about their LinkedIn profiles.
It just so happens that our generation, which consists of college students and young professionals, is the fastest-growing demographic on the site, according to Hootsuite.
What does that mean for you? Quite simply, it means that your competitors for jobs and professional development resources are already using LinkedIn. If you’re not, you could be missing out on job opportunities – not to mention the chance to build your personal brand.
Cindy Hagemann is a social media and marketing consultant who specializes in LinkedIn training. As a certified LinkedIn trainer, Cindy has been teaching students, professionals, and businesses how to use this valuable social media platform since 2008.
We asked Cindy what advice she would give to someone who is starting their LinkedIn from scratch, as well as a step-by-step guide for how to do it. Here’s what she had to say.
Why LinkedIn is important for college students and YPs
Cindy explained that whether you’re actively looking for a job right now or not, you should still be building your LinkedIn presence so that the right opportunities can find you.
“LinkedIn is very important because employers looking for the right job candidates there,” Cindy said. “If you aren’t there with an optimized profile, you may miss an opportunity.”
Cindy added that employers are abundant on LinkedIn, and that they expect their future employees to be there as well.
Cindy has many “success stories” that illustrate the value of LinkedIn. She shared one such story with Go-Getter:
“I worked with a young professional who had just finished his master’s degree and was seeking a job in a new profession. He was called for an interview with four people in the room, and he immediately noticed that they all had his LinkedIn profile printed out in front of them, not his resume! They asked direct questions from his very detailed profile. He called me after the interview, very excited, and actually got hired by this company.”
So we know that it’s important for college students and young professionals to have LinkedIn. But where to begin?
Without a doubt, starting a LinkedIn profile from the ground up is a bit daunting. And because it can be time-consuming, it’s one of those things that’s easy to procrastinate.
“It is intimidating at first since it is a professional image, not just ‘fun’ social media,” Cindy agreed.
Be honest with yourself and recognize that you won’t complete your profile in one sitting, because your LinkedIn presence is an ongoing process. That said, here are the steps that Cindy recommends to get started.
- Begin with the basics. When you start creating your profile, you’ll be prompted to input your basic information, such as your name, your job title, your company, and your location. Go ahead and fill this out, and remember to use the name that you want to be called in your professional life. If you’re currently in college, try putting your title as “Student” and your company as your school. This is also where you’ll want to upload your profile picture. Remember to keep it work-appropriate – if you have a professional headshot, use it! If at all possible, avoid car selfies, pictures from parties, etc.
- Write your summary. This is the section of your profile that appears immediately after your photo. “The summary is basically your professional story,” said Cindy. “College students and many young professionals don’t have a long story yet, but they still have a story to tell, such as why they chose a career path, why they live where they live, and what led them to where they are now.” Cindy added: “Keep it simple but informative for hiring managers to take a glance and find out more about you and if you would be a good fit for their companies.”
- Add your skills. This section of a LinkedIn profile allows hiring managers to see your relevant professional capabilities. In this section, for example, a theatre student might put “method acting” and “stage combat,” whereas an information technology intern might list “front-end development” and “software installation.” Be truthful and strategic in your answers.
- Gain – and provide – endorsements. After you’ve listed your skills, your LinkedIn connections will be able to endorse you. Think of it as them adding points, validating that you are indeed skilled in these areas. “The more endorsements you have for each skill, the more SEO [search engine optimization] power that provides for you that employers and other people can find.” The best way to get endorsements is to – you guessed it – endorse other people. Visit the LinkedIn profiles of your peers, be they colleagues, supervisors, or fellow college students. Where appropriate, endorse the skills you’ve seen them exhibit. Many connections will reciprocate and do the same on your profile.
- Summarize your education and employment. For now, don’t stress about the details – you can always go back and beef up these sections later. In the education section, list your college or university, your major, and your years of attendance. If you’re currently enrolled in school, it’s a good idea to put your anticipated graduation date in the details section so that employers will know when you’re available for hire. In the employment section, list your current title and company, as well as the previous positions you’ve held. Don’t go into high school jobs unless one you held is pertinent to the kind of job you want now.
- Add your contact information and personalized URL. This section is at the forefront of your profile, right next to your profile picture and above your summary. Add the contact information you feel comfortable displaying publicly, such as a Twitter handle or a professional email address. In this area, you can also customize turn your LinkedIn profile URL from a random string of numbers into something with your name (e.g. “linkedin.com/jane-doe” vs. “linkedin.com/555). Cindy pointed out that this allows you to place a clean, easy-to-follow link on your resume.
- Add volunteer work. This is more important than people think! “Never underestimate the importance of volunteer work,” Cindy said. “Employers are looking for candidates who will add value to their workplace and you are looking for ways to stand out from all the other candidates – volunteering is a good way to do both!”
Making your profile shine
Speaking of standing out, Cindy had another important piece of guidance related to outshining your competitors: “Add photos, blogs, and other media to showcase your skills.”
This is especially pertinent to students and young professionals who are working in creative fields, such as graphic design, art, film, and creative writing. Think of it this way: it’s not enough to tell employers that your work is superb – with LinkedIn, you have a chance to prove it!
Maintaining your profile
The seven steps outlined above are by no means exhaustive – there are a ton of other components you can add to your LinkedIn over time. But the list above will give you some momentum in your LinkedIn journey.
So now what?
There are two main ways you can keep up with LinkedIn: by updating your own profile, and by interacting with other people’s.
Regarding the first, Cindy stressed the importance of adding new content and information to your profile as significant things happen in your early career.
“Anytime something happens in your career, be sure to add it immediately to your LinkedIn profile to keep an online record of your accomplishments,” she said. This could include things like getting a title change at work, receiving a new leadership opportunity with a volunteer organization, beginning coursework toward an advanced degree, and lots more.
When it comes to interacting with other content on LinkedIn, here’s what Cindy had to say:
“Log in two to three times a week and look around, like, share, and comment. Keep up with current events, especially with your industry, and share the articles you find.”
Armed with this valuable advice, you should now be ready to tackle LinkedIn head-on!
Stay tuned for future Go-Getter posts about making the most of LinkedIn!