You have no job experience. You’re in school 30 hours a week, nearly 40 weeks a year. You feel like all other time is spent studying, working on assignments, and drinking coffee to stay awake. You’re conscious of your future, and the online community talks about how everyone “needs” to be on LinkedIn. You know it’s useless to set up a profile with nothing on it. So how can you create one that will actually add value for recruiters or industry professionals?
Great question. Starting with the 10 tips below will make a world of difference to your professional online brand:
- Post a professional profile picture
- Add a relevant headline
- Use keywords
- Don’t ignore the summary section
- Don’t be afraid to show your personality
- Include your volunteer experience – and extracurriculars
- Ask for recommendations
- Join groups for your industry of interest – and be active in them
- Be proactive
The group photo from that party last summer may be your most photogenic shot yet. The one with your dog licking your face is cute too. And you look drop-dead gorgeous in the photo where you wore that low-cut dress. Here’s a tip: save those for Facebook. LinkedIn should be used for making industry connections and trying to further (or even begin) your career. It’s in your best interest to use a professional picture. Choose a clear headshot with only you in the photo, and a solid or lighter background. Remember that most recruiters will be viewing a thumbnail of your photo, so it’s your face you want visible, not your dog’s tongue.
If you have a part-time job, add that as your headline. If you’re on the job hunt, don’t be afraid to call yourself a student, but also use phrases like “aspiring professional” (make it specific to your industry). Show recruiters that you’re interested in the industry and ready to start your career.
Keywords within your headline and the rest of your profile will help recruiters or industry professionals find your profile in a search. Do some research on popular terms in your preferred industry and make sure to talk about them within your profile, but only use the terms that are relevant to you. Keep your profile honest.
This isn’t one of the sections where you can select a description from a drop down list. You’ll need to use some brain power here and describe your qualities to a potential recruiter. What is it about you that will make a recruiter want to know more in an interview? This is a good place to highlight those keywords, and to show how you’re different from other potential candidates.
Is LinkedIn a professional platform? Yes. But remember that recruiters want to see you have a personality. There are ways to make your profile professional, but relaxed. If you have hobbies, mention them. Stay away from slang and exclamation marks, but there’s no need to be overly stiff either. Find a balance that shows who you are.
When you don’t have work experience, recruiters will be drawn to your volunteer experience. Even if you do have work experience, some recruiters place a great deal of value on your extracurriculars. If you can show initiative and success in places where you aren’t being paid, they’ll start to imagine what you could do for them with a salary.
No one likes asking people to say something positive about them, but once you get that first recommendation, your self-confidence will skyrocket. Those recommendations will also mean a great deal to recruiters. Now, don’t go looking for recommendations from people who barely know you; the whole idea is to add value to your profile. Ask people you’ve volunteered with/for, who you’ve been part of a committee with, or who can vouch for your work ethic.
LinkedIn is brimming with hundreds (if not thousands) of groups for every industry. If you’re looking towards working in one or two specific industries, find groups that interest you and join them. Read up on what professionals are discussing within the group, and offer your insights when you can. This will show up on your connections’ feeds, and if you’re adding value to the conversation, people will be aware of it.
One of the biggest keys to professionalism is ensuring your profile is error-free. Check for spelling and grammar. If you’re unsure, Google it. Get someone to review it for you. Your profile is, essentially, your online resume – put as much care into it as you would with your hard copy.
Do all job postings seem to require 3-5 years of industry experience? You might be looking in the wrong place. LinkedIn has recently become more student-friendly; they even have a student-specific job section full of internships, co-ops, and entry-level positions. Don’t make recruiters come to you – be proactive and start the job hunt on your own.
Follow LinkedIn’s student-focused Twitter account for more advice on optimizing your LinkedIn profile: @LinkedInU.
Good luck with your profile! Tweet us @StudentsDotOrg when you have yours set up and we’d be happy to offer feedback.