By now, we all know what Facebook is, have Facebook accounts, and probably login to Facebook more times per day than we check our email. Without a doubt, Facebook is great for connecting with old friends, keeping in touch with current ones, and telling the world how drunk you were last night. However, it’s not the best venue for creating a professional network and finding a job. Enter, LinkedIn.
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, LinkedIn does for professional networks what Facebook does for social networks. Hands down it’s a great company and a great resource for professionals, even more so for college students and recent grads entering the workforce for the first time. However, because LinkedIn is meant to help further your career rather than your alcohol tolerance, we have a few suggestions and do’s and don’ts to ensure your profile is professional, up to par, and appropriate.
The Profile Picture
If you take anything from this article it’s this: use a professional picture on your LinkedIn profile. For 90% of college students, this means do not use your current Facebook picture. People are visual creatures and your profile picture will be one of the first things a viewer’s eye is drawn to. So don’t use a picture of you holding a beer, doing a keg stand, or (for the ladies) wearing anything that shows your stomach, ta-tas, panties… you get the picture. We know it sounds prudish but this picture isn’t meant to attract your next one-night stand, it’s meant to attract your future employer. Ideally, what you’re wearing in your picture should be something you could wear to work and not be sent home or fired for. A potential employer should see your picture and think “s/he would fit in at my office” not “isn’t s/he from Jersey Shore?” Get it? If you want examples, take a look at other people’s pictures. Except for a few outliers, you’ll notice a general trend of G rated, grandma-approved photos.
Public Profile & Twitter Links
We’re always astounded by the number of people who overlook the public profile link. The public profile link is just that: a link you give to other people to view your profile on LinkedIn. Although yes, it won’t destroy your LinkedIn profile if you ignore it, setting a public profile link can exponentially help prospective employers. For example, what’s easier to remember, a long link of random letters or “linkedin.com/yourname”? The answer is pretty obvious. Hint: use your real name in the public profile link rather than a nickname or default username.
If you have a Twitter account, we suggest linking it to your LinkedIn account if, and only if, your Twitter account is employer-friendly. This doesn’t mean that your account needs to be all about work or void of opinions, but it shouldn’t include rants about how you hate your job, links to inappropriate sites, or photo tags of you poll dancing in Vegas. If that’s the case, then it’s more beneficial to your LinkedIn profile to not add a Twitter account.
The Summary & Experience
When filling out the body of your LinkedIn profile, think of it as a resume… because it is! In the Summary section, you should list skills you have, products you’re proficient in, and industries/areas you’re interested or experienced in. You should not list your nicknames in the fraternity (and how you got them), how many times you’ve blacked out, or your favorite perverted quotes from your friends.
Equally, in the Experience section, you should list previous jobs, positions held in your chapter (it’s great to list that you were a two-term president or the treasurer who got your chapter out of debt), and any other experience that’s relevant such as internships, research, and volunteer activity. This section will be easy if you’ve already written a resume because most of the Experience information should come directly from your resume.
Both of these sections are expressly for selling your prospective employer on you as an excellent and best-fit hire. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to boast about your skills and experience (but not to the point of lying), and be very open about what interests you and where you hope to end up career-wise.
After you first create your LinkedIn profile, you probably won’t have any recommendations for a while. However, as you start to build your professional network, don’t forget about recommendations. The golden rule of recommendations on LinkedIn: treat them as references. Anyone giving you a recommendation on LinkedIn should also be someone you would use as a job reference. LinkedIn recommendations should be from people who know you in a professional capacity (possibly personal depending on the relationship), and who can (willingly) speak to your work ethic, skills and ability, intellect and/or personality. This could be an employer, volunteer supervisor, chapter advisor (yes, we’ve seen this before), or professor. Typically, this isn’t a fraternity brother, big sister, boyfriend/girlfriend or drunk bestie.
Always Edit & Update
Just like your resume, you should always edit and update your LinkedIn profile. If you win a new award, get a new job, or learn to use a new product, your professional network should know about it. You should also feel eager to update your profile. As your LinkedIn network grows and you see other profiles that catch your eye, take note and spruce up your own profile. There’s no rule against copying someone else’s format and there’s no rule that the first version of your profile has to be the final one.
There’s also no rule about leaving things blank. If you don’t have a Twitter account or company website, don’t panic. As a current student or recent graduate, no one expects you to have 10+ years of experience or tons of recommendations. Remember: just like your new career path, your LinkedIn profile is a work in progress.