LinkedIn, the social media platform known as “Facebook for professionals,” is an essential resource for college students. How essential? A survey from the recruiting platform Jobvite found that 94% of employers use LinkedIn for recruiting employees. Building your LinkedIn presence now, while you’re collecting skills and experiences, can create a valuable bridge to your next career opportunity.
This week, set aside a couple hours to start or improve your profile using these simple tips – the investment will be worth it when you’re applying for jobs and internships. I also encourage you to do further research on how to improve your profile once you’ve tackled the steps below.
1. Use a high-quality, professional profile photo
If you have the opportunity to get headshots taken at a career fair or networking event, take it! Or, dress up as if you were going to an interview and have a friend take your photo in front of a neutral background. Your LinkedIn photo is equivalent to your first impression in face-to-face networking. Make it count!
- Smile in your photo; it’s a nonverbal cue that you’re approachable.
- Use a head-and-shoulders shot instead of a full-length photo – let people actually see you.
- We may be the selfie generation, but selfies are not for LinkedIn. And chances are your Facebook profile picture is not a good LinkedIn profile picture, either.
- You can add an optional background image as well, but make sure it fits with the professional image you want to present.
2. Fill out your profile as completely as possible
LinkedIn has a Profile Strength meter that climbs higher when you complete a section. The more information you include on your profile, the better your chances of being discovered by potential employers. Plus, a thorough profile shows your full range of experience and potential. Fill out all the areas that are applicable for you:
- If you have little work experience to include, maximize the value of the experience you do have. Add your volunteer experiences, memberships to organizations, meaningful awards, and interests. These are ways to show your character and initiative despite a light job history.
- Add projects, like campaigns or assignments you have created in your advertising and public relations classes.
- In your summary, use the “add media” feature to upload your resume or work samples, link to blog posts, and show your work with a variety of compatible media options.
Bonus tip: If your current or most recent job is not what you want connections or potential employers to see first, click and drag more relevant information, such as volunteer or leadership positions, toward the top of your profile.
3. Use search engine optimized (SEO) terms in your profile.
In your headline, summary, and wherever you can, use keywords that are relevant to your unique strengths and goals as a professional. For instance, if you have experience or are interested in a career in social media marketing, you might use terms like “social media marketing,” “content strategy,” “content curation,” “analytics,” etc. Speak the lingo of the industry you want to enter, but make sure you sound natural and know what you’re talking about. Find more helpful information on optimizing your profile in this article from Digital Marketer.
Bonus tip: It sounds cheesy, but write your summary in the third person, referring to yourself by name instead of using “I” and “me.” This will increase your profile’s ranking if someone searches your name online.
4. Write a descriptive headline
Your name and headline are what people will see first on LinkedIn. Your current job title will become your headline by default, but you can – and probably should – change it. Avoid headlines such as “Student at Grand Valley State University” or “Student seeking internship” (I’m guilty of using both of these). The headline should include SEO terms that are relevant to your professional strengths or goals. This article has some great examples and suggestions for a good LinkedIn headline.
5. Customize your profile URL
The default URL is beneath your photo on your profile and includes extra letters and numbers. Click on the URL, and on the next page, you’ll have the chance to customize it. If possible, simplify it to linkedin.com/in/firstnamelastname, or whatever name you go by professionally.
Bonus tip: When your profile is complete, add your custom profile URL to your email signature. It’s a proactive way to increase visitors to your page!
You’re not finished! Keep updating your profile as needed, since regular updates boost your rank in search results and keep your profile fresh.
Now that you’ve enhanced your LinkedIn profile, stay tuned for a future post on using LinkedIn for networking and job searching.
Ashley Bovin is a senior majoring in Advertising and Public Relations. She is the VP of Alumni Relations for PRSSA at Grand Valley and an Account Associate for GrandPR. Ashley enjoys writing, drinking coffee, playing tour guide in Grand Rapids, sending snail mail, and hanging out with her cat, Stella, who is the #1 subject of her Instagram account.