Everyone says you should use LinkedIn, and depending on your industry, it can play a huge role in your job search. But how can you make the best use of the dang thing?
First off, I always say not to bother with Premium. Just create a free account for yourself and throw some content in. You can start using the site and its features as soon as you’re signed up, but your best bet is to spend some time building your profile.
Start by choosing a photo of yourself for your profile. It doesn’t have to be an actual professional photo, but it should show you looking professional. If you don’t have one, try having someone take some shots of you with neutral backgrounds like a brick wall or some pretty plants. Experiment a little and see what you think shows you in your best light. Once you’ve added a photo, you can also add a background photo, which will appear behind the picture of you. You can use a picture you’ve taken or an image you like, but if you’re searching images, be sure to filter for public domain or “free to share and use” as your choices so you don’t accidentally step on some artist’s toes.
Next it’s time to tackle your summary section. This is your primary selling point, so take some time with it. Not everyone shares my view, but I hate a profile filled with jargon and buzzwords but I can’t tell what that person does. I recommend a couple of good, descriptive paragraphs with some white space so things don’t look too crowded. Where you can, use shorter sentences, too, so the casual reader (who may be doing something else while viewing your profile) doesn’t get lost somewhere in there. Be sure to keep it first-person, too! It always seems really weird when someone starts calling herself by name. And, as with other professional communications, be sure your spelling, punctuation, and grammar are spot-on. (But don’t be afraid to demonstrate a little something of your personality in there!)
When you’re feeling satisfied with your profile summary, move on to the other parts. You have the room to add work experience, education, skills, recommendations from others, and endorsements (which are sort of light recommendations, in that they take others just a moment to click on for you), so take some time with those bits, as well. If your industry or chosen industry uses jargon, do throw some in there so recruiters can find you, but don’t go nuts with it. It should contain some of that specialized language but still be easy to understand.
A quick note on endorsements: people often ask what the point of them is, since it just takes someone a moment to click on them for you, and you may accidentally wind up with skills you don’t want highlighted. That means it’s essential that you name your own top skills or the site’s algorithm will fill things in for you. At one point, mine had a dozen or so endorsements for curriculum development, which is absolutely not something I do, so I had to clear it out. If that happens, you can remove the skill, but it’s a step you won’t need to take if you’re active at the start.
You can also request recommendations from people you’re connected with. I generally advise you start by writing one for the person first, and then letting them know you’ve done so and asking for one in return. This feels awkward at first, but it’s worth doing because your profile will stand out so much more when you have people enthusing about you.
If you get to this point and still don’t feel satisfied with your profile, take a break and look at some other people’s profiles. Pay especial attention to people in your field, and feel free to borrow ideas from them. Sometimes you won’t have thought of framing something in quite that way, so don’t be shy about it. You can look at profiles from all walks of life to help generate ideas.
Once you’re happy with things, it’s time to start spreading the word! Start by customizing your LinkedIn URL or the site will give you one with a random string of numbers and letters after your name. Then add that URL to your resume and cover letter so prospective employers can see what your profile looks like.
Your profile now looks fabulous! Next week we’ll look at using the site to look for jobs and build your networks.