UPDATED NOVEMBER 30, 2017: Original article published on April 21, 2016.
Is it time to start thinking about your career and how you're going to attack the job market? According to a Jobvite Survey, 94% of recruiters and hiring managers are active on LinkedIn, but only 36% of job seekers are!
For some reason, LinkedIn seems to attract an older crowd; but this needs to change! LinkedIn is a great way to learn more about a company, connect with its employees, find and apply to job openings, and spread the word about your skills and abilities with minimum time spent.
This series outlines the best LinkedIn profile tips for recent graduates. Let's start with why it's so important to create and thoroughly complete your profile.
Why Does A College Graduate Need LinkedIn
I don't understand how, but SO MANY people still don't know what LinkedIn is or what it can do. The LinkedIn company describes itself as a way to:
- Build your professional identity online and stay in touch with colleagues and classmates.
- Discover professional opportunities, business deals, and new ventures.
- Get the latest news, inspiration, and insights you need to be great at what you do.
So what does that mean to you?
LinkedIn is more than an online resume and far more than another social media profile. LinkedIn is your way to tell your unique story, showcase your strengths, and identify why employers should want you. There is no better (or free!) way to do this.
You could create a personal website with your name as the domain or site address(www.yourname.com), your resume, and your portfolio; but you'll have to register and pay for both the domain and website hosting. You'll likely spend hours optimizing your website for Google, designing the look to match how you want employers to perceive you, and maybe even learning code to get the website to look and function the way you want.
Or you could create a FREE LinkedIn profile with a custom URL that will rank high on Google without any time or effort on your part (with the exception of a few clicks).
But why do YOU, a college graduate, need LinkedIn?
You Can Develop + Showcase Your Personal Brand
LinkedIn uses the phrase "professional identity," but your profile can be how you sell yourself without even trying.
You can use your Summary section to highlight your strengths and tell your story in a conversational way that suits social media. For example, I use my Summary to describe how I became a resume writer and launched Off The Clock Resumes. I describe how I relate to my clients because I struggled finding a job that leveraged my strengths. I tell those who read my profile that I am driven to help others secure new and better jobs because nothing gives me more satisfaction in life.
So, what's your story? What are you unable to say on your resume that makes you the kind of person others will want to work with? Use LinkedIn to build your personal brand online.
You Can Stay In Touch Classmates
This is what we have Facebook for, right? You won't be posting your weekend photos to LinkedIn, and you certainly won't be using your LinkedIn news feed to complain about your relationship.
LinkedIn is a great way to help your colleagues and classmates spread the word about their strengths and experience (and vice versa!).
Here's how LinkedIn works: You can't add hundreds of people you don't know to your Connections (LinkedIn's term for Friends or Followers). Connections come in tiers: 1st Connections are people you know, 2nd Connections are the Connections of your Connections (friends of friends), and 3rd Connections are the last tier in which LinkedIn will let you reach out and connect with someone who may not know you but may know who you know.
Have I lost you yet?
Use LinkedIn to network. If you hear about a job opportunity that would be perfect for one of your Connections, you can share it with them or refer the source to this individual's profile. You can endorse (or promote) their skills directly on their profile which looks great to employers. You can write recommendations for former co-workers highlighting their skills or how great they were to work with too.
The best part is that the "You scratch my back..." policy is implied, and your Connections will gladly endorse some of your skills and keep you in mind if an opportunity comes up.
You Can Discover Opportunities
Yes, you can create a profile and never use it. It's just out there waiting for recruiters and employers to find, and that's perfectly okay and somewhat effective. You can also use LinkedIn's search functions to find your ideal company, who works there, and what job positions are open.
Maybe you want to take a shot at entrepreneurship. You have a great idea for a start-up, and you just need some help getting started. LinkedIn is a great way to find professionals who have been-there-done-that with great advice, to find a potential business partner, or to find investors to help get your idea off the ground. It's much harder (not impossible, though) to do this on Facebook or Twitter.
The best way to discover opportunities is to have completely filled out your profile with keywords that recruiters, employers, or your Connections may be searching for. These keywords are most commonly your career goals, skills, and achievements (ex. "sales management," "business development," or "driving new business and revenue growth").
You Can Find Inspiration + The Latest News
The unique thing about LinkedIn is that users use it well! No, you won't find Vines of dirt bike wrecks or cat photos. You won't find links to celebrity before and after weight loss photos either.
LinkedIn users are using LinkedIn to share their expertise, their opinions on industry-related news and trends, and tips for being a better individual. It's a great way to keep up on new trends without being overwhelmed by RSS feeds too. In fact, most users post once a week or less.
LinkedIn Secret #1: Complete Your Profile
With so many corporate recruiters using LinkedIn to evaluate candidates, a complete public profile is an absolute must! The more information you provide on LinkedIn, the higher your profile will rank in LinkedIn searches.
Most online job postings, no matter where they are, will also let you apply with your LinkedIn profile. In other words, no never-ending online application. A quick click, log in, and employers have all they need to decide to hire you. Right?
Well, the Easy Apply option on LinkedIn will only show the employer: your name, your Headline, your current Position Title and Company Name (no details), your previous Positon Titles and Company Names, your College, and your Recommendations. It's important to optimize your Headline and upload a targeted resume with every LinkedIn Easy Apply application.
College graduates need to have a LinkedIn profile, fill it out completely, and adjust the privacy settings so employers can see the details when they view your public profile.
Start With Your Education Section
If you don't have a lot of work experience, use your Education section to sell the core competencies you acquired in your degree program. Remember those annoying syllabus packets you got at the beginning of each term? You can rework the objectives of your college courses as core competencies (or untested skills) which serve as keywords that employers may be looking for.
Take Advantage Of Your Skills Section
You can list up to 50 skills, but you may not need to. Start by listing 10-20 skills that are related to your targeted career. For example, you just graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Accounting. You did really well in your Auditing class and you were the go-to person to help other classmates with spreadsheets. Some of your skills would be Auditing, Data Analysis, and Microsoft Excel.
Once your profile is completely filled out, you can reach out to and add your classmates as Connections. Then you can ask them to endorse your skills. This is a great way to build your profile with very little relevant work experience.
Fill Out Your Experience Section (If You Can)
Fill out your Experience section with work study, volunteer experience, internships, and any relevant work history. Add the Company Name, Position Title, Dates Employed, and Location. Then summarize your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.
Next sell yourself. List your major contributions, key accomplishments, or related skills in action within each role you held. Give employers something to read about using action words, descriptive phrases, and results-oriented statements.
Polish Your Summary
Your LinkedIn Summary needs to grad the attention of recruiters and employers quickly. Your first line needs to either describe why you are unique or identify your passion (as related to your career goals). Use this section to really tell your story. Describe how your strengths make you success (in your career, in school, in life, etc.) and highlight skills or achievements to date.
Whatever you do, do not forget to add a Summary or just write one boring statement about being a graduate seeking employment with a great company. Objective statements are dead. Get creative or at least strategic.
This applies to your Headline as well. Next, we'll spill our secrets for how college graduates can craft the perfect LinkedIn Headline.
Sign up for LinkedIn, create a profile today, and get hired for your dream job sooner!