Graduation is fast approaching! It's time to start thinking about your career and how you're going to attack the job market. Did you know that 94% of recruiters and hiring managers are active on LinkedIn, but only 36% of job seekers are? (Jobvite Survey)
For some reason, LinkedIn seems to attract the 30 and older crowd but this needs to change. LinkedIn is a great way to learn more about a company by hearing what its employees have to say, to find and apply to job openings from your ideal company (without having to fill out hundreds of fields of data), and to spread the word about your skills and abilities with minimum time spent.
This brief series outlines the best LinkedIn profile tips for recent graduates. This first chapter will tap into 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. LinkedIn (the 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 can be more than an online resume and far more than another social media profile. LinkedIn is your way to tell the world who you are, what your strengths are, and 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 name (www.yourname.com), your resume, and your portfolio. You may spend a lot of money paying for a domain name and website hosting. You may spend hundreds of 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 which will rank high on Google without any time or effort on your part. Well, you will have to make a few clicks.
But why do YOU, a college graduate, need LinkedIn?
You Can Build Your Personal Brand Online
LinkedIn uses the phrase "professional identity," but your profile can be how you sell yourself without even trying.
You can use your Career Summary to highlight your strengths and tell your story in a casual (yet still professional!) way that suits social media. For example, I use my Career 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 working with horrible bosses, for companies that don't care about their employees, and for startups that were doomed to fail from the start. 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.
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 With Colleagues and Classmates
This is what we have Facebook for, right? Maybe not so much. You won't be posting your weekend photos to LinkedIn, and you certainly won't be using LinkedIn Updates 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 where 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 leave recommendations for former coworkers 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 even 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 business 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 really hard (not impossible though) to do this on Facebook or Twitter.
The best way to discover opportunities though is to have completely filled out your profile with keywords that recruiters, employers, or your Connections may be searching for. These keywords are your skills and achievements (ex. "sales management," "business development," or "driving new business and revenue growth").
You Can Find The Latest News and Inspiration
The unique thing about LinkedIn is that users use it well! No, you won't find Vines of dirt bike wrecks or dogs "talking." You won't find links to celebrity before and after weight loss photos. You won't find many advertisements either.
LinkedIn users are using LinkedIn to share their expertise, their opinions on industry-relevant 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 MAYBE post once a week if not less.
LinkedIn Secret #1: Complete Your Profile
I don't know how to sell this anymore. Okay, one more point...
Most online job postings, no matter where they are, will let you apply with your LinkedIn profile. In other words, no uploading. No pages and pages of application questions. A quick click, log in, and employers have all they need to decide to hire you. Right?
College graduates need to have a LinkedIn profile and fill it out completely.
Start With Your Education Section
If you don't have a lot of work experience, use this section to sell the transferable skills you acquired in your degree program.
Here's a great resume writing cheat: Remember those annoying syllabus packets you got at the beginning of each term? Remember the objectives? Think back on what you were SUPPOSED to learn from your college classes. Identify what you took away and how those skills may apply to the career you are pursuing.
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 relevant to your targeted career.
For example, you just graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Accounting. You may not have a lot of experience, but you did really well in your Auditing class and you were the go-to person in working 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 strengths within the role you held. Give employers something to read about using action words, descriptive phrases, and storytelling tactics.
Polish Your Career Summary
Your LinkedIn Career 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 Career Summary or just give one boring statement about being a graduate seeking employment with a great company. Objective statements are dead. Get creative or at least strategic.
Next month we'll spill our secrets for how college graduates can craft the perfect LinkedIn professional headline.