The more I talk with people, the more I realize how many students within the College of Business don’t have LinkedIn profiles. My last post talked a lot about social media and ways to protect your online reputation. This post will discuss how you can use LinkedIn to better market yourself to potential employers and how LinkedIn can assist you in your job search.
For starters, you need to tell your story. You want your LinkedIn profile to speak for your experience. This is how people in the business world verify that you are legit. A sharp profile reinforces your qualifications for a job and increases the chances that you might be discovered for one. It’s like your business suit, but online. You always want to keep it pressed and polished to make a good first impression. Having a profile on LinkedIn also helps you rise to the top of search engine results. You never know what Google might find under your name. Test it out, search for your name. What comes up? Is it professional? Would it encourage someone to hire you? Having a LinkedIn profile helps you control that first impression when someone pulls up your name in a search engine.
A 100% complete profile is 40 times more likely to be seen by employers than one that is only 90% complete.
So, how do you get to 100%? You want to include a descriptive headline, as well as a photo for face recognition. Yourheadline is critical as it’s the only customizable personal information people will see of you. When you appear in search results for instance, your name, location and headline will be the only three visible bits. You also want to include at least three past positions, whether they are internships, summer jobs, or campus employment. Include any schools you have been to and put an executive summary of your skills and qualifications. Use your summary to let a bit of your personality come out: you might mention your passions or what you hope to achieve in your career. You definitely want to include your LinkedIn profile URL on your resume, business card, or email signature to encourage people to check you out. All these things make your profile more complete, which in turn lets people know that you are a well-rounded candidate for a job.
The next step is to get connected, the heart of networking. Being connected on LinkedIn has a number of advantages: it keeps you current with your network even as people switch jobs, industries, and locations. Your address book might go out of date as people move around and change email addresses and phone numbers but your LinkedIn contact info will always be fresh because it is updated by your connections. As you approach graduation, the easiest place to start growing your network is an alumni group on LinkedIn. Do a search for “East Carolina University Alumni Association” in the LinkedIn groups directory and then click “join group”. Once you are a part of the group you can contribute to group discussions, post news articles, job search, and reach out to alumni for advice. Friends and family are also a huge part of growing your network. You want to connect with anyone you have a real relationship with whether it’s aunts and uncles, your friends’ parents, or your neighbors. These people all have professional experiences you may benefit from, and maybe more importantly, they have careers built on contacts in all kinds of industries and companies and it’s easy to connect with them. Another way to find connections is to upload your email contacts. Once you upload your contacts you can pick and choose who you want to connect with and it will tell you who’s already on LinkedIn.
Once you get your present yourself in the best way possible and establish connections, you want to build good word. A recommendation is a good measure of your qualifications. People who have enjoyed working with you in the past will want to recommend you to help support your career. Recommendations give potential employees a snapshot of your past and your potential, and they definitely use them to consider the merit of a candidate when hiring. The great thing is that asking your contacts for a recommendation is easy: all you have to do is click “request recommendations” for any position on your profile. From there, you can hand pick the connections who knew you at that job and customize a request to them. You will want to request recommendations from professors, employers, internship directors, or anyone else who can speak to the quality of your work.
How can you stand out from the pack?
There’s always competition for good jobs and you need a little something to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Show off your best work! Applications on LinkedIn are one of the ways you can do just that. If you did a PowerPoint presentation for one of your classes that you are really proud of you can feature that on your profile with Google Presentations or SlideShare. If you have other files like a video or portfolio, PDFs or image files, you can put those on your profile with Box.net. You can even use the WordPress application to add a link to your WordPress blog, if you have one. These and other applications are available by simply clicking “Applications” on your sidebar.
It’s one thing to have a good resume, but to have a LinkedIn profile stacked with all your experience, recommendations from people who have worked with you, and actual files of your work that employers can judge for themselves, that makes a powerful impression. Beyond that, LinkedIn has the amazing ability to make previously unknown connections transparent for you to see. If you want to work for a particular company, check out LinkedIn Companies, a resource that can quickly tell you what employees are in your network, who has recently been hired or promoted, and where people worked before they were hired at that company. This can help you discover the relationships you already have that can lead to a job.
Do you feel ready yet?
Getting your online identity established is an important step in putting yourself out in the professional community and it will help you keep up with the relationships that will help you succeed. So get started today and you will have taken your first steps to professional success!