How to create the perfect graduate LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is a rare breed of social media that nobody seems to understand until after they graduate. Before then, most people half-heartedly create a profile and then leave it to gather dust in the depths of the internet. Once you have passed all your final exams and moved out of your student house it might be time to blow the cobwebs off your LinkedIn profile and start using it properly.
LinkedIn is a social media platform designed for professionals to discover and connect with each other. If you are further along in your career then you will probably use it to manage your network and gain business opportunities, which is often why it feels mystifying to recent graduates. That’s not to say it isn’t useful for those just starting out in their careers – in fact it could be one of the most important tools you have at your disposal. Here’s how to use LinkedIn to its full advantage:
1. Set time aside for it
When it come to your LinkedIn profile page, you need to see it as an online CV. You would never let your CV loose on a hiring manager if it was only half-filled out, would you? Hiring managers scour LinkedIn to find candidates for roles, so if they come across your profile with no profile picture, a few GCSEs and one stint in a bar on there, then they will probably look elsewhere. Give yourself some time and space to complete your profile all in one go, so that it looks as slick as possible.
“Personally, I find people’s facades on various platforms far more important in the hiring process than their resume. A resume is how a person wants to be perceived, it’s their behavior that is indicative of the values, interests and beliefs that people have, and these are far more important to me when hiring.
So, without being too prescriptive, be considerate of all the places your profile appears in public. Don’t be paranoid, don’t pretend to be something you’re not, don’t endlessly consider “your brand” or curate ideals, but let these fronts become places where people see who you are. Embrace what is possible, show your interests, get involved in things, make it clear who you are and why you are unique. How this manifests itself will vary on the person and social media platform.”
2. Complete all of it
In truth, this is linked to the first point. But it is worth mentioning as a standalone. LinkedIn profiles are time consuming and not that fun to fill out (just being honest!), but you need to complete the whole thing to reap the most benefits. You will only come up on relevant search results if your profile is entirely filled out – including a profile picture, summary headline, university info and all the rest. Do yourself a favour and be as thorough as possible!
3. Choose a good photo
If you are interested in working at corporate companies, then it probably won’t do you any favours to have a cropped picture of you on a night out with glitter on your face as a profile picture. Similarly, a serious expression, plus suit and tie, might not attract startups if that’s what you are going for. Aim for a smile and a simple background to avoid distraction! LinkedIn also lets you upload a cover photo, so have fun picking something that showcases what you are about.
4. Drop keywords in
If you want to come up in searches for particular roles, then you should litter your profile with relevant keywords. Have a look through job specs that interest you and see what sort of language comes up again and again in the section describing desired skills. Then, head to your LinkedIn profile and add some of the keywords that fit your own experience to your skills section. This is a great hack for coming up in recruiter searches. Better yet, ask people to endorse you for them (and offer to endorse back)!
5. Share some posts
Once you are well on your way to a complete profile you should start thinking about the power of the LinkedIn home feed. If you read an article that you find interesting and is related to the career you are aiming for, then don’t hesitate to share it. Being active on LinkedIn shows professionalism and ambition – two traits that are highly favourable to employers.
6. Showcase your work
LinkedIn allows you to upload documents to support your profile, to give it that something extra. If you are looking to enter a profession that will need proof of your work, then you should definitely make use of this feature. For example, if you are interested in content writing roles, then uploading a solid piece of writing makes it easy for hiring managers to pick you over someone else. If you are a designer then you could upload a piece of work that you are particularly proud of, or add a link to your online portfolio.
7. Connect with people
When you are a graduate, and therefore new to the world of networking, you are forgiven for being a bit trigger-happy with the LinkedIn ‘invite to connect’ button. In the early stages of your career you will want to gain contacts quickly, so go ahead and connect with classmates and lecturers from university. Previous employers are good to have on there, as well as anyone you have met in a professional scenario (for example a client you worked with). If you are ever in doubt about inviting to connect, just remember you have no idea what you will end up doing in the next ten years and a contact that you make now has the potential to be very useful in the future.
8. Write a great summary
Your summary is like the personal statement part of your CV. It needs to be attention grabbing, succinct and have personality, without diverging too far from the point. LinkedIn does have a clever auto-summary that fills in when you click on it, but it will probably need some editing to make it sound human. A LinkedIn profile might need to come across professional, but you can draw the line at robotic.
Will Kintish, the UK’s leading authority on business networking skills, knows the value of a great personal statement on LinkedIn:
“My two main tips would be: 1) Without bragging, don’t be modest. So, share everything you are proud of, i.e. your achievements, awards, etc. 2) Make sure the first section of your profile (they used to head it summary) tells the world what you are about. Your loves, your hates, bring out your personality. This is the first section people will read, so make it engaging!”
Once your profile is complete and you have added a few contacts you can relax a bit. Check your feed every so often and like and share things that seem interesting to stay active. Finally, don’t forget to add your LinkedIn URL to your CV (bonus points for figuring out how to personalise it)!