What should I include in my LinkedIn profile?
How do I connect with people on LinkedIn?
I have a profile; I have connections...now what?
What should I include in my profile?
Think of your LinkedIn profile as an enhancement of your resume. Your profile goes beyond what a resume can do by providing a venue to showcase examples of your work, communicating your goals as well as your experience, and getting your skills endorsed by your connections.
Some employers limit their searches to those who have 100% complete profiles, so it is worthwhile to focus first on fully developing yours. These are key elements:
A professional-looking photo: Keep the photo cropped to a head and shoulders shot; choose one that is well-lit and doesn’t have a busy background. Make sure it is recent and that you represent yourself appropriately for your industry.
A focused headline: The headline will default to your most recent job title, so unless your ultimate career goal is “Barista at Diversions Café” you’ll probably want to change it to something that better represents you. You have 140 characters to convey either where you are at the moment or where you want to go. If you don’t know what you'd like to do just yet, consider listing your major, i.e. “Psychology Student at University of Puget Sound.”
A well-written summary: Use the summary to communicate the experience you’ve gained, the skills you’ve developed, and where you’re hoping/planning of applying them. You have 2000 characters to express the direction you would like your career to take, and it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills. A bonus: the writing style acceptable on LinkedIn can be less formal than a resume, though you still need to take care with spelling and grammar.
A list of skills and expertise: Use key words to convey the skills you have that an employer could search for. Look at profiles of other people working in your future field to get ideas about what to include. Your connections will have the ability to “endorse” your skills, which provides validation to employers looking at your profile.
A list of experiences: Show your background by listing the experiences you’ve had through internships, part-time jobs, volunteer activities, and campus involvement. Some people simply import their resume, but consider using this opportunity to enhance what your resume shows and describe your time with each experience in the first person using qualitative terms.
At least 3 recommendations: Ask former supervisors or colleagues to provide a recommendation in order to get your profile to 100% complete status.
How do I connect with people on LinkedIn?
There are two main schools of thought about making connections via LinkedIn. The first, advocated by the organization itself, is to connect only with people you already know. The second is to connect with anybody and everybody. Perhaps somewhere in the middle of these two divergent approaches works best for you. Whatever you choose to do, we encourage you to be strategic about how you connect. As a first step it might be more comfortable to connect when you already have an existing relationship. As you reach out to potential connections:
Reach out in stages: Focus on friends and family first—those with whom you have the deepest connections. Next, approach those who have a university affiliation, such as alumni, faculty, staff, or fellow students. After that, seek out those you’ve shared a common experience with, such as people you met while on study abroad or through your part-time job or internship. Then, look for people you may have met through more casual contact, such as volunteer service or through student club involvement.
How you make the request is important: LinkedIn provides a generic message to send with your request and it is worth your time to customize that message for each person. The message doesn’t have to be long—a couple of lines will do—but it should remind the person how they know you and why you’d like to stay connected in a professional capacity.
Here's an example of a message you might send to a fellow student:
We worked on a project together for Dr. Johnson’s class a couple of years ago at Puget Sound, and I saw on your profile that we’re both aiming for the same industry. I’m always looking to reach out to peers in my field and thought it would be good to connect with you. Hope you’re doing well!
Avoid making multiple requests at the same time: LinkedIn makes it possible to connect with people at virtually every opportunity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide the customizable request in all situations. When you first create your account you will have the option to request connections with multiple people you may know who are already part of the system. Instead, take the time to make an individual request from their profile.
Once you’re connected, maintain that connection: Although you won’t want to treat your LinkedIn account like Facebook, you will want to check in regularly and be visible. Share the occasional update about what you’re doing (“Headed to the Tech conference!”) or share something related to your industry (“Read this great article about crowd-sourcing funds today”). Comment when a connection gets a new job, or pass on resources of interest to people in your future field. The reverse is true as well: take the time to respond to people who share things with you.
I have a profile; I have connections…now what?
Once a profile is set up and connections are gathered, many students have wondered what happens next. The point of LinkedIn is to build your network before you need it, so it’s there when you do. The next steps should have two purposes:
Continue growing connections: There is no set number of connections required, but there is a threshold you want to aim for that will open up other options: 30. Once you have 30 connections, you will be able to access LinkedIn.com/alumni, a page that helps you track down alumni and drill down into specific data about career fields, organizations, and locations.
Research future career paths: The millions of people on LinkedIn provide a wealth of information about careers. Use the Advanced People Search on the tool bar to find people by school affiliation, company, industry, location, job title, or even just a key word related to your interests. A search for “baseball” brings up professionals who work in some capacity around baseball, but also those who played the sport in college or have an interest.
Search by job title to find profiles that show the career path it took to reach that role, which can provide insight into possible roles and organizations in the early stages of your career.
Explore companies: Use the Companies tab to explore organizations you find interesting. The insights page provides a wealth of information, including: job titles, job changes, recent departures, and how many people in your network are connected to that organization. It’s a great place to start when you don’t know what you want to do yet.
Join Groups: There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn, and your membership in them is visible on your profile. Alumni groups exist from your university, Greek houses, high schools, scout troops, and even summer camps—and are a good place to find connections.
Groups focused on an industry or career field can provide insight into your future field and an opportunity to learn from more experienced people. When you’re ready to start your job search, consider joining a group in the geographic areas you are targeting.
For more information
LinkedIn provides in-depth information about every facet of the site in their user guide for students.