LinkedIn for Grads – How to Optimize Your Page for the Perfect Career

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Senior Year!!  Your hard work is about to payoff; your degree is within your grasp and your career is about to launch.  OK, now what?  What can you do to improve your opportunities for a good career trajectory?

Short answer: social media.  Caveat: NOT Facebook!

For those of you who may not be familiar with the third most popular social media network, LinkedIn is a business-focused network site for professionals to connect and interact and for companies to recruit employees.  As the network expands daily, LinkedIn has become THE business network for professionals of all stripes from all industries.  To ignore this site would limit your career opportunities.

Like Facebook, LinkedIn has many options available to allow users to stand out and be noticed.  Here are some helpful tips to enhance your online presence and make your LinkedIn page more impactful:

Customize your LinkedIn Profile URL.

This will certainly make your link more accessible and it looks better on your resume.  There are several online resources to step you through the process.

Add a professional photo.

This is not a snapshot in front of the dorm; this is typically a formal headshot (although some can get away with a little ‘personality’ in their pic, it is best to start with a good headshot).  As a possible job applicant, you want your best appearance to be screened by HR as they sort through the online profiles (and be certain that nearly all employers do an internet screen of applicants!).  Also, LinkedIn has added a background photo to customize and improve the look and feel of your page.  Again, treat this with care as this is a professional network (don’t post your party pics!]

Complete and organize your profile.

Users have the option of personalizing their profile.  Use this to your advantage by ordering your profile elements in a meaningful way.  If you are thin in an area, move it to the bottom.  Conversely, place your strengths at the top (many people only read the first few items – make them the best ones).  Make sure your profile is complete and includes all relevant activities/interests.

Use key terms in your profile.

A form of ‘search engine optimization’ for your Profile will cause you to be found in more searches.  Make sure your strengths, interests and skills are included in your primary profile comment.

Make sure your profile is public.

Settings will guide you through privacy and public settings.  This site is designed for publicity; make sure you are available to anyone.

Add connections as often as possible.

The idea is that connections will lead to new connections.  Networking is a critical part of any career path.  LinkedIn continually recommends contacts; even if you are not sure of who someone is, a quick view of their profile will give you a good indication of their potential value to your network.  Do not ignore 2nd and 3rd level connections (“friend of a friend”) as these connections can be valuable.

Add skills and seek endorsements.

When you start out, these may be sparse.  As you receive endorsements for various skills, these will act as recommendations and references to be considered by a potential employer.  Don’t be bashful about adding skills and requesting endorsements – this is the site to showcase your abilities.

Join Groups.

LinkedIn is full of affinity groups (like-minded professionals who share information within specific environments).  Multiple group memberships reflect a variety of interests and expand your network (which is the big idea).

Update your status.

Not like Facebook (with inane random thoughts), present your network with relevant, meaningful updates that reflect maturity, discernment and business acumen.  Keep your status as current as possible – remember, status updates and profile changes are reflected in the news stream.

Write articles.

You should be equipped with ‘book knowledge’ about your field of study, now present what you have learned with short, topical essays that introduce new ideas, expand on existing ideas or offer new applications for current thoughts.  This is another opportunity to make your presence known within the network.

Share your status updates on Twitter and Instagram.

Twitter will limit your data input, so you may add a brief note and the link to your profile.  This will expand your network by ensuring that your Twitter followers and Instagram network know you are on LinkedIn (which expands your network).

Add a Profile Badge to your other website(s).

By adding a badge (link) for your LinkedIn page to your other online locales (blog, family homepage, etc.), you will market yourself to your existing network.

Understand that this is not necessarily a “get the most contacts” game; LinkedIn provides the opportunity to connect with others a professional level whom you would not otherwise meet.  It is wise to be prudent in building your network strategically.  This does not mean that you can’t have contacts on alternative industries, it means that your should have a general purpose for reaching across the fence when building your network.  It is also good to remember that your presence is supposed to enhance the networks of other professionals – there is also an expectation of mutual benefit to the site.  Please treat the site (and your profile) accordingly.

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