LinkedIn is the largest social media tool dedicated exclusively to professional networking. It is also the college student and job seeker's most powerful tool in researching and identifying companies that match their career interests. Here are some of the rules of the road for getting the most from the website.
Take a professional profile picture. It can be fun to play "Guess who is cut out of this picture?" But if you want to be taken seriously, you need a picture that shows you in a professional light. According to research from LinkedIn Recruiter, users are 40 percent more likely to engage with a profile that has a picture than one without. Successful pictures are close up, clear and display an approachable person who looks like he fits into the industry for which he is applying. You can take a decent headshot with a smart phone or camera and upload to your profile, just remember to keep the file size to a maximum of 4 MB.
Pick an industry. Choosing the correct industry helps employers find you. In an effort to be helpful, the website will often select an industry for you based on other information you may have provided. Double check the industry default and make sure it matches with the roles you are most interested in.
Make good use of location. LinkedIn may select a location based on data that you may have already provided. However, make sure that the location on your profile reflects where you would like to work. Often while in college, you may live in one place but be in search of work in another area. Good use of location helps recruiters and hiring authorities find your profile.
Peruse your privacy settings. LinkedIn has many settings that allow you to share more or less with your immediate connections as well as the public. Do you want your network to know every time you make a profile change? Do you want your contacts to be visible to anyone who visits your profile? Do you want to stop receiving messages about business deals? All of these settings can be changed in the Privacy & Settings menu.
Complete your profile. LinkedIn connections stem from the activities and experiences you list. The more developed your profile is, the more access you have to connect with LinkedIn members and their networks.
Review. Once you have completed your profile, review it carefully for common mistakes. Misspellings, incorrect capitalization, poor grammar and excessive industry lingo are often LinkedIn profile pitfalls. Write Summary and Experience descriptions in clear and concise sentences. You can be more conversational than you may be in a résumé but, make sure to convey who you are and the value of connecting with you.
Invite – inclusively. Since LinkedIn is not a place to share personal details of your weekend or pictures of your kids on Halloween, it's OK to cast your LinkedIn net wider than you would for Facebook. Review all of the activities you listed above and think of everyone you knew through those experiences. If you had a positive relationship, you could offer a to connect. LinkedIn employs the "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon" principle – so the more people to whom you are connected, the more second and third degree connections you're able to see. There is a direct correlation between the research power of LinkedIn and the number of connections you have.
Engage. LinkedIn offers many ways to engage with and support the activity of others. Endorsements, recommendations and liking updates all allow you to acknowledge the efforts and skills of your connections. Relationships, both via social media and in-person, work best when people offer two-way exchanges. If you take the opportunity to assist others, you will find that they will be more likely to support you with an introduction or endorsement when you need help.
Millions of users have LinkedIn profiles, but few actually take advantage of all the network has to offer. If you spend the time upfront to create a complete and professional profile, you will greatly increase your chances of finding what you need and for others to find you.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.