Even as a new grad without a lot of work experience, you can make LinkedIn work for you to land a job.
When it’s finally time to leave college behind, you might go about joining the real world in one of two ways. You might trade your textbooks for a Eurail pass and gallivant around Europe, eating croissants and taking selfies at the Eiffel Tower. But if you’re a real go-getter, the race for your dream job is on.
Neither choice is wrong, but driven job seekers know that college graduates are plentiful — and jobs are not. They’re ready to do whatever it takes to position themselves for success. And one of the best ways to outshine your competition is by building a high-quality LinkedIn profile before hitting the job market:
LinkedIn: Facebook with a tie and briefcase
Unlike Facebook, where you can share keg stand pictures or your snapshots of eating cement after a missed parkour jump, LinkedIn is where you show the most polished version of yourself: The “you” someone would want to hire.
Think of it this way: LinkedIn is the place for your responsible daytime activities, while Facebook is where you post what you get up to once the sun goes down. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
It’s increasingly common for companies and recruiters to scour the Web for info about potential job candidates, and LinkedIn is one of their go-to sources. A lot of students don’t realize this, so they either don’t have a profile or they ruin it from the outset by plastering (no pun intended) a drunk photo as their profile picture.
Since there aren’t many students paying attention to LinkedIn, those who do make good profiles have a chance to get ahead of the curve when recruiters go hunting for information. Recruiters are out to gather as much data as they can, and a fleshed-out profile can cover a lot of bases.
Standing out from the crowd
There are a number of things you can do to make your LinkedIn profile pop:
- Use a good photo: Make sure you use a professional photo. You’d be surprised by how many students use grainy webcam shots of themselves.
- Make your headline count: Many people use the most visible space on their LinkedIn profile to state their name and job title. Instead, use this area to write a professional headline that will showcase your skills or make you stand out.
- List your experience: Document and describe any relevant experience, including internship and volunteer experience. Explain what you achieved in those roles, not just what your duties were.
- Make yourself “visible”: Recruiters will Google you, and your LinkedIn profile can be a valuable asset for reputation management. Next to the “Edit Profile” button, there is a drop-down menu that allows you to manage your public profile settings.
- Add connections: Connect with people in your desired field. If a recruiter looks at your profile and sees you’re connected to someone who works for the company he is hiring for, he’s more likely to start inquiring about you.
- Follow companies in your industry: Many organizations post job opportunities on their own LinkedIn pages, so this is a good place to begin researching the types of positions available in your industry.
- Master subtlety: A lot of people make the mistake of overselling themselves. You don’t need 50 recommendations attesting to how amazing you are. If you overload your profile, you run the risk of coming off as full of yourself — or desperate.
- Add examples of your work: LinkedIn lets you add photos, videos and slideshow presentations to your profile summary. Impress recruiters by showing what you can actually do.
Essentially, building a strong LinkedIn profile is all about making yourself visible. Headhunters are sick of job boards like Monster, which are flooded with unqualified candidates. LinkedIn allows them to digest a lot of info about candidates quickly and efficiently. But if your profile is incomplete or nonexistent, you’re not giving them a way to find out any info about you.
If you’re on a take-no-prisoners quest to land a job you’ll love, look over your LinkedIn profile and see what you can do to improve. Did you use a photo from a recent beer pong competition? Get a new profile pic. Does your profile include a recommendation from your mom testifying to how great you are? Axe it. Did your ex endorse you for your twerking skills? Make sure that doesn’t see the light of day.
Dress up your LinkedIn profile the same way you’d dress for an interview: professionally but not too aggressively. Remember, it’s hard to overcome a bad first impression — or an unremarkable one. Make the time you’re not spending at the Eiffel Tower worth it.
Stirling Cox is the managing director of AlphaSights USA, a company that connects today’s business leaders with the insight and expertise they need to prosper. The company assists a global client base, including private equity firms, asset managers, strategy consultancies and corporate executives, in making more informed decisions.