Online social networks have become increasingly significant for professionals searching for employment opportunities and accruing social capital, but the recent graduates and young professionals who need these networks the most usually receive the least traffic from potential employers. I have compiled eight recommendations for the content of LinkedIn profiles and the activities of highly-visible users that can help you increase the amount of visitors you receive and the quality of the matches between your own objectives and those of your viewers.
- Upload a professional photograph for your profile. LinkedIn members not only feel more comfortable when they know how you look while reading your qualifications but also associate photographs with the amount of time and effort users invest into their profiles. Profiles without pictures often seem incomplete, and inappropriate photographs (including pictures with unprofessional clothes, alcohol and drugs, and poor resolutions) will drastically reduce your chance of receiving meaningful opportunities from your LinkedIn account.
- Write a profile summary. You should provide a general summary for your LinkedIn profile for the same reasons you should write summaries for your resume: the summary will help prospective employers determine whether or not you match the requirements of their available positions and identify your main qualifications. This summary lets your audience scan your LinkedIn profile more quickly and efficiently, which means more viewers will retain information about your skills and experience and therefore increases the likelihood these viewers will read your entire profile.
- Provide links for projects and portfolios. If you have programming projects, writing samples, professional websites, applications, or other relevant work archived online using GitHub, Scribd, etc., then post the links for these projects where your viewers can easily notice and access them. While your LinkedIn profile should definitely provide extensive descriptions of your skills and work experience, many potential employers would rather evaluate the quality of your portfolio themselves than read your bullet-points.
- Organize the sections of your profile carefully. Your LinkedIn profile will always start with your summary, but the organization of its other sections will vary between fields and levels of experience. Recent graduates might open with their educational background and then describe relevant work experience while LinkedIn members with years of professional experience usually list their degrees near the end of their profiles. Engineers, computer scientists, and journalists may set their project sections near the “fold” where users scroll for additional content so potential employers will focus upon their past work. Researchers often place their publication histories immediately after their work experience so they can position themselves for high-prestige academic appointments. Consider the priorities of your intended audience and your own career objectives before you organize your profile.
- Discuss your qualifications. LinkedIn profiles commonly present short and poorly-formatted descriptions of the education and employment records of their users, and you can differentiate yourself from your competition with clear descriptions of your value-added. Your LinkedIn profile should fall somewhere between the length of a two-page resume and a curriculum vitae; you should not include details which unnecessarily clutter your profile but should describe the personnel and budgets you have managed, the projects you have completed, the awards you have received, the promotions you have secured, etc. (see my guide for resumes for more information about the importance of “value-added” bullets).
- Share endorsements and recommendations. When you exchange recommendations and skills endorsements with your connections, they will often visit your profile and return the favor. These visits subtly reinforce your network and may produce employment and internship opportunities if your connections notice any overlap between your skills and experience and those of the positions available within their parent organizations. Many professionals locate entry-level jobs from their previous connections, and even momentary likes for status updates will noticeably increase your online visibility during your job search.
- Post comments frequently. You can attract more viewers for your LinkedIn profile if you regularly write posts and status updates for your network. These comments will not only remind your network about your current work and career trajectory but also make you seem more involved within the professional community. You can further increase the value of your posts once you affiliate yourself with organizations where you have studied and worked and connected with online communities which reflect your interests: for example, I highly recommend the Higher Education and Ted: Ideas Worth Spreading discussion groups for education professionals.
- Add new connections whenever you can. The more connections you make for your profile, the more potential employers and collaborators will view your qualifications. You should add classmates, coworkers, friends, and even acquaintances for your profile if you believe you can responsibly vouch for their competence. You need not have worked with every member of your LinkedIn network, but you should have some information about how well your connections perform their responsibilities within the workplace. This is especially important for any connections you endorse; seek out many connections, but only recommend folks you know and trust.
Until next time (my posting schedule has slipped somewhat because of my job and my applications for graduate school), I hope you all have productive and rewarding weeks!