Your Internet Presence – Part 5: LinkedIn

Making the most of the leading online professional networking tool.

Guest posted by Lyn Nelson

LinkedIn is the leading online professional networking tool. No matter which industry you’re in, or at which stage in your career, networking is still the #1 way to land a job, and LinkedIn is the best way to leverage your network online.

Whether you’re a LinkedIn beginner or pro (or are still staring wide-eyed at it trying to make sense of the chaos), here are a few tips for why and how LinkedIn can work for you, without eating up your life.

Why LinkedIn?

A positive online presence is better than no online presence
Though you may have cleaned up your Facebook pictures, and you’re sure no one has posted an embarrassing video of you on YouTube, having no Internet presence at all can also be harmful. Hiring managers say that having a good online reputation can positively influence your application. Your LinkedIn profile is a professional profile that you control (no one else can post pictures of you) and it will be your top Google result every time.

Recruiters are on LinkedIn
In Jobvite’s 2012 Social Recruiting Survey, 92% of employers said they use or plan to use social media to recruit candidates.

Many recruiters are scaling back their use of online job boards and turning to LinkedIn to find candidates with specific qualities. You can read comments from specific hiring managers and recruiters in this article from Forbes – Recruiters Say: Avoid LinkedIn At Your Peril.

How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

Start by setting up or updating your profile with these 6 helpful tips:

1. Use a professional photo
It is not mandatory to use a picture on LinkedIn, but it is considered good practice. Recruiters say they are more likely to open your profile if you have a photo. Use or take a professional-looking headshot and keep in mind that your profile picture is about 1 inch squared, and you want people to be able to see your face.

2. Write a concise, catchy headline
The headline appears directly under your name, and should describe something about your job or industry. It could be your actual role, such as “Human Resources Generalist” or something broader, such as “Youth Services Professional.” Your headline will appear in LinkedIn search results along with your name and picture, and it may contribute to a person’s decision whether or not to open your profile.

3. Use industry keywords
Recruiters can use LinkedIn like any search engine when searching for potential candidates. If you want to ensure that your profile is on their list of results, use industry keywords wherever you get the chance!

Tell your story in your Summary
The Summary area of LinkedIn is open to interpretation. Many people choose to use this as they would a Professional Summary category on their resume, in formal language that describes major skills and experience in a few sentences.  Another option I discovered in a presentation by Donna Sweden of Career Folk is to tell a more personal story that helps to show a potential employer that there is a human being behind the resume.

However you choose to use your Summary, you have 2,000 characters to tell your professional story and drop in some keywords!

Keep your education and work profiles updated
When people are searching for connections, they may search based on education and employment fields, in order to find fellow alumni or current or former colleagues.  List only employment and education entries that you would like the public to know about, and through which you would like to make connections. Then, keep those entries up-to-date!

Customize your URL and use it on your marketing tools
Once your profile is complete and ready for public consumption, I recommend that you include a direct URL to your profile on your resume, business or calling cards, in your email signature, and on any other branding documents. However, first you have to make your URL easy to read (and type)!

By default, your direct link to your LinkedIn profile looks something like this:

You can customize your URL to read something easy to remember and look at, such as

Follow these steps to customize your URL:

  • Log in to your LinkedIn account
  • Go to Profile – Edit Profile
  • Go to your Public Profile section and click Edit
  • Scroll down on the right and click “Customize your public profile URL”

Tip: The page you’ve landed on will also allow you to customize your security settings and cherry-pick which parts of your profile are available to the public.

How to Maximize Your Network

It takes 50 connections before you start feeling the networking power of LinkedIn, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t feel like it’s working for you right away. As in person, it’s important to slowly cultivate your relationships in order to use your network when you need it. Begin reaching out to people you know to connect directly with them at “1st degree” connections. You can do this through LinkedIn or by letting people know off-line that you are on LinkedIn and sharing your customized URL.

Recommend people and ask for recommendations
You can recommend people you’ve worked with, and they can submit recommendations to you. Recommendations must be reviewed before being published, so you have complete control over what appears on your profile. Recommendations stay with you as long as you have your profile, and support references or recommendation letters.

Join groups

Find groups based on your interests, associations to which you belong, current or previous employers, schools you attend(ed). Participate in group discussions to help peers by offering your opinions, helping peers by answering their questions, or asking for advice from people in your industry. Having a voice in group discussions is a great way to establish an Internet presence in your field!

Search jobs three ways:

  1. Search jobs officially posted on LinkedIn’s job boards by using the search bar on the top right-hand side of your page and changing the category from People to Jobs
  2. Check in your groups to see if there is a Job Board or if people are posting openings in the discussions
  3. Search unofficial job postings by using the search bar on the top right-hand side of your page and changing the category to Updates. Search by keyword and include the word “job” after your keywords. If anyone has posted an opportunity in their LinkedIn status or Twitter feed, it will show up in these results.

A Few Additional Tips

Make it personal
When you send a connection request to someone, LinkedIn provides a canned invite message that says “I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Don’t use this! Just as you would do so in person, introduce yourself, remind the person how you know each other (if necessary), and ask politely if you may connect.

Don’t let LinkedIn import your email contacts
This function does not just import them, it also sends them an automatic email inviting them to link with you! Exercise control over your network and connect with people individually. When you log into LinkedIn, you may encounter a bright yellow window asking for your email password. This is not a second login to LinkedIn, but the the email import window; you should ignore it and continue to your Profile.  

Be careful when importing your resume
This function can be great if you are starting a brand new profile. It will populate LinkedIn’s fields with information from your resume and let you edit each one, rather than starting from scratch. However, if you’ve already taken the time to populate your own information into LinkedIn, importing your resume will completely override all the good work you’ve done. Don’t let LinkedIn nag you by telling you your profile is not complete – it is if you say it is!

Avoid burning out
If you’re just starting this process, plan out your steps and spend 20 minutes a day setting up your profile and cultivating your network. It is easy to get bogged down in the world of Internet profiles. Work on it a little every day so you feel accomplished, but take a step back so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Lyn Nelson is a career counselor at a college career center.

This post has been updated effective February 24, 2018.

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