LinkedIn is a social media platform catered to the development and nurturing of business contacts. It acts as a sort of virtual resume, and every student should be working on polishing his or her profile.
Like any social media platform, there are ways to make the technology work for you and ways you can screw it up. Here is my practical guide to working it on LinkedIn:
Fill out as many sections as you possibly can. Unlike on Facebook, you don’t need to be frugal with your information. Potential employers and networking contacts want to know where you’ve worked, where/what you have studied, and what you’re good at. Use your profile to let them know!
Overload your profile with descriptions. The explanation of your past and present positions should be more general and brief than your resume – for social media purposes, one or two lines is enough.
Potential employers, referrals, and industry connections are viewing your profile. They want to know the basics – what field are you in, and what are your specialties? Bogging your profile down with long-winded discussion about your summer internship can be a deterrent.
Reach out to people in your desired field of work. If you find someone who has a role you find interesting, request to connect with him or her. Finding an industry mentor is incredibly valuable, and could help you out in the future!
Leave the default message in your connection request. It’s impersonal and gives the impression that you can’t be bothered. Especially if you’re reaching out to someone new, make sure you write a few lines describing why you’d like to connect with him or her, and explaining how your relationship could become mutually beneficial.
LinkedIn connections have a unique form of online etiquette. You wouldn’t add someone on Facebook you don’t know (or would you…?) but adding professional connections seems less intrusive. Why? LinkedIn is a representation of your public self, whereas Facebook represents the private self. Your public self needs to be as polished, polite, and professional as possible – leaving a personal note in your connection requests will help achieve that image.
Keep your profile photo current. Like any social media site, your picture becomes the face of your profile.
Be careless with your choice of photo! Full-body photos, party pics, or anything else that looks unprofessional should not be featured on your LinkedIn profile. Save it for Facebook!
Your goal is to look like the most hireable person on the Internet. Jell-o shots, kegstands, or the picture of you in that gorgeous dress you wore to Jim Bob’s for your birthday aren’t going to help you. By choosing a front-facing, smiling, headshot, not only do you seem more professional – you seem more approachable.
Join groups that pertain to your interests and desired field. Groups are a great way to get connected with other people in the industry, learn a bit more about different roles, and get your name out there.
Spam your groups with personal advertisements or unrelated information. Facebook groups are a great place to promote your new EP, spread the word about your launch party, and share funny news articles. LinkedIn groups are not. Think before you post.
It seems like there are a lot of rules for creating the perfect LinkedIn profile but they all work together to accomplish an important purpose: helping you promote yourself in the most professional, polished way you can.
Since each social networking platform provides a different lens through which you are viewed, it can be exhausting to decipher what online etiquette is appropriate on which social media platform. It’s a major time investment to make sure each of your profiles follows each of the various sets of rules, but when your perfectly manicured profile scores you your dream position, it’ll suddenly seem worth it! I promise.
~~~Trish Carnahan is a third-year Hon. Spec. MIT student who wears cowboy boots, is a frequent daydreamer, and is terrified of geese.