LinkedIn 101: A student guide
January 27, 2015
With the spring semester underway, career fair season is in full swing. Thus, networking for internships and job opportunities is crucial. While Twitter and Facebook are social media platforms that can connect students with potential employers — LinkedIn’s sole mission is to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Shail Shah, senior in LAS, explained that while he’s had his LinkedIn profile since his freshman year, he said he believes LinkedIn is becoming more and more popular within the corporate community.
LinkedIn has the networking aspect that Facebook has, but focuses more toward where people are going, as well as where they have been in terms of career and educational experience.
Emily Wickstrom Neal, assistant director at the Career Center, said that LinkedIn allows students to start building a network of connections.
“You can connect with people that you know, who maybe (are) in your interested industry, or who can help you professionally, or people who have similar interests to you,” she said. “It also gets students under the mindset of starting their professional information online.”
Below are some key pieces of advice from experienced LinkedIn users on campus:
One of the first sections that a student will see upon viewing a LinkedIn profile is the user’s profile photo.
However, Shah said he notices that students don’t always take advantage of this feature.
“I see a lot of people who are trying to connect with me who are just students … but they don’t have profile pictures,” Shah said.
However, Jessica Hogue, director of Media Career Services, wrote in an email that wearing the right attire in the picture can make all the difference.
“Use something that shows your personality and the type of job that you are interested in obtaining,” she said.
For example, Hogue explained that students should wear a suit if potential employers require a job that necessitates wearing a suit, or wearing more casual attire if the job is more relaxed. Neal also added that a clear, professional headshot is effective, along with a smile.
“You look more approachable, you look friendly, and you just look more like somebody that somebody else would want to work with if you’re smiling,” she said.
Though providing a name may seem obvious, Hogue said students should choose what they prefer to be called, but still remain professional.
“Be sure to use what you have on your resume, which should be what you use regularly, so that you are searchable,” she said.
Keeping consistency throughout a resume and profile also allow others to search possible candidates and maintain uniformity, she said.
The headline is located below the name on the profile.
While Hogue explained that ‘Student at University of Illinois’ acts as a sort of default for most students, she said it does not explain what a student’s career goals are for the future.
Hogue said, “go for something like ‘Creative Thinker,’ ‘Problem Solver,’ ‘Team Player,’ ‘Future Leader in Advertising,’ (something) that describes your qualities.”
Neal also stressed the importance of being specific in the headline as well.
“Sometimes employers when they’re looking for interns or people or students to connect with, they’ll search for (example), ‘Illinois Economics major’ … so you want to make sure that you show up in those searches.”
Summary and Endorsements:
Hogue explained that the summary section is for telling potential employers about skills, as well as what makes the candidate hirable. She said that students, “use this section to ‘sell’ yourself; you need to be marketable to a future employer.”
Neal further said that students should showcase their strengths, as well as what they are interested in.
“If you want to call to action … you can say what you’re interested in, if you’re looking for internships or full-time work, what your top skills are, or if you have specific experiences from the past,” she said.
Shah added that the endorsements section on the profile, which displays a candidate’s skills, also helps employers further verify the summary.
“(The endorsements section) makes you more valuable, because you have all of these people vouching for you to say that ‘you are very good at this skill,” Shah said.
Hogue explained that while the headline should focus more on what a candidate wishes to become, the education section is the proper section to display schooling.
“Be sure that (schools) show up as you prefer them to as they are at the top of your profile page,” Hogue said.
She also explained that while LinkedIn defaults to the most recent education, these can be edited and customized. Shah explained that displaying all educational experiences allows for everyone to be able to take notice, especially “if you didn’t have that face-to-face interaction.”
While these sections are just a few bits of advice on starting a profile, Hogue encouraged students to look into the University’s LinkedIn page as a resource to finding other students and alumni.
Neal explained that the Career Center also has drop-in hours Monday through Friday, and offers appointments for more advanced questions.
Shah added that a newer feature that he finds helpful is a notification system in which LinkedIn also notifies users who is looking at their profile. Hogue also said that career services offices within a college allow drop-in hours that can be helpful when starting a profile.
“It is extremely important for students to use LinkedIn,” Hogue said. “And do so well. It is not enough to have an incomplete profile out there; students need to have complete profiles and be active on the site.”
Victoria can be reached at [email protected]