Getting Started on LinkedIn: Advice for Recent Grads

In honor of LinkedIn’s IPO on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, I thought it would be a good time to share some reminders about why the site is valuable to young professionals and how to use it effectively.

As the largest and most vibrant professional social network in the world (100 million members in over 200 countries and counting), LinkedIn provides a wealth of opportunities for personal branding, networking and finding jobs.

As a spokesperson for LinkedIn for the past two years, I’ve learned a lot about how to get the most value out of the site. My biggest piece of advice is this: LinkedIn doesn’t work unless you work it. You must take control of your profile and visit the site frequently to get the most benefit.

Here are some tips for getting started, especially if you’re new to the professional world:

  • Make your profile heading pop. Far too many young professionals insert a generic term such as “Recent graduate” or “Job Seeker” as their LinkedIn profile headline. This is a big mistake. Your profile headline is the first thing people will read on your profile, so you need to think of it as a marketing tool. Be as specific and keyword heavy as you can. For instance: “Honors Marketing Grad from UCONN Seeking Opportunity in Consumer Packaged Goods” or “Recent LSU Grad with Extensive Nonprofit Experience.” For ideas, check out the profile headlines of other recent grads or entry-level employees you admire.
  • Write a professional Summary statement. Your LinkedIn Summary statement should resemble the first few paragraphs of your best-written cover letter — concise and confident about your goals and qualifications. Remember to include all of your experience, including internships, volunteer work, and extra curriculars. You should also include key words and phrases that a recruiter or hiring manager might type into a search engine to find a person like you. The best place to find relevant keywords is by researching the job listings that appeal to you and the LinkedIn profiles of people who currently hold the kinds of positions you want.
  • Display an appropriate photo. Remember that LinkedIn is not Facebook. If you choose to post a photograph on your LinkedIn profile, opt for a professional, high-quality headshot of you alone. You don’t necessarily have to wear a suit, but baseball caps, party photos, cartoon avatars, and glamour shots from last weekend’s formal don’t fit in the professional environment of LinkedIn.
  • Share your (career-related) news. Like other popular social networks, LinkedIn provides the opportunity to share brief status updates with your connections. But again, remember to stick to the professional. I think of my LinkedIn status updates as brief conversations I would have at networking events: “I just read a really interesting article you might enjoy. Here is the link…” or “I’m attending our industry conference next week. Are you going too?”  You never know what nugget might catch someone’s attention and spark a conversation or opportunity.
  • Connect with friends and family. Once you have a great profile, start building your LinkedIn network by uploading your online address book and connecting to friends, relatives, internship colleagues, and professionals you know in the real world. The best networks begin with those you know and trust, and then grow based on personal referrals.
  • Customize your connection requests. As you build your connections on LinkedIn beyond your friends and family, don’t use the generic “I’d like to connect on LinkedIn” note. Instead, always customize your connection requests with a friendly note and, if necessary, a reminder of where you met or what organization you have in common. You’ll impress people with your personal touch.
  • Join groups. To get even more out of LinkedIn, join groups related to your professional interests and communities. I recommend joining your university’s LinkedIn group first, and then search for industry groups related to the career or careers you want to pursue.
  • Don’t be a stranger. Once you have a great profile and have joined some groups, your work is only beginning. Set reminders in your calendar to visit the site on a daily basis to reach out to connections (with informational interview requests, check-in notes, etc.), to read through and comment occasionally on group discussions where you have something to add, to update your status and comment on other people’s updates and to research available job and internship opportunities in the Student Jobs Portal.

For more information about making the most of all of LinkedIn’s features, check out http://learn.linkedin.com and the student video series (featuring the voice of yours truly!) at http://learn.linkedin.com/students.

What other advice do you have about getting started on LinkedIn? Please share!


(Photo credit: Evan Gotlib, my husband who was at the NYSE for the IPO!)

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10 Comments

    Comment: Posted by alaa sayegh on September 8, 2012 at 7:10 am

    You lay it out as simple as it could. im graduated this summer with BA in marketing, along my studies i worked full time as ground cargo officer where i handled different roles; sales , customer service, freight handling, import and export. i recently had the position of social media marketing trainee in a company. after my graduation , i quit my job as cargo officer because i want to work in marketing specifically advertisement. im on job hunt now, how would you recommend i write my headline in linkedin or how to highlight and encourage the recruiters to give me a marketing oppurtunity though i have different work experience. im totally confused and i do appreciate your feedback , thank you in advance

    Pingback: Posted by 40 Best Career Counselor Blogs for the New Graduate « Hire A Maverick on February 21, 2012 at 10:34 am

    [...] Lindsey Pollack: If you’re looking for expert advice on work tailored to your Gen Y sensibilities, you’ll find it here. Focusing on technology, Lindsey Pollack shows grads how to leverage their internet-savvy to find great jobs. Recommended Post: “Getting Started on LinkedIn: Advice for Recent Grads.” [...]

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on June 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    @Eleanor- We all have to start somewhere. You’re right, these tips are not only for recent grads. I’m glad you found my blog helpful.

    Comment: Posted by Eleanor on June 22, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I could use these tips myself–and I’m not a recent grad! :D I just opened a LinkedIn account and am still trying to get the hang of it.

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on June 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    @Kelly – that’s great! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Comment: Posted by Kelly Austin on June 14, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Great points, Lindsey!

    I’m getting a lot of clients through LI. I’m sure newly grads can get jobs/clients just by following your advice.

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on June 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    @Kate – very good point, thanks for adding!
    Lindsey

    Comment: Posted by Kate on June 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I’d like to point out that your point “upload your address book” should be amended to say, only connect with people that you actually know. Last week, I got a request to connect from someone I couldn’t place, and the email came to an info@… email address that I use for screening mails at work. It turned out to be a request from someone who had applied to a job I posted months ago and hadn’t even made it to the phone interview round. (And I only knew that because I save every email.) So, young grads, don’t just dump your address book and add everyone you’ve ever emailed. Just ask the people you know, or it could get awkward.

    Comment: Posted by Lindsey Pollak on May 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    @Brian – thanks for the nice comment! You might also be interested in the series of training videos I recorded for LinkedIn at: http://learn.linkedin.com/students.
    Lindsey

    Comment: Posted by Brian Cormack Carr on May 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for posting this – I’m getting more requests from clients for info on how to use social media (particularly Linked In) effectively. This is the best article on the subject tailored to grads. Will be sharing!

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