It used to be that your résumé was just a physical piece of paper you literally handed out to potential employers. But today, paper is passé and pixels are all the rage.
I’m talking, of course, about LinkedIn, the social media giant that has changed the way we think of résumés, as well as the way we find our next (or first!) jobs.
LinkedIn is a great place to showcase who you are and what you love to do. In today’s competitive job market, it’s imperative to have a robust, impressive LinkedIn profile which will wow potential employers and get you that oh-so-important first interview.
According to Business Insider, “94 percent of recruiters use social media, in particular LinkedIn, to fill open positions," and “77 percent of LinkedIn users said that it helped them research people and companies," which is a vital part of landing that all-important job interview.
If you really want to take advantage of LinkedIn to showcase your outstanding skills and qualities, the first thing you have to do is build an impressive profile. LinkedIn’s profile interface is the most comprehensive of any social site. In addition to providing room for all the information you would normally put on a traditional résumé or C.V., it also allows you to add interactive features like hyperlinks and video, which can really help you strut your stuff for potential employers.
The Contact Overview is like a snapshot of your profile. One of the most important parts of this section is the headline or tagline, where most people put their current job title and company name. But even if you don’t have a job yet, you should fill this space with something attention-getting.
You could be creative and put a favorite quote or lyric from a song, if it spoke to who you are and what your career goals might be. Or you can spell out who you are to potential employers, saying something like “Professional Hard-Worker with a Drive to Succeed" or “Lifelong Learner with a Passion for Helping Others." The headline is a searchable field, so make sure you come up with a phrase that will attract the kinds of people with whom you want to connect.
The Summary section gives you a little more space to talk about yourself. Use this section to describe any valuable experience, skills, achievements, and anything else that makes you stand out from the crowd and seem like a valuable future employee.
Tip: separate your Summary into subsections with snappy headers such as “Specialties" or “Achievements"). If you have a great website, blog, or links to other impressive online achievements, this is the place to brag about them.
The Recommendation section is one of the most important parts of your LinkedIn profile. In our socially connected world, people want to know what good things others have to say about you. Reach out to reputable people you trust and ask them to write a recommendation for you.
Approach your teachers, coaches, neighbors, current and former employers. The more you can add to this section, the better.
Tip: Recommend others on their profiles and you might find they’re likely to return the favor.
The remaining sections — Experience, Honors and Awards, Skills, Education — are similar to your traditional résumé. The only difference here is the Skills section, which is built by other people endorsing you for skills based on their past experiences with you. This gives potential employers a chance to see what others consider to be your best skills and talents.
In addition to completing the main sections, there are a few other things you’ll want to pay attention to when creating your LinkedIn profile.
On other social media sites it’s fine to use a fun or funny image of yourself to show off your personality. On LinkedIn, however, it’s best to choose a more professional-type photo. If you’re a recent college or graduate school grad, your senior photo might be an appropriate option. If you don’t have a good headshot, having a professional photographer take one might be a smart investment. Or, ask a friend with a good camera to do the honors.
Today’s employers want doers. They want people who lead and take action. Run for your local school board. Volunteer to help organize a community event. Teach a course at a community college. Look for ways you can be an active leader and then highlight these roles on your LinkedIn profile. After all, this isn’t the place to be humble. Be proud of your involvement and let others know you’re a doer!
Once your profile is pretty much complete, start searching for and joining groups which interest you. Search your school’s name and see what groups pop up. Plug in your various interests, your hometown, and things you want to learn more about. Belonging to several groups shows that you’re active and that you enjoy connecting and learning from others.
Once your profile is complete, start reaching out and “linking" up with people who can help you get where you want to be, those who might work in your field, have the job you want, or share similar interests with you. After someone accepts your request to connect, thank that person and start a dialogue. Ask for advice. Show that you’re eager to learn and that you’re willing to put the time in to succeed. After all, LinkedIn, like any other social media resource, is about building strong, authentic relationships which will pay dividends down the road.
Who knows? Maybe some day down the road others will want to connect with you on LinkedIn to tap your knowledge and expertise.