Why should graduates and students use LinkedIn?
LinkedIn has over 810 million users globally and is constantly growing. It is becoming the go-to tool for recruitment, with over 57 million companies hosting more than 15 million active job listings. 87% of recruiters and hiring managers actively use the platform in their search to find potential candidates. To date, more than 35 million individuals have achieved success in their job search through a LinkedIn connection. It’s not just a platform for the professionally established, graduates that don’t utilize LinkedIn risk missing out on career opportunities.
LinkedIn profiles go beyond a simple digital resume and the connections offered through the platform can provide insight, advice, and guidance during the job search and throughout a career. It’s a dedicated platform for keeping a record of digital credentials, certifications, qualifications, and competencies while making it easy to network with peers and subject matter experts within a target industry. Even if the goal is not to seek or gain employment, LinkedIn is an excellent platform to exchange ideas, get involved in discussions, and keep up to date with sector trends, developments, and discoveries.
What should be included on a LinkedIn profile?
There are a number of different sections on a LinkedIn profile that should be completed to ensure effective optimization. The more complete a profile is, the higher chance there is it will be found by potential employers. Unlike a resume or CV, LinkedIn profiles don’t need to be tailored to a specific role or to a specific employer. Instead, a LinkedIn profile is a tool for providing a better, more complete picture of the job seeker, graduate, or professional.
Name, Headline, Images, and URL
This section is fairly easy to complete and should be filled in as a minimum as this section is the first part of a profile that searchers, recruiters, and third-parties will see. The headline should be treated like a short bio and in a few words, be used to describe who you are, your current role or subject of study, what you’re interested in, and what you want to achieve. It’s possible to customize the URL your profile is linked from and although isn’t a necessity, should be easily searchable, short and snappy, and suitable for a professional setting.
The chosen images are also important for searchability. LinkedIn accounts with profile pictures receive up to 14x more views than those without. Profile pictures don’t need to be professional headshot quality but equally shouldn’t be pixelated beyond recognition or show you in a non-professional way. The recommended image size for profile pictures is 400x400px and the file size should be smaller than 8MB. LinkedIn profiles also offer a cover or background image which can be used to reflect interests, passions, ambitions, or imagery related to your industry, sector, or employment. Cover images should be 1584x396 px in size with a file size no larger than 8MB. They can be easily created in design tools such as Canva, which has a number of templates to help users get started.
The About Summary appears below the name and headline section of a profile and is where individuals can include necessary supporting information, achievements they are most proud of, skills they have earned throughout their journey, and other professional background details. The write-up should read as though you were introducing yourself during a professional networking event, focus on your personal achievements and greatest strengths, but keep it short and engaging.
Experience and Education
The Experience and Education sections are focused on detailing your work experience and educational history. When completing the experience section, it’s not necessary to detail every job you’ve ever worked, although you should at least include the title, employer or organization, the length of time in that role, and a brief description of the role responsibilities. Even jobs that are outside the target industry can lead to valuable soft skills and transferable skills that can entice recruiters to learn more. Include more detail for roles that led to the most experience or accomplishments, mention specific achievements and the results that you gained. Ensure the given information is useful, easy to read, and makes you stand out amongst candidates with similar work history. There is also space to upload relevant media including images, videos, PowerPoint presentation slides, documents, and links to external resources such as websites. If there are gaps in your employment history, try to include details of what you did in that time and any specific skills or knowledge you learnt.
Some individuals choose to use the experience section to also include volunteering experiences, positions of responsibility, and extracurricular activities. There are dedicated sections for adding this information which helps to break up a profile and make it easy to find the most relevant information.
The Education section is similar to structuring educational history on a CV or resume and displays qualifications in reverse chronological order. Degrees are of the utmost importance on a LinkedIn profile and should include details of specific modules, your dissertation and scores, what and where you studied, and the degree classification. Pre-university or college education such as high school diplomas or GCSEs don’t carry as much importance on a LinkedIn profile but can be included to provide a clearer picture of the individual.
The skills section of your profile is where to list key skills, competencies, traits, and proficiencies. Make sure not to flood the skills section with every skill you’ve ever earned. Instead pick between five to ten that you believe are the most important and best reflect your abilities. Consider the industry you are in or the target industry you are trying to enter and what skills are most valuable to recruiters. If you are including soft skills or language skills, consider how they are best applied. For example, are you proficient enough in certain languages that you can offer, or have experience in offering translation services. Many of your skills are going to be covered in dedicated sections so it’s important to carefully pick the most desired skills you know recruiters are looking for. Skills can also be endorsed by connections, similar to liking a post on Facebook. Skill endorsements are the recognition of demonstrable skills from colleagues, peers, and other professionals in the field.
LinkedIn Skill Assessments Feature
Licenses and Certifications
The licenses and certifications section on a LinkedIn profile are where digital credentials such as digital badges and digital certificates are added. Certifications that are awarded as digital credentials provide greater detail about a user’s capabilities compared to LinkedIn skill badges. The added certifications are linked to the dedicated digital credential page which provides space for evidence of demonstrable skills, exam scores, application of knowledge, transcripts, and more. It also contains information about the certification program or course and the issuing organization. This section is used to showcase earned skill sets and level of proficiency for hiring managers and recruiters. Keep this section up to date with new skills and certifications as you earn them, not only does it serve as a record of professional development but it shows a passion for continuous learning.
Don’t forget to also share newly achieved certifications and credentials to the LinkedIn feed. This provides a great way to start conversations around further opportunities for professional development when entering a specific industry and particular skills that recruiters are looking for. It also serves as a way to network with peers seeking similar certifications, increases profile visibility during recruiter searches, and allows you to celebrate your accomplishment with your connections.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool for students and graduates that want to create a professional record of their education, experiences, ambitions, and ongoing development. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it tool but instead a way to showcase and celebrate new experiences, gained skills, and acquired knowledge throughout a career. A well optimized profile not only helps to boost visibility of job seekers but makes it easier to connect with past colleagues and peers to grow your professional network. Make sure to review the profile, or have a friend or peer review it, before pushing it out to potential employers to catch any errors and get a second opinion on the included detail.
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