I don’t want to speak for everyone, but as a recent graduate, I spend more time on LinkedIn than on any other social media site.
It is a hub for young and experienced professionals alike, to both stay informed about world news as well as about industries, professions, organizations and people. It can also be a great place to look for work, make connections and share thoughts and ideas. I am a strong believer that every new graduate should have a LinkedIn profile, even if you have a job.
I created my profile in my final year of university, and it was not very polished at all for a pretty long time. But once I polished it up, I kid you not, I got a formal job offer within the same month. I’m going to walk through the different sections of your LinkedIn profile and give some little tips that helped me:
Your Profile Photo
This is the part that took me the longest to find the motivation to do, although I find it’s one of the most important parts. Your LinkedIn photo is the first thing that people see, and as much as we don’t want to admit it, it can make or break you. If your photo is a selfie you took in 2013, chances are that hiring managers may not take you seriously. The best profile photo is one that shows your face clearly, has minimal distractions and isn’t blurry, and in which you look polished yourself.
If you never had a headshot taken for school, I would suggest dressing up in at least business casual, finding a neutral background, and getting a friend to take a few pictures of you. Often you can also find photographers online that are looking for models to build up their portfolios, if you really want to stand out. Smile (it’s not a mugshot) and try and keep your makeup and hair neutral. It’s not a beauty contest – it’s about looking like someone who knows what they’re doing, and not a university student eating leftover pasta at the library in sweatpants. As a recent graduate with little to no experience, you have to make sure you’re always presenting your best self in front of your professional network.
If you’re unemployed, the best headline would be ‘Recent (insert program name here) graduate’. This shows that you have the education and you’re now looking for the experience. If you have a job, full-time or part-time but you’re looking for another, I would write the title of your position in your headline. If you really feel like it isn’t relevant at all, then you can do the first headline suggestion – it’s up to you.
Everyone has different opinions on the summary, and really, it’s open to your creativity. I’ve seen some written in the third person that I enjoyed; I’ve seen some written like a short story about the person’s life which displayed their interests and told us a bit about their personality.
With regards to summary, I’m personally a minimalist. I like to describe my professional experience in one sentence, what I think my biggest strengths are, and then a sentence about my interests. This way, I don’t risk boring or losing the reader, and if you want to learn more about me, you can view my profile or send me a message.
Here is my current LinkedIn summary:
An Honours Bachelor of Commerce graduate with extensive financial services experience and a proven track record of leadership, teamwork and communication.
I am always looking to make new professional acquaintances. Reach out if you’d like to talk business, strategy or cross-cultural diversity. I also run a blog for recent graduates, linked below!
Experience and Volunteering
As a recent graduate with little to no relevant work experience, it’s acceptable to put all your experience on your profile. When you get a bit more experience, I would remove the roles which were more irrelevant to your career path, to declutter your page and bring attention to the important stuff.
Make sure you put in your volunteer work and extra-curricular clubs you were in during university or college! These are not overlooked, and most hiring managers will ask about them, because they don’t expect you to have been a consultant at Deloitte for 5 years during your time at school.
I would also write a couple sentences describing the work you did in the roles you were in and some key successes. If you were in a case competition, for example, point out that you came in second place, and don’t shy away from adding a picture from your awards ceremony, because you can link media as well!
Put in all the places you received a formal education, including if you studied abroad or if you got a college diploma on the side to specialize in a certain skill. Jobs come and go but education is forever.
Add all your skills! Don’t be afraid to have a bunch on there, because either way, only a few will be showcased right on your profile, unless a hiring manager goes in and scrolls through the rest. Endorse your friends and colleagues and they will do the same for you. Many roles have specific skill requirements and the skills section also tells people more about you as a person, your strengths and what you bring to the table.
As a recent graduate, it’s great to add courses that you took in university that are relevant to the roles you’re applying for and the industry you want to be in. For example, if you want to be an accountant, you may want to put ‘Managerial Accounting’, ‘Financial Accounting’, ‘Introduction to Auditing’, etc.. This further showcases that you have the theoretical experience needed to do your job.
I also condone putting all the languages that you speak on your profile. I got my current job because I had put in my profile that I am fluent in French, and a recruiter reached out to me for a bilingual position that suited my skills.
You can also add test scores, publications, awards, and projects you’ve worked on. All of these can make your profile that much shinier and get your best self on display.
Don’t forget to follow companies and organizations you support and admire in order to see their posts on your timeline, which may include job postings. You can also ask previous mentors or colleagues to write a recommendation for you which would be posted on your profile and give you even more credibility. There are so many things you can do on LinkedIn to brand yourself and put your best foot forward, so use the opportunity and polish up!