By now you’ve heard it from everyone: your sister, your academic adviser, your next-door neighbor, and the guy who cuts your hair – you have to be on LinkedIn! But what does “being on LinkedIn” mean? And more specifically, just how much time is this going to take out of your precious non-school/work hours?
The good news: although being on LinkedIn is pretty crucial to your career, you don’t have to invest a lot of time in order to get most of the site’s benefits. In fact, “being on LinkedIn” at its most basic level just means you have a profile (which can be seen by the public) on the site.
Following is a quick cheat-sheet to get you up and running on LinkedIn as quickly and as painlessly as possible, plus some “take it to the next level” coaching should you want to become a LinkedIn black-belt.
Your profile is your starting point. This is where you tell the world (that is, recruiters and potential employers) how amazing you are. Think of it as your resume on steroids, where you have more room to expand on your value, your contributions, and your passions and interests. Some key points about your profile:
- Make sure you provide a “tagline.” This is a short (perhaps five to ten words) description that encapsulates what you want people to think of when they look you up online. The tagline appears directly under your name in your profile, so immediately jumps out at the reader.
- Make sure your summary showcases your strengths in business language. Likened to an “elevator speech,” your summary is a couple of sentences that describe your expertise and background. If you’re just starting out in your career, you might want to describe your career interests, e.g., “Have focused on productivity among culturally-diverse work teams in my nursing administration coursework and researched methods for creating high-performing teams.” Also, here is where you want to make sure to use the language (“keywords”) employers are likely to use to find someone with your skills. For example, if healthcare analytics and informatics is the term people use in your field of interest, make sure you’ve included it in your summary.
- Include a photograph. Don’t feel like your photo needs to be an expensive studio job, but do look professional and trustworthy. Also, smile and look friendly!
- Complete as many elements of your profile as you can. For instance, add volunteer commitments, projects, skills and endorsements (type in some of your professional skills and LinkedIn will suggest the key terms to choose), your education, your interests, organizations you belong to, and causes you care about. These elements will round you out for a prospective employer, and also show how engaged you are with the profession, your community, and the world at large.
How to find and edit your profile
Once you’ve signed onto LinkedIn (if you don’t have an account, it’s a simple and free process to set one up at www.LinkedIn.com), click on the “Profile” tab at the top of the page, then “Edit Profile” from the drop-down menu. There you’ll see all of the sections to fill in and/or edit. Simply hover over a given area to bring up the edit option ( a pencil icon), and click on the pencil. You can then write or paste content directly into each section.
Assume that figuring out the system and then inputting your information may take you about two to three hours – the more work you’ve done ahead of time (i.e. pulling info from your resume which you can copy and paste) the faster it will go.
But also assume that the biggest challenge may be deciding what to say in your summary. A good way to tackle this is to look at the summaries of other people you admire (or those with careers you aspire to). This will give you a strong starting point for shaping your own summary with your key strengths.
And by the way, don’t feel bad if you’re one of those people who has a profile that currently just has your name and perhaps an employer – we’ve all been there!
Becoming a black-belt
When you have more time to invest, LinkedIn can provide an incredible boost to your career opportunities in many ways: by making you and your professional reputation (brand) much more visible to others, by helping you expand your professional network, by bringing you to the attention of recruiters, and by providing access to a wealth of job postings. And that’s just for starters. We’ll explore those options in more detail in future posts.
But for right now, if all you do is put the time into creating a solid profile, you’ll have already taken a huge step toward putting yourself in the path of opportunity. Let your LinkedIn profile market you to potential employers – so you can be studying, working, parenting, or perhaps even kicking back with friends instead?