If you’re new to LinkedIn – like many recent grads – and have spent even a little bit of time playing around with it, perhaps the most glaring thing you may have noticed is that completing your profile seems like a never-ending process. “Geez, how many sections are there?” “Do I really have to fill everything out?” “How much info does LinkedIn really need to know about me, anyway?” There is a purpose behind each section (and subsection) of your LinkedIn profile; whether you decide to complete each one is up to you. If you’re looking at your overall skeleton of a profile and asking yourself (in daunting wonderment) what to tackle first, here are a few suggestions where to begin.
1. The Profile Pic
One of the first things that stand out is the LinkedIn profile picture. Leaving your profile photo blank is not a good idea. According to LinkedIn, your profile is 7 times more likely to be viewed if you have a photo. What kind of photo? A simple head shot will do – but make it professional, not personal. There’s no need for a goofy pic of you with your pet, OR you on the hood of your 1982 Pontiac Trans Am OR making kissy faces in front of your bathroom mirror. Remember this is a professional photo. Don’t follow in these folks:
2. Contact Info and URL
How can folks get in touch with you if you don’t give them basic contact info? LinkedIn has several options to choose from. Users can list their email address, IM, physical address and contact number as well as up to 3 websites including a direct Twitter profile link. I’d also recommend taking advantage of the personalized URL option. Make it as colloquial and visually friendly to the business card as possible (example right). Instead of being stuck with the generic user ID number, customize the URL by simply making it your name such as linkedin.com/in/davidnicola.
To do this, you must first be in “edit mode.” Click on “edit” next to your existing LinkedIn link in the contact section.
On the right hand side of the next page, click on “Customize your public profile URL.” Doing so will open a new small window to edit your direct link. Lop off the existing user numbers and click “Set Custom URL”. Once saved, you can now cut and paste this link into your resume, making it convenient for potential employers to learn more information about you.
LinkedIn has a very large auto-fill library of skills to choose from. This section allows up to 50, but don’t think you need to have 50. Identify and target your core set of skills to best fit your industry and/or experience. When thinking about your proficient traits, consider different skill categories:
Hard Skills – These are the types of specific skills you’ve acquired that are industry-based and can be taught, learned or trained. They represent the minimum amount of essential abilities needed to successfully function in a job. These are often the first set of identifiers that employers use to screen candidates.
Soft Skills – These describe your professional set of core values and interpersonal abilities. They can include characteristics such as honesty, integrity, flexibility, positive attitude, creativity and most importantly, communication – both written and verbal. If a skill you have is not listed on LinkedIn, you can always add it yourself.
Lastly, I believe LinkedIn should not replace your resume but can rather act as a supplement to it, providing an online resource of your skills and experience. There are other profile sections to explore and complete if you choose to do so (Summary, Experience, Education, Volunteer Work, Honors & Awards, etc.). And with anything else, the more time spent learning LinkedIn, the more comfortable you’ll be navigating its other features.
David Nicola has over 15 years of experience in various Human Services fields. He currently serves as the Career Services Director at Laurus College. You can also follow him on Twitter and connect on Google+.
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