Your LinkedIn Profile: 10 Essentials for Students & New Grads

OK students and recent graduates – how overwhelmed are you by the litany of information, articles, tips, etc. you receive about do’s and don’ts of your LinkedIn profile? Total information overload, right? So this post is not meant to add to that chaos, but instead cut through the clutter and tell you – rather point blank – what your LinkedIn profile must-have. Let’s not worry about the rest (at least not now).

Just for you, I have compiled a list of 10 attributes of a solid LinkedIn profile. These suggestions are a compilation of several expert resources. Don’t overthink it. Take the advice and don’t hesitate. You can be done within two hours easy even if you are starting from scratch.

Rebecca’s Top 5 Resources:

  1. LinkedIn How Do I Create a Good LinkedIn Profile?
  2. LinkedIn Build Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn (2pgs)
  3. LifeHacker’s Ultimate LinkedIn Cheat Sheet (2016)
  4. Murrow College alumna and Director of Sales Development at Checkr – Anna Centrella Thayer’s “Launch Your Career Using LinkedIn” (2020)
  5. The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Students by Ransom Patterson, College Info Geek (2020)

“70% of employers check social media profiles of candidates to learn more about them.

47% of employers said that they would not call a candidate for interview who does not have any social media presence.”

The Ladders (2019)

Let’s do this.

  • 1) Your profile photo and cover image

    Profile photo (400x400px): Your profile photo should be current (no high school glamour shots). It should be in color, head-and-shoulders, no funky cropping, and simple background. Worst-case scenario – have a friend take your pic against a blank or brick wall.

    Cover image (1584×396 px): Do not leave the default blue backdrop. Find a decent quality pic that represents your personal brand or passions. Image size is 1400×425 pixels.

  • 2) Your name, title and location

    Name: Full name (add middle initial if needed). Check your name on LinkedIn search to see where you rank. Make sure your name is consistent on all digital channels.

    Title (aka professional headline): Don’t say “student” or “graduate of X” or your title from a club or part-time job. Instead use keyword-skills to describe your strengths. For example “Social Media | Project Management| Digital Marketing | Metrics.” LifeHacker notes you should avoid buzzwords like experienced, skilled, leadership, passionate, expert, motivated, creative, strategic as these are cliché.

    Location: Location should be the region where you want to work (e.g. San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle Area). If you are willing to relocate – note that in your summary statement.

  • 3) Your summary statement

    Write in first person. 200-250 characters. Use keywords. Read over summaries of individuals who have jobs you want. Write down the skills listed for the jobs you want. Include current status and objectives. Highlight summary of skills and what you can offer an organization. “you don’t just want to list your skills. Rather, you should weave the skills keywords into a narrative about where you are in your career currently (and where you’d like to be in the future).” (Patterson, 2020)

    Check out LinkedIn’s favorite profile summary examples. Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Typos are a no-go in this section.

  • 4) Customize your URL

    When you first set up a LinkedIn profile, it will default to a series of numbers. Change this to a custom URL. Visit “Customize your Public Profile URL” from LinkedIn for step-by-step instructions.

  • 5) Experience section

    Your experience section can include paid and volunteer positions. Do not include high school jobs unless you have nothing else to note. Use keywords in your title and description. Write 2-3 sentences describing your primary duties. Include start and stop dates and locations. Scroll down to the “Experience” section on LifeHacker’s cheat sheet for other helpful tips.

  • 6) Education section

    Always list your highest academic achievement first (even if in-progress). Note the school or institution, degree earned, dates, and activities and clubs. Including honors is good but GPA is optional and only encouraged if it is exceptional. There is another section you can add for Licenses and Certifications.

  • 7) Skills & endorsements

    Add a minimum of 10 skills related to your industry. Look at job descriptions or job posts to see what keywords and phrases are used to describe key attributes of individuals in the role. Include at least 5 relevant skills that will help you connect to the right people. “Note skills that match jobs you want and increase your views by 64%.” (Thayer, 2020)

    Note about endorsements vs. recommendations: Once you have listed your skills, your connections can “endorse” you for them. “Recommendations” is a different section of the profile. You can ask past employers, colleagues, or instructors to write a recommendation on your behalf.”

  • 8) Make connections & join groups

    Follow companies you want to work for, people you think will increase your value, people who work where you want to work, and association in the locations you want to move to.

    Build connections through past jobs, parents and family connections, friends of parents, alumni, and professors. ALWAYS send a personal note when you want to connect. Introduce yourself, explain why you want to connect and give context. “If you can explain (or remind) someone why it makes sense to connect with you, they’ll be more likely to accept.” (Patterson, 2020)

  • 9) Accomplishments

    There are several categories of Accomplishments. It is in this section you note additional languages, publications, relevant courses, projects, honors and awards, and honor societies or other organizations.

  • 10) All the rest…

    1) Turn on “job alerts” so recruiters know you are looking
    2) Search for jobs on LinkedIn: By default, this page will show you jobs for which LinkedIn thinks are qualified. Keep searching – look for recruiters; search jobs by keywords for titles, location, company, contacts.
    3) Save jobs that are of-interest
    4) Go on to LinkedIn 1x/day for at least 15 minutes to improve your search ranking
    5) Seek to build a minimum of 100 connections
    6) Make it your goal to achieve All-Star Status. Learn how from The Muse

Want even more info?

  1. Check out LinkedIn Learning’s Beginner’s course on getting set up on LinkedIn (LinkedIn Learning offers a free month promotion)
  2. Check out Anna Centrella Thayer’s workshop from Apr 28, 2020 Level-Up Your LinkedIn with Anna Centrella Thayer (free, YouTube)
  3. Review The Muse’s “9 tiny tweaks that’ll make your LinkedIn profile top-notch” by Lily Herman (n.d.)

#KeepGoing #KeepGrowing

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Professional Pathways – Never Stop Learning series. Check out more posts in the Professional Pathways category.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Cooney is a Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and Director of Murrow Online Programs at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She is also a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence for Natural Product-Drug Interaction Research. Rebecca has more than 26 years of professional experience. Her core areas of expertise include user experience design, integrated communication, brand strategy, and digital communications. She holds a BA in organizational communications and MS in communications and is the recipient of the 2019 Oaks Award for innovation in teaching, 2015 Scripps Howard Visiting Professor in Social Media, and 2014 Plank Center Educator Fellow awards.

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