The Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn

How to harness the powerful networking tool to your advantage.

Launched in 2002, LinkedIn centers around business and employment opportunities. With millions of users across the globe, the website has the power to connect people with each other and build relationships geared toward professional networking.

Its features allow you to build your own profile, reconnect with people from the same organizations, companies and even schools that you list and gain industry insight. In addition, companies nowadays turn to LinkedIn to recruit employees. Not to mention, many high-profile industry leaders can also be found using the mobile app or the desktop website.

As a college student navigating through the professional world, oftentimes you may find yourself worried about post-graduation plans. With LinkedIn, exploring your interests and connecting with those that can assist you in furthering your career is a mere finger tap or mouse click away.

But like any social media platform, there is a right way and a wrong way to use the site. Read on to find out how to best harness this powerful tool to help you succeed in the professional world.

Do’s: Carefully Construct Your Profile

In essence, LinkedIn provides an interactive version of your resume on display for potential bosses to view. With that being said, it’s important to put a considerable amount of effort into carefully curating your online presence.

Listing your experience can show how qualified you are for the internship you’ve been eyeing and putting your college, degree and anticipated graduation date will allude to your credibility.

Another way to demonstrate how you’re best fit for a job is by listing your skills and endorsements. Whether you consider yourself an expert public speaker or know Adobe Photoshop like the back of your hand, don’t be afraid to put your skills on your profile.

Common courtesy is that if someone endorses you for a skill, you should return the favor on their profile as well. Having a peer or colleague endorse you for a particular skill set is even more powerful than you simply telling a future employer that you are capable of that skill.

It’s like a third party writing a food review on a restaurant — it’s more powerful coming from an outside source, especially one that has worked with you directly in the past and knows all that you’re capable of.

Don’t: Neglect Your Online Presence

Nothing is worse than a shoddy, half-finished profile that screams of typos and grammatical errors. Remember that your profile can be viewed publicly, so don’t stop halfway. A grammatical error is telling of a person’s attention to detail or even their level of education.

On the same thread, don’t fabricate or lie. Imagine applying for a video-editing internship and listing that you’re a pro at a specific software you’ve never used in your life. When your boss finds you scouring the internet to figure out how to put some footage clips together, she probably won’t be happy.

Do: Use a Professional Photo

Another rule of thumb is to take time to select a professional headshot. LinkedIn’s research shows that profiles with a picture are 14 times more likely to be viewed than profiles without a photo.

However, choosing the proper photo is imperative. Thinking about putting a selfie up from a drunken Friday night party because you think your outfit is cute? Think again. Opt for a wardrobe that is business professional or at least a step up from your day-to-day outfit.

Avoid flashing peace signs, looking unapproachable and standing in front of a cluttered background. Try to choose a photo that resembles you as well. Don’t catfish a future employer! Your photo is your online first impression, so make it count.

Don’t: Treat the Platform Like Facebook

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the accessibility of online platforms, especially since everything is intuitively laid out for your taking. However, don’t go overboard and start posting statuses like you would on Twitter or annoy all your connects with your constant activity updates.

Stay relevant while using LinkedIn. However, feel free to use the website to interact with people in your network and keep up with all the ins and outs in the community. Feel free to appropriately comment on things that pique your interest, congratulate a friend on a new job and share insight to your own career development.

Do: Take Advantage of the Customization

The resources are literally at your fingertips. Even if you don’t have an extensive extracurricular list or work a minimum wage job to pay for expensive textbooks, it’s worth listing anyway. Your headline can be as simple as “Student at (Insert Name of Your College).” It can also be more complex.

Use keywords and really sell yourself. Demonstrate your drive and what you are seeking out. Don’t be afraid to be creative, too.

Presumably, right after someone reads your headline their eyes will travel to your summary. This is where you can include the nitty-gritty details that don’t fit in your headline. The same rules apply here as well.

Keep it succinct, concise and readable. No one wants to read a huge essay about how much you want to become a doctor after you volunteered overseas one summer. Keep it to a few sentences maximum.

Don’t: Treat People as a Means to an End

It’s painfully and glaringly obvious if you immediately add someone on LinkedIn or send someone a message asking for job opportunities. Nothing screams “How can you benefit me?” more than a disingenuous connection.

When adding people to your network, be mindful that you know them on a good-enough level for it to make sense that you’re even bothering to connect with them in the first place. You’re not trying to add someone so you can bombard them with a sales pitch right off the bat, nor are you there to request an introduction from someone else.

Accordingly, don’t demand that someone you don’t know endorse you for skills. You’re not entitled to any of these things, especially from people you may just vaguely know.

Bonnie Wong, University of Southern California

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Bonnie Wong

University of Southern California

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