LinkedIn: expert dos and don’ts

Michael Healy works as an Employability Coordinator at USQ, supporting students to progress their careers. He’s been helping students to develop their resumes, improve their interview skills, and succeed in their job searches for over five years and is also a student himself, completing a PhD on careers and employability. Michael holds professional memberships to the Career Development Association of Australia and the Australian Association of Graduate Employers.

With over 300 million users and an average of two new members per second*, LinkedIn is one of the most important professional online platforms for networking and career development. So, it’s important for up-and-coming graduates to take full advantage of this valuable networking platform.

Build your profile

Do: Write your profile with your goals in mind.

Don’t: Just rely upon your job title and description.

There are many elements to consider when establishing your profile. These include your profile picture, name, headline, summary, skills, recommendations, and work history. Although you should take time to develop all of these, the elements to prioritise are the items featured in the top half of your profile.

Photo – Making sure your face is in clear focus, you are smiling, and your head and shoulders are in the shot.

Headline – Avoid describing yourself as a student or simply giving your job title. Instead, use your headline to describe your aspirations or to give an accurate insight into the kind of work you do. An example of this would be to describe yourself as an emerging professional in the area you are studying.

Summary – Few people will read your entire profile, so your summary is an essential part of your profile. Use it to encapsulate your motivations, aspirations and personality. Consider this area as your public elevator pitch.

Privacy settings

Do: Understand and use the privacy settings.

Don’t: Dismiss the benefits of an open profile.

LinkedIn is unique in their privacy settings in that users are notified when someone views their profile. You can disable this function, but don’t discount the value of people being aware that you’re doing research into your professional networks. LinkedIn is a professional networking platform after all, so it’s helpful for people to see who is showing interest in their profile. If you’re trying to expand your network, it’s good to be noticed. 

All other privacy settings can be filtered, from the visibility of your profile to the sharing of profile edits and letting employers know if you are open or closed to job offers. It is important to remember not to take the privacy settings too far. The purpose of LinkedIn is to build a professional network, so closing your profile visibility off too much can defeat the purpose of the platform.

Connect with people

Do: Customise your connection request and recognise different approaches to networking.

Don’t: Just click the ‘connect’ button or be offended if someone doesn’t accept or respond.

When reaching out to people through LinkedIn, ensure you’re connecting with intention. You don’t necessarily need to know the person, but they do need to be relevant to you and your profile. It is also important not to simply press the ‘connect’ button, as this can be seen as impersonal and generic. Instead, write an introduction and tailor your request to the person, as you would for a job application. Remember this is not Facebook; everybody has a different approach to networking, so don’t be offended if you don’t receive an accepted connection or even a response.

Research your field

Do: Search for job titles, skills, disciplines, and organisations, and use the alumni finder tool.

Don’t: Take everything at face value or make important decisions without talking to people.

LinkedIn is a great tool to research your industry and you can utilise this information to assist with your employability. By searching for the job title you wish to hold, you can view the profiles of people already in this position to assess the requirements and skills presented by each person and use this information to further develop your career goals. However, it is important to note that you shouldn’t take everything at face value. A person’s social media presence can be an altered image of themselves that they want you to see. Hence why it’s important to talk with people directly, to gauge the reality of the situation, and to ask questions.

Another unique feature on LinkedIn is the alumni tool. On your university's LinkedIn page, you’re able to search and filter alumni of the university by their degree, location, industry, and skills. This is particularly beneficial for international students or those who are moving to a location where they have limited connections. By searching for alumni in the area who are in a similar role or have studied in a similar area, you are able to form connections and build a network in a foreign location.

Look for work

Do: Edit your career interests and make a habit of browsing jobs.

Don’t: Rush to sign up for a premium account or expect immediate results.

Ensure you’re presenting yourself as employable by setting your profile to ‘open to job offers’ on your profile. Employers are increasingly searching for candidates through LinkedIn. Ensuring your profile demonstrates that you are open to offers enables you to optimise your chances when they’re looking for someone just like you! Control your career interests to suit the work you want to be involved in. Even if you’re in the industry and not searching for work, you should continually browse job advertisements presented on LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with trends and industry requirements/skills/trends.

There is a premium (paid) version for LinkedIn and it can provide extra benefits such as added privacy, messaging, searches, accessibility to view where you are a top applicant, and the ability to see the individuals who have viewed your profile. It isn’t necessary to upgrade just to gain results. In fact, using the free version can be just as valuable. However, no matter which version you’re accessing, you cannot expect to achieve results straight away as it takes time and effort to build a network and achieve a professional presence online.

Most importantly, LinkedIn is a professional networking platform. It is imperative that you actively participate and engage regularly to truly profit from the LinkedIn experience. Do this through liking, commenting, posting and sharing. You can even repurpose your own work from assignments or projects and share any published work you may have online. Try to maintain authenticity and professionalism.

If you would like to learn more about LinkedIn, be sure to check out these free resources designed for university students. Remember you can always contact a member of the Careers and Employability team and receive advice regarding your profile.

*Aslam, S 2018, ‘LinkedIn by the Numbers: Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts’, Omnicore, weblog post, 18 September, viewed 25 October 2018, <https://www.omnicoreagency.com/linkedin-statistics/>.


Related:

How to maximise your LinkedIn profile

Why you need to think about your Social Footprint

5 reasons to be on LinkedIn