By Peter Hanley-Walsh
LinkedIn is a complicated platform for the more ambitious members of the student community. Many struggle with what they can do on a social media site that is designed for real professionals, with real experience – it is easy to feel like an imposter.
But not to worry: this article is designed to give you a definitive guide of what is and (more importantly) what is not okay to put on your LinkedIn profile.
For starters, you should have a solid picture of yourself in business attire. A headshot that features shoulders, neck and face – nothing more, nothing less – on a bland background to ensure you’re the centrepiece.
With regards to a bio, keep it short and simple. Anything more than a few sentences written in the first person will come across as somewhat pretentious or narcissistic – definitely avoid writing about how ‘John enjoys spending his mornings reading about derivatives in the Financial Times’ when in truth you spend your mornings recovering from the previous evening’s debaucheries. You’re not fooling anyone – especially not Goldman Sachs. Keep it short and punchy.
In order to save recruiters time, you should include your professional ambitions in your bio. This will help you get shortlisted for some roles (providing that you follow the rest of the pointers, of course). I would definitely recommend listing any relevant roles or achievements in your ‘headline’, but do not exceed three things and be selective here. Any more, and it looks like you’re tooting your own horn to a somewhat arrogant degree.
Treat the ‘experience’ section like an extension of your CV. Ensure you are selecting the pages of the companies you have worked or interned with so a recruiter can easily check them out by clicking the link that takes them from your profile to the company’s page. I would include as much detail for each role as possible in the form of short bullet points. After all, this is all about increasing your employability – so make it an enjoyable read if you can.
Importantly, I would try to simultaneously sell yourself wherever possible. This is where a lot of students appear obnoxious because they take listing their work experience too far. For example: if you attended a networking event, it has no place on your LinkedIn profile because it simply isn’t work experience. However, a week work shadowing is perfectly acceptable.
When it comes to achievements, skills and endorsements, I would list everything that is relevant or you’re proud of. Naturally, get all of your friends/colleagues/family/strangers to endorse you for everything and make sure to return the favour and endorse them back.
You may also boost your profile by adding your CV, something I am in favour of to allow a recruiter to contact you directly about a role and better assess you as a potential candidate. However, this will give everyone who sees your profile access to your CV, so ensure you’re proud of it because you will see your mates viewing your profile to steal things for ‘inspiration’ – I believe it was Oscar Wilde who said “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”. On that note, no cliché quotes. You don’t want to come across as tacky.
This is the part of LinkedIn that really determines how users view you as a candidate, so definitely focus on getting this right.
Firstly, there is a very small list of things that are acceptable to post on LinkedIn as a student and they are all, in some capacity, signals to a potential employer that you are the right candidate for the job. I would recommend posting about events with employers in your industry (careers fairs, networking events, insight days etc.), internships and work experience, anything you have organised that requires a lot of skill or determination (large events, conferences, summits etc.), business activity for a business you work for or own, relevant awards you have won (professional accreditations, degree graduation, sponsored awards etc.) and original, relevant content you have created or were the subject of (industry research, articles etc.). That is it.
As a rule of thumb, if potential posts fall outside of these categories then do not post it. LinkedIn is not Facebook, so do not mindlessly share content. Treat your connections like colleagues instead of friends, even though many will be both.
When it comes to writing the posts in the aforementioned categories, refrain from coming across as arrogant – which can be very difficult. Imagine your posts not as chunks of text in the corners of the World Wide Web, but things you would read aloud in a job interview. Employers will call your bluffs, so don’t disrespect the rest of us by assuming we won’t too.
It is acceptable to discuss details that paint you favourably, as you would in an interview, but never lie or embellish your accomplishments as most can smell it a mile off and it’s just embarrassing. Be proud of what you’ve achieved not what you haven’t.
Definitely feel free to post job updates whenever you earn a new role. This also applies to society positions, as these can be relevant for employers when going for internships and offer many transferable skills. However (again), honesty is key. Make it clear what you are doing in these positions, use the exact position/job title and definitely do not mislead anyone.
Most people are aware that you can’t lie your way into a graduate role but seem to forget this when they’re announcing phony roles at regional offices of big firms as legitimate experience. Knock it off – it’s embarrassing.
Being able to connect with most professionals on the planet is a pretty exciting prospect, but try to remember that these people are in fact people.
They are not all likely to see ‘Jessie | First Year Mathematics Undergraduate at University of Liverpool’ as an exciting new connection that will add value to their life. But that’s ok, because most people are perfectly willing to connect once you appreciate this, and speak to them like a person at a networking event or careers fair over a coffee. Send people invitations to connect when they meet this criteria:
- You have had at least one 5-minute conversation with them
- You believe they would be a valuable connection
- You believe you can legitimately add value to their professional network
- You have asked them to connect on LinkedIn and they agreed (preferable but not essential)
Furthermore, once you connect, do not be irritating and message them every 10 seconds, normally people are busy but they may take time to respond because you are the bottom of their priorities. If you don’t like this then the best way to change it is to respect their time schedules and try to infrequently meet up with them – show them why you deserve to be bumped up that list. You should treat everyone as someone you can learn from rather than someone you can exploit, the latter approach will fail one thousand times out of a thousand.
Overall, just behave like a normal person who is in a job interview on LinkedIn and you will go far.
Peter Hanley-Walsh (https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-hanley-walsh/)