To many of us, LinkedIn can seem like a dated, stuffy, unnecessary “social” platform that our parents talk about. We may think, What’s the point, when everyone either gets jobs from Indeed or from people they know? I know that’s how I looked at LinkedIn for a long time, but the platform can actually be really valuable when you’re on your job search, and is important to maintain even if you’re not looking. So, let’s take a look at why you should care about the platform, and how to get the most out of your LinkedIn page.
Why Your LinkedIn Page Matters
Like I said, I know it seems outdated. With all of our different social media platforms that are already perfectly curated to portray the image we want others to see, what’s the point of doing another one that seems like it’s meant to suck all of your personality out of your online presence?
Well, as annoying as it seems, that’s actually the point. Sort of. Your LinkedIn profile should be a place to host only your professional and academic achievements. Because maybe some of those things are on your Facebook page or in your Twitter or Instagram bios, but in all of those profiles, you and your life is the most important part—not, usually, your work life. And that’s good, most of your friends don’t want to read about every job you’ve ever had or your GPA. LinkedIn is where you put the boring-but-impressive things, the “work” or “school” part of your “work-life balance.” That doesn’t mean you can’t show your personality on it, but it means it’s a place you can direct potential employers before they see your super fun birthday party.
Employers can also find new candidates by searching LinkedIn based on qualities they’re interested in, so having yours up to date can mean job offers that you didn’t even have to look for. Or if you are on the job search, many job platforms have an option to use your LinkedIn page to apply, and many companies post job listings directly to LinkedIn, both of which save steps in your application process.
Beyond that, once you get a job, you should use LinkedIn to stay in contact with co-workers or employers who are valuable connections, but maybe you don’t want on your normal social media. I know the boundaries of social media have been, for the most part, broken; and that some bosses are really cool or young or friendly. But that still doesn’t mean you’ll want all of your co-workers to follow your Instagram. And, maybe you say, “Well, I have their phone number/email, why do I need them on LinkedIn?” For one, both of those things can change, then you’ll have lost that contact. And, even if the information stays the same, a text or email has no indication of who you are unless they actually read that text. If you message them through your LinkedIn profile, they see your name, photo, and current title without even clicking onto your full profile.
More important than the logistics of contacting these people, LinkedIn lets you see who your contacts know, and backs up your claims that you’ve worked somewhere. If you connect with your old boss—or even one of your friends—and then realize they know someone at the next company you want to work at, they can make that introduction for you and maybe score you a job. LinkedIn makes getting a job from “knowing people” so much easier just from the fact that it’s searchable. So too, a robust LinkedIn profile means you can back up everything you say on your resume. If you’re connected to your old boss, that shows that you did, in fact, work there and they were happy enough with your work to connect with you. Beyond that, your contacts can give you endorsements to tell other people what you’re good at.
Your LinkedIn profile also gives you room to include more than you can fit on a standard resume. You can put your whole work history, a bio (up to 2000 characters) about yourself, a photo, those endorsements I just mentioned, languages you speak, and even organizations you’re interested in or other projects you’ve worked on.
All that information means potential employers get a better, more well-rounded idea of your capabilities and qualifications, and that means exciting job opportunities that others could be missing out on.
How to Make the Most of Your LinkedIn Page
So, hopefully I’ve convinced you that a LinkedIn page is an important part of your online presence. Now how do you make the most of having it? There are a few easy things that anyone can and should do once they start an account, to make sure you’re getting all the benefits you can.
- Complete your profile: There are a bunch of different parts of a LinkedIn profile and the site encourages you to make your way through the steps to complete it. Do it. A complete profile means you’re making the most of that “more information” benefit that LinkedIn offers, it also tells employers that you’re willing to put effort into things that matter, and LinkedIn gives you a boost in search results over people who haven’t completed their profile. Note, one of the parts to a complete profile is a profile photo. Make sure you’re choosing a good, clear, professional photo of yourself.
- Make your vanity URL: When you first make an account, LinkedIn gives you a generic URL that is hard to remember and full of numbers. You can edit this URL and make it shorter and more memorable. Mine is LinkedIn.com/in/aburcham. Easy. When you’re looking at your profile, on the right-hand side there’s some gray text and one of the options is “Edit public profile & URL.”
- Join some groups and follow some organizations or hashtags: Joining groups and following companies you’re interested in is just like networking in real life by getting your information out there for people to see. But it also is just a great way to be shown content that you’re interested in and could benefit your career.
This will get you started and put your LinkedIn page on the right track. But if you want some extra tips on optimizing your profile, check out this helpful article I found that goes into some more of the specifics.
Now Get Connecting
The first step is to just start connecting with people you know. Send them a personalized message when you do so it doesn’t feel like an awkward robot connecting with them, and it’s another point to show that you care enough to send them more than the automated LinkedIn message. It makes more of a difference than you could imagine! You can only reap all the benefits of LinkedIn if you have connections, so get started! This can begin with your friends and family, and then work your way through people you know from your jobs.
An important note, only try to connect with people who you actually know or have a reason for connecting with. You can be penalized if you try to connect with people who don’t know you, even if you have mutual connections. As your connection to make the introduction and then connect with them. Or at the very least, send a message with the connection invite, explaining why you wan’t to connect with them. Don’t just try to befriend the CEO of your dream company without any context. (Unless that company is us, feel free to connect with me or Molly!!)