If I were giving a commencement speech to 2018 college graduates, I would tell them that no one will ever care about their careers as much as they do.
They’ll still need to do a bit of PR for themselves — and they should probably consider LinkedIn as their personal PR tool for showcasing their professional skills and accomplishments. If they spend a fraction of the time on their LinkedIn profiles like they do on their Instagrams, they will gain connections and opportunities galore.
When I graduated from college and got my first job, there was no social media. Internet and email barely existed. By the time LinkedIn debuted in late 2002, I was on my third job and had moved to three different states.
Since then, LinkedIn has become the biggest social media tool for professionals, with half a billion users worldwide. And I developed a LinkedIn expertise that I now use daily on behalf of my clients and to grow and promote my PR and communications business.
I see what people of all experience levels are doing wrong on LinkedIn and what they are getting right. Here are my top five LinkedIn tips for college grads today:
1. Include your contact information.
Yes, it seems odd to list your contact information publicly, but you want recruiters and future bosses to have an easy way to contact you outside of LinkedIn. Be sure to include your phone number and email address.
LinkedIn’s recent redesign puts this information in a more prominent place at the very top of your profile, near your name, title, and photo. Speaking of pictures…
2. Use photos to help tell your story.
Just like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn has spots for a profile photo and a cover photo. Use this prime real estate to help convey who you are.
The first priority is the profile picture. You will want to stay professional. If you can’t afford a pro photo, ask a friend to take a suitable photo of you in work clothes against a plain background. “The key to a good LinkedIn photo is a natural, relaxed expression and good lighting,” professional photographer Heather Liebler told me in a column in February. “It really is that simple.”
When it comes to the cover photo, the standard LinkedIn blue background won’t cut it if you want to stand out from the crowd. Find an image that speaks to who you are.
Maybe it’s the skyline of your city or your college campus or a favorite motif or representation of what you do – like a keyboard for a writer. You can get free images from sites like unsplash.com and pixabay.com.
3. Own your experience, don’t overdo it.
You are eager to prove your intelligence and skills, but keep it succinct and factual. Exaggerations do not give the best impression.
“No one believes that as an intern you renegotiated a contract to save the company millions or led strategic initiatives to gain new market share,” says Wendy Zang, management consultant for the company. executive recruitment Helbling & Associates. “Be honest about what you’ve been exposed to as part of a team.”
4. Connect, don’t collect.
You want to connect with people on LinkedIn, not collect them like trophies.
I currently have a LinkedIn invite from a graduate of my alma mater in 2018, and she’s another journalism student. But the invitation came without any note and there is a grammatical error in the title of her profile. Yeah. The invite sat in my inbox for months.
Before you go crazy sending out LinkedIn invites to everyone who’s ever been to your school or worked for a company you’d like to work for, think about it. Take the time to include a note with each invite, saying why you’d like to connect, explaining who you are, and maybe asking for a five-minute introductory phone call during which you might also have something thing to offer.
This woman might have said, “I’d love to hear about your career in journalism and communications and how I’m putting into practice what I learned about social media at Ohio University.”
5. Use it every day.
If you commit a little every day, you’ll be a LinkedIn superstar in no time. Most people visit LinkedIn only when they are looking for a job or when they are worried about being fired. It’s wrong. Keep your professional profile up to date and your activity frequent.
Take care of a LinkedIn task every day. Update your experience section with any new responsibilities you’ve taken on at work. Take the time to read someone’s article or post and like, comment or share it. Maybe you have knowledge and expertise to share, do it! Write a LinkedIn article about what you learned at your last internship or new job.
Remember: no one will ever care about your career as much as you do.