Your first steps on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has over 430 million members and is the most popular social networking site after Facebook and Twitter. What makes it important though is that it is the primary networking site that professionals use to keep in touch with each other and to follow companies, institutions and other professionals. Recruiters also use LinkedIn as a way of forming an important first impression of job applicants.

I’m still an undergraduate – (why) do I need a LinkedIn profile?

LinkedIn puts you on the professional map and is your way of “setting out your stall” as an educated and professional person. Being a member of LinkedIn is also a good way to get a feel for particular jobs or employment sectors and to receive e-mail updates about employers and from LinkedIn groups.

Getting started

Creating a profile on LinkedIn is very easy and the site prompts you to enter most of your basic information.

Getting started is the main thing. Remember that no-one builds a complete and perfect LinkedIn profile overnight – you can come back later and add new items, change settings and so on. Active professionals are continuously making tweaks to their profile.

Simple tweaks

  • Add a business-like photo of yourself – you might need to ask someone to take one for you – a head and shoulders shot is normally enough! Having a quality photograph will make a difference when potential employers or placement providers view your profile.
  • Search for and join some LinkedIn groups relating to interests or employment sectors you want to find out more about. You’ll then receive information and notices from those groups automatically. Another advantage of this – the icons of the Groups you are a member of will appear at the bottom of your profile. The icons therefore act as quick visual anchors that give others a quick overview of the activities you’re involved in or want to be involved in, and show that you’re a “switched-on” person who is keeping up with their field!
  • Start adding contacts – when you connect with someone on LinkedIn, the site sends a message to them asking if they want to connect to you. LinkedIn uses a standard message, but ALWAYS personalize the message, briefly explaining why you want to connect or when you worked together.
  • When you get started, only connect with people whose professional values are in synch. with your own and whom you actually know and/or have met in real life. Those could be people you’ve studied with or worked with on a project or have shared information with at some point. On LinkedIn, you don’t normally seek to connect with people you’ve never interacted with. It is legit though to respond to blogs or posts on LinkedIn, interact with someone via e-mail, LinkedIn or otherwise for a while and THEN ask to connect with them. That may happen over time.
  • If not yet a graduate, you can also get started by adding any contacts you have from your year abroad or other professionals you have come across, or any of your course tutors who are on LinkedIn and know you well, plus a small sprinkling of fellow university students, as long as their LinkedIn profiles are good! The key thing there is that they must have interacted with you personally and you must be on good terms with them.
  • Companies also have profiles on LinkedIn. You can “follow” any companies (or universities offering postgraduate courses) you’re interested in for whatever reason and receive updates whenever they post anything.
  • Change the URL (web address) of your public profile so that it contains your name and not just random letters and numbers. Your public profile is the profile that is seen by people who are not logged into LinkedIn and who find you via a search engine. The best format to select is: www.linkedin.com/in/firstnamesurname, but if you have a namesake who is already on LinkedIn, you may need to vary that a little, but having your name in recognisable form in the address of your public profile means that you will be easier to find.

These are just a few first steps to take on LinkedIn. Watch out for more tips very soon!

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