#STEMSaturdays: LinkedIn Decoded: What it is and How to Curate a Strong Profile
Chances are that you’ve been Googled. If not by yourself (admit it, we’ve all done it), then by job recruiters. Is what they’re seeing what you want your first professional impression to be?
LinkedIn profiles tend appear high on Google searches (mine was #2 when searching my name). It’s a way to market your unique, personal brand, while showing off your achievements, skills, and experience. It’s not only the place recruiters look to for headhunting, but it’s a great networking tool to have as a young scientist trying to expand their network. Not to mention it allows you to share your latest research, publications, and stances on matters of importance with your connections.
By engaging in conversation with your network — and joining “Groups” where similar-minded people discuss topics — LinkedIn has become another place of learning, allowing for you to be on the forefront of knowledge in your respective industry.
In order to get the most of out this, you need to have a strong profile set up. Whether you are actively looking for a job or not, making sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and regularly used is vital to helping you make a memorable first impression. These tips will help take your profile to the next level.
WORK IN SILENCE
Have you ever had that friend who posts way too many things on Facebook? Don’t be that friend. While you revamp your online profile, turn off your activity broadcasts so you don’t become that friend. You can do this by going to Settings > Privacy Controls > Turn on/off your activity broadcasts. Don’t forget to turn it back on once you are done so your network can be aware of any new developments in your career (e.g. new job, new project, looking for employment).
MAKE YOUR LINKEDIN PERSONAL
When you sign up with LinkedIn, you are automatically given a profile URL consisting of letters and numbers. You can customize your profile URL by going to Settings > Edit Public Profile > Customize Your Public Profile URL. You want yours to be a URL that is easy to share. For example, mine consists of my initials + my program’s name.
Next is tackling your profile picture. This may be the first time a person is seeing your face, so you want to make a good impression! Treat this picture as a headshot: you want to come off as approachable, confident, and mature. In my profile picture, I have natural looking makeup, simple jewelry, my hair is straightened and neat, and I’m wearing my best accessory: a smile!
While some people say you should get a professional photographer to take this headshot photo, the same can be achieved with having a friend volunteer to take this picture or even a self-timed camera.
LinkedIn now has “header photos,” similar to a cover photo on Facebook. My photo is usually ocean-themed (relevant to my industry) and I try to keep it simple. The focus should be on you and your accomplishments, not the header photo.
When it comes to personalization, many people don’t think that you can edit the byline (the line directly underneath your name) but you can! LinkedIn automatically fills it in with your most recent job is, but it can be changed to how you want to market yourself. Mine reads, “Founder of The Fins United Initiative” while a friend’s reads, “A political science and historian major with strong organizational, leadership, and interpersonal skills.” Changing your byline can be useful when searching for new opportunities, by adding keywords to ensure that your profile will be found by your intended audience. Keywords in this instance means focusing on job titles, skills, programs you know, etc.
When writing your summary, try to keep it under 300 words; it should be written in first person and should be conversational in tone. You’ll want to keep your target audience in mind when writing this and, when writing, ask yourself what you want them to learn about you.
Some discuss accomplishments (stats and figures), while others talk about their professional interests. I like to keep mine short and to the point, so my summary reads as such: My educational and professional career paths are based on the behaviour, ecology and conservation of Chondrichthyans (sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras). My future goals are to ensure the conservation of elasmobranch fishes through open communication, reliable data/research, sustainable fisheries and community outreach. Special interests: GIS, underwater photography, satellite tagging, shark movements, behaviour, sustainable fisheries.
EXPAND ON SOME SECTIONS, SHRINK OTHERS
There are some sections of LinkedIn that you’ll want to expand upon more than others. These sections are “Awards” and “Experiences,” since your resume usually has you condense these areas. Experiences aren’t just limited to what put money in your bank, but includes internships or volunteering. There is a also a specific section for “Projects,” where you can talk in length about any committees you led, student projects you were a part of/completed, or your thesis!
The “Skills” section allows your connections to endorse you for specific qualifications (of their choosing). For reference, some of the skills listed in my section include “ecology,” “conservation issues,” “data analysis,” “public speaking,” “scuba diving,” “research,” and “GIS.” These skills happen to be keywords pertinent to my industry, and allow potential employers to find my profile when they look up certain words.
Protip: Don’t forget to endorse your friends, too!
You won’t want to talk continuously about your education. Put your degree, the years you attended, your university’s name, and any other relevant information. I included a small blurb about my time at each university (no more than two paragraphs). LinkedIn gives you the option of listing the classes you took, but I found most people don’t care about classes unless they are unique.
For languages, just write your level of proficiency and leave it at that. If an employer wants to know more, they’ll ask. Also, cut down on the talk about your non-industry related volunteering/causes. While it’s admirable if you volunteer at a soup kitchen, animal shelter or building houses, it doesn’t need to be talked about at length on your LinkedIn profile.
ADVERTISING YOUR LINKEDIN
You can either search for your friends, family, and colleges by name on LinkedIn to start making connections or you can let it happen organically (e.g. someone asks for your contact info). Once you start making connections, you’ll be able to see their network and be able to reach out to anyone you would like to start a conversation with. This has allowed me to connect with others in my industry I wouldn’t otherwise have known!
Beware; LinkedIn does have a limit to how many people you reach out to that you don’t personally know so perhaps get a mutual connection to make an introduction.
I advertise my LinkedIn by tweeting out my profile link various times throughout the month, adding it my LinkedIn profile link to my e-mail signature, and having the LinkedIn icon on my business card. Once you have your LinkedIn updated, you’ll want to make sure your other personal brand tools (your pitch, your resume/CV, your cover letter) are top-notch as well.