Writing resumes and cover letters was one of the first assignments in Multimedia Writing, an introductory media-writing course I teach at the University of Florida. So I was delighted when I received an email announcement that the Warrington College of Business Administration’s Career and Leadership Programs Office was hosting a workshop for students on how to set up LinkedIn accounts. I made the announcement of the workshop in my class and encouraged the students to attend.
Andrea Carroz and Erica Hernandez, two of the students in the course, let me know that they had attended the workshop and found it very helpful. As they were telling me about all they learned, I said, “Say, would you write a post for my blog about the workshop? I know others would find this information useful.”
Here is the first of their posts about creating a LinkedIn account.
by Andrea Carroz and Erica A. Hernandez
Limiting yourself to the world of paper and ink may be a fond concept among many communications majors but it isn’t practical in this day and age.
We attended “Get Social: Networking with LinkedIn,” hosted by the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business Administration, to learn how to set up LinkedIn profiles. Carly Barnes, social media manager of the college, shared her tips on networking within the world’s largest free professional networking site.
The session was very helpful since Barnes started off by explaining that students shouldn’t wait until graduation to set up LinkedIn profiles.
A common misconception is that LinkedIn is only for getting a job in the moment, but actually setting up your profile early is basically setting yourself up for success at graduation and possibly even before, Barnes explained.
LinkedIn is not just for CEOs of companies with 30 years of experience. The site is a tool for those who are looking to enter the workforce and those who are just looking build their professional network.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for setting up a LinkedIn account based on what we learned from the workshop and from going through the process of setting up our own accounts.
We’ve also included screen captures of three LinkedIn profiles to show different stages of developing your profile — from just setting up the basic profile to having a developed profile.
1. Create your LinkedIn account.
Got to linkedin.com and register. It’ll take a couple of minutes just like any other social media account.
The Basics: Type in your location, click on ‘I am currently a student,’ select your university, and add dates attended.
After you set up the account, you will have the option to notify your email contacts as a way of connecting with them if they are also on LinkedIn. If not you can invite them to get an account as well. You may choose to skip this step.
When you visit your LinkedIn account, a blue box will appear asking questions that will help build your profile. Some questions revolve around work experience and what you did in each job. In this section you want to be specific about your job experience. That way others can know exactly what you did for each job and how that relates to the job or internship you’re seeking. If you’ve never had a job, don’t worry; there is a volunteer section too.
2. Write a summary of who you are.
Tell others who you are and what sets you apart from the bunch. Your summary is one of the first things people who visit your page will read. Your summary basically is your elevator speech condensed down from 60 seconds to about two sentences. Though you can make your summary as long as you would like, Barnes recommended keeping it short and sweet. Each summary varies depending on the person and how far into their career they are. Reading other people’s summaries can help you in developing your own approach to writing a summary. A good idea is to identify your career goals and focus as well as what projects and academic work you are working on currently.
3. List your skills to provide searchable tags.
List your skills like key phrases. When you type these in, LinkedIn will prompt you with possible skills, much like adding tags for blogs, such as Tumblr. Make sure you can actually perform the skills you tag. Those tags become part of LinkedIn’s searchable database. If an employer is looking through LinkedIn for a candidate who can accomplish a certain task and they search for a desired skill that you have listed, you will be part of the search results.
4. Indicate language skills you have.
If you speak a language besides English, let others know. Many employers search for bilingual candidates. Unfortunately you cannot specify the degree of your fluency so if you aren’t fluent (spoken and written), you need to decide if you should tag that skills or if you can clarify your proficiency in your summary.
5. List your education information.
If you are currently a student, make sure everyone reading your profile would know that. Being a student makes any professional experience you have that much more impressive. For many younger students Barnes suggested including high school information in the profile. Later on, after college graduation, high school experience would be removed, but if you are a current college student, include your high school.
6. Include links to your social media.
Include links to your social media activity, such as your Twitter account, your blog or website. Your social media use will let your connections get a better understanding of who you are and what you care about. But make sure these accounts are appropriate and professional.
7. Indicate what kind of contacts you’d like to receive.
LinkedIn automatically fills this section with a variety of options. Some are: career opportunities, consulting offers, business deals and getting back in touch. If you do not feel comfortable getting contacted for any of the options listed, make sure to edit this section. “Career opportunities” is always a good one to have listed.
8. Include an appropriate photo.
Add a picture to your profile, but make sure it’s a professional picture. Make sure it is professional looking by wearing simple blazer or a nice blouse. Use an uncluttered background. A friend with basic photography skills can help you with this.
9. Establish connections.
An important part of LinkedIn is making connections – with classmates, professionals you admire, coworkers from internships, faculty from your university, alumni, etc.
The easiest way to connect with someone is by searching for the person’s name and sending a request to connect. After you click ‘connect’ you will be taken to a page where you must specify how you know this person – such as being in the same organization or university.
If you want to connect with someone you don’t know, make sure you explain why you want to make the connection. Look to connect with people who are in positions you would be interested in being in yourself in the future. Making those connections lets you see what skills and experiences they have so you know what you have to do to get yourself to that point.
Before you log in to LinkedIn to set up your account and make those connections, here are a few words of caution.
Don’t treat your LinkedIn account like Facebook or Myspace. This is a professional site, so treat it accordingly. Your LinkedIn audience is different you’re your Facebook audience so keep that in mind.
Also remember that LinkedIn is designed to be more than just another copy of your resume. Be personable online. Link your profile to your social media accounts or to your website – as long as those demonstrate professional use.
And be truthful. Do not overstate any of your skills, experiences or awards. LinkedIn is no place for lies.
Now that you have created your professional LinkedIn profile it is time to start using it.
We’ll be making another post that will provide tips on making your LinkedIn work for you.