Social media, like anything, when used in the right way, can be a great tool for laying the foundation for a future job, for making connections that might come in handy after earning a degree. Using a LinkedIn account to post a resume (and keep it updated) and upload papers written for school is a great way to start; posting scholarship essays, sharing interesting articles about subjects that would be taught at a University, and networking with those in the field one has majored in elevates a person’s status and visibility. Connecting with someone first through LinkedIn is also a great way for introverts to break the ice.
That said, it is important to keep one’s profile professional, so here are 20 tips for getting the most out of an account:
1. Using a professional headshot. No full-body poses. People are less likely to add someone as a connection if they cannot see their face. Same principle applies as to why would a person invite someone into their house if they were wearing a mask? The headshot is not the place to get artsy (i.e. no black-and-white photographs or pictures with “props”, such as cigarettes or sunglasses).
2. Using their actual name. No Twitter handles or blog names.
3. Customizing their public profile URL. It’s the difference between myblog.wordpress.com vs. myblog.com. Less is more (i.e. like how much more appetizing a food seems when it doesn’t come with a list of all those hard-to-pronounce ingredients.)
4. Including as much information about themselves as possible. Just as employers don’t like to see gaps in an application, a future employer might find a spare profile a red flag. However, never post addresses or telephone numbers, for safety reasons.
5. Adding a background photo to personalize their page and make it stand out. Never use a photo with writing on it, just as one should never wear a T-shirt with a message on it to a job interview.
6. Posting only professional content. Nonfiction book reviews, articles or links to articles on writing, public speaking, education, business, finance, medicine, design, and any of the STEM fields, are some of the kinds of topics LinkedIn Pulse is looking for.
7. If a blog is set to auto-post to LinkedIn, making sure the article is appropriate for the audience. Recipes and articles on parenting are generally no-nos, but articles on drafting a resume or tips on dressing for success are typically better received.
8. Being timely with posts. According to LinkedIn, weekdays during business hours are the best time to post. (Specifically, Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.)
9. Leaving issues like politics, religion, race, sexual orientation, etc., off of LinkedIn. That is what Facebook or Twitter is for. Discussion of current events are at one’s discretion.
10. Upon receiving an endorsement, returning the favor or sending a thank you note via private message. Always acknowledge an endorsement. Follow the rule of reciprocity, but be sincere. (Don’t endorse just to get an endorsement. Also, always respond to comments, and seek to read what they have written and comment on theirs, as well. This is one of the easiest ways to build a connection.
11. Always screening one’s profile before adding as a connection, as it is much more awkward to accept, and then reject, than to never accept at all.
12. If planning on meeting a connection in person, always meeting during the daylight hours in a very public place.
13. If selling make-up or insurance, not pitching the product or service except through one’s feed (a.k.a. “soft-selling”). Do NOT sell via Private Message, and do NOT cobble together connections simply for the sake of selling them something.
14. Never using profanity anywhere, and, if disagreeing, always doing so tactfully by backing up a comment with a fact or personal experience. Never get combative, and keep in mind that letting someone have the last word is not an acknowledgement of being wrong.
15. Scrolling past things one doesn’t like. It’s not worth the argument. If the person is inappropriate, it is entirely appropriate to quietly remove the bad connection.
16. Focus on skill sets, and not just previous employers. Skills are portable, companies, not necessarily. Be sure to add any certifications, publications, or volunteer experience. The more one know, the more valuable they are to a future employer.
17. As for resume references, leave them “upon request”, because it is discourteous to publish one’s friend or colleague’s phone number on the Internet.
18. Join groups and follow companies of interest. Everyone are in the business of selling, even if it’s only themselves. After all, that’s what candidates do at job interviews.
19. Frequency matters. Hiring managers are 10 times more likely to look at a profile from which something is posted weekly. Also, 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn is better than 70 minutes in one day. (Just like every day physical activity is better than one big workout.)
20. Article posters should write what they know. If too much research is involved, they are probably not the one to write it. Use links (when applicable), images, and tags in posts—the image brings a post to life (i.e. pulls in some eyeballs), and the tags help people find the post. Don’t click-bait people with headlines, and don’t post an article that is nothing more than a link to a personal blog. Just like on the telephone, people do not like being re-directed; doing this comes across as simply someone trying to drive traffic to their site. Simply post the entire article on LinkedIn, as one would on their blog. Posters can always add their blog address in a brief bio at the end of the article. Also, focus more on being interesting rather than trying to “show-off” (i.e. using complicated jargon). Posts should be no more than 600 words, which is recommended for blogs. Listicles are also preferred over long paragraphs. People like their information like they like their cake—bite-sized and easy to digest.
Think of LinkedIn as a formal cocktail party. Act like a guest who wants to be invited back. Generally, whatever is acceptable “watercooler talk” is acceptable on LinkedIn. Though only 13% of Millennials use the social network, 98% of recruiters and 85% of hiring managers use it to find candidates. Finding a job, or even getting an interview isn’t just about resumes anymore, but also relationships, and LinkedIn is the web that connects these two worlds. Use it. It’s free.
*originally published in The Corsair (the Pensacola State College newspaper), Nov/Dec 2016 edition.