Everyone knows LinkedIn as a great tool for building your network and finding a better job. But this social media giant isn’t just for people who currently have a job; it’s also a valuable resource for anyone who’s currently in a life/work transition.
Maybe you’ve just graduated high school and are heading into your first year of college. Maybe you have a part-time job and are looking to find an internship in your field. Then again, maybe you’re unemployed and looking to find volunteer opportunities to build your experience. Whatever your situation, it’s definitely worth your time to learn more about LinkedIn and how it can help get you where you want to be.
Showcasing Your Best Qualities
It used to be that a hardcopy resume was the best way to summarize your value for others. But just as hardcover book sales have given way to ebooks, the old-fashioned paper resume has now been surpassed by the LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn’s robust profile capabilities enable you to really show off your skills and talents through things like YouTube videos and hyperlinks to your personal website and other online locations.
Your LinkedIn profile has five main sections: Contact Overview, Summary, Recommendations, Experience, Skills and Endorsements.
The Contact Overview is a general snapshot of your profile, giving viewers a quick overview of who you are, your recent job(s), and your education. The headline (directly below your name) is important because it’s searchable. If you don’t currently have a job or a title, just be creative: use your favorite quote or song lyric; talk about an upcoming adventure (i.e., “Next stop: College!”); or talk about your volunteer efforts (i.e., Helping kids through the Mooncrest Afterschool Program”).
The Summary section is the main text section of your profile. Here you can copy and paste your current resume, or just summarize your experience in a more narrative fashion.
The Recommendations section is one of the most powerful parts of your LinkedIn profile. You acquire recommendations by asking people for them. Then you can review what they said about you and post it on your profile for others to see.
In the Experience section, list your past jobs and any internships you’ve completed – paid or unpaid.
The Skills and Endorsements section of your profile contains tags that you can connect to your profile, which people will use to search and find you on LinkedIn. Over time, your highest skills will rise to the top of the list.
Make the Most of It
Your LinkedIn profile may be the modern version of your resume, but remember, it’s a social tool. LinkedIn’s real value comes in its ability to connect you with others who can help you on your professional journey.
Joining Groups – Once you’re happy with your profile, the next thing you’ll want to do is search for and join groups that are of interest to you. For example, if you’re heading off to college, do a search for your school’s name and join groups connected to your school. Once you belong to a group, make sure you stay active within it and build authentic relationships that can help you down the road.
Follow and Connect with People – LinkedIn allows you to “follow” people’s posts, as with Facebook, or “connect” with them, which enables more of a two-way interaction. When you ask someone to connect with you, someone from one your groups, for example, just be sure to add a friendly, personal message to your request in place of the generic auto-message LinkedIn provides for you. That way you’re more likely to get them to accept your request to connect.
College Connections – Whether you’re just applying to colleges now, you’re in college, or you’re in grad school, one thing you definitely want to take advantage of is the LinkedIn Now for Education feature. This awesome tool lets you research colleges and universities, connect with current students and teachers, and develop relationships with people who can help you now or down the road in your career.
We’re fortunate to live in a time when social sites like LinkedIn make it easier to connect with others and showcase our unique value to the world. Whatever transitional period you’re in, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of this valuable tool and let it help get you where you want to be in life. So get out there and start “linking”!