Are you on LinkedIn? If you're still at uni and haven't had a job yet, creating a LinkedIn profile may seem pointless. Best to wait until you have a job to include, right? Wrong!
Having a professional profile out there in cyberspace can be a big help in your search for a grad position. It will allow you to connect with professionals, find out about exciting new opportunities, and perhaps give you the edge over all the other grads applying for the same roles as you. But how can you create a LinkedIn profile when you haven't had a job yet? Glad you asked - read on for our LinkedIn must-haves, student-style:
Grab people's attention with a winning LinkedIn headline
Underneath your name, that headline is the first piece of information potential employers will see. It is a great way to quickly position yourself as a professional. Don't leave it as your current job title - you are branding yourself here, so use searchable keywords. Try something like "Accounting student, XYZ University" or "Recent graduate seeking accounting position".
Let your summary shine
Next up is your summary. This is your professional introduction to a world of future connections and employers, so it should give them a better understanding of who you are and what you have to offer. Include any internships, volunteer work, extra-curricular activities, career goals and qualifications. Keep it short, sharp and to the point - bullet points are ideal here.
Give them a snapshot of you
Yes, an actual snapshot - a photo, but not of a Facebook standard. Including a photo on your LinkedIn profile makes it more complete, which means it is more likely to show up in searches. Make it a good one - if it looks like you're off to a job interview for your dream role, you've nailed the photo requirement.
Be proud of your education
This is your chance to include details about the institutions you have attended, and any highlights during your time there. Think dates, your majors and minors, activities you were involved in, exchange programs, overseas study, roles in uni clubs and societies, and any awards you may have won. Employers want to know, and you should be proud to tell them just how awesome you've been during your time at uni.
Experience doesn't only mean paid work
Any experience you have had is valuable. Unpaid work can actually say more about you than a paid gig, especially at this stage of your career. Outline any jobs you have had to date - be they in the form of work experience, internships, voluntary work, or paid positions - and include a brief overview of your responsibilities and achievements for each.
Add extra sections
If you haven't had a lot of experience with either paid or unpaid work during your studies, there are other ways to bulk up your profile. Projects you have worked on, other languages you speak, organisations you belong to, awards you have won, extra courses you have taken - these are all fantastic ways to differentiate yourself from your competition, and create a well-rounded profile.
Put your name up in URL lights
Set your LinkedIn profile to “public” - not only will your name now come up in a Google search, you can also claim a unique URL for your profile (www.linkedin.com/in/yourname). It looks a lot more professional, and allows you to include a concise LinkedIn URL on your email signature when applying for roles - very sharp.
Ask others to recommend you
To really add credibility to your profile, you can't beat third-party endorsements. Ideally, you'd have at least one recommendation attached to each position you have held, but when you haven't had a job yet, who can you ask? Uni is a great place to start - ask your lecturers and tutors. If you have any professional mentors, they'd also make fantastic online referees, as well as any managers you have worked for in either paid or unpaid work. It's all about building up a potential employer's confidence that they know what they're getting if they hire you.
Be sociable - join some LinkedIn groups
When you join a group on LinkedIn, that group's badge shows up on your profile and helps you look more connected. It shows you have a professional interest in that area and allows you to learn more about that industry, as you'll now receive their status updates, links to their discussion threads, and invitations to their upcoming events - all huge advantages when looking for a job.
Show them your work:
Have a website, blog, online portfolio or (appropriate) Twitter feed? What about a great PowerPoint presentation you prepared for uni, or a downloadable version of your full resume? Now you can display samples of your work and links to your other accounts on your profile using the Add Media icon. The more information you can provide to the reader about who you are and what you have accomplished in different areas the better.
So, you've got your LinkedIn profile sorted - now what?
Updating your LinkedIn status on a regular basis is a great way to enhance your professional image and stay on other users' radars. Treat it like a conversation you would have with someone at a networking event - tell people about any major projects you have completed, professional speakers who have visited your uni campus, interesting books or articles you have read lately, or any professional events you have coming up.
Don't wait until you have your first job to create a stellar LinkedIn profile - a strong LinkedIn profile created while you're still a student could help you land that dream graduate job!