Connect With LinkedIn
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful platforms available to connect you with professionals from across the world. It can serve as your “professional Facebook,” online portfolio, and career search tool, all in one.
Most individuals create a basic profile and stop there, but LinkedIn can be used for much more. Learn how to set up a strong profile, grow your network, receive updates about your field or industry, and get noticed for future opportunities.
Build Your Profile
Your Profile Goals
Though LinkedIn is widely known as a platform for working professionals, it behooves all aspiring professionals to create an account and begin participating. Whether you are a first year student, a graduate student, or an alum, LinkedIn offers something of value for your developing career aspirations, and it is never too early to get involved in the LinkedIn community.
In order to join you need to setup a free account, however, it is important to first consider your individual goals for the account within the near future. Are you using LinkedIn to learn about career or major options? Are you using it to actively search for and apply to jobs and internships? Are you using it to increase your online presence for a specific “target audience”? Or are you simply using it for occasional networking?
Though you do not need a definitive goal in mind in order to get started, it is helpful to know that LinkedIn can be leveraged for different strategies as you evolve through your career. It is also worth acknowledging that your LinkedIn profile offers a consistent story to all of the people who view it, and it cannot be tailored to each individual viewer in the ways that your resume can. For this reason, it is useful to consider your profile goals and “target audience” before you begin.
In all cases, a good first step is to set up an account and build your profile.
Statistics show that a professional profile picture makes you several times more likely to be found in searches. It also demonstrates to others that you are less likely to be a “fake” or unfinished profile.
Taking a professional profile picture does not require that you pay a professional. While professional photographers take high quality photographs, you can obtain a quality photo for LinkedIn as long as you consider the basic elements of your attire, expression, body language, lighting, and background. Ask a friend or family member to help you, and make sure that you avoid a selfie at all costs!
If you know the typical attire worn in the job you are trying to obtain, this is what is best to wear. Otherwise, Business Casual or Business Formal is appropriate attire for most head shots. Ensure that the backdrop is simple in design and neutral in tone, so that it does not distract the eye.
Look sharp for your head shot by reading more about professional attire on our Interviews and Offers page.
Many experts attest that your headline is the most important part of your LinkedIn profile. Your headline describes how you want to be known; it appears instantly in search results and it is often the first thing that others see.
Your headline defaults to your most recent experience or education (e.g., “Student at UC Santa Barbara”), which gives your profile the same initial appearance as about 25,000 other people. Avoid the default and showcase your unique self by adding rich keywords that are relevant to your specific background, experiences, or career goals.
Here is a “focus statement” example:
Communication student focusing on operations in account management
Here is a “goal-oriented” example:
Aspiring Account Manager With Tech Sales Knowledge
Here is a “keyword list” example:
Tech Sales | Account Management | Relationship Development
Your headline is not only emphasized visually in search results, but it is also emphasized mathematically in the LinkedIn search algorithm. Spend some time identifying the keywords that your LinkedIn “target audience” (e.g., people who you are trying to draw to your profile) might search for, and then use them in your headline. If you don’t have experience with the keywords you have identified, you can use one of the above formats to include them in alternative ways.
The “About” section (formerly known as the “Summary” section) is another very important part of your LinkedIn profile. Many LinkedIn users do not know what to write in this section and omit it altogether, however, they miss a significant opportunity to engage their audience through a relevant career story.
This section provides you with an opportunity to give others context for understanding your experiences, personality, and relevant plans for the future. Similar to a short cover letter, your summary should be written in the first-person point of view and include keywords that are relevant to your career goals.
Here is a ”personality-focused” example:
Every brand has stories to tell: stories that will not only engage, inform, surprise, delight, and impact their audience, but that will also deliver on measurable business goals. I am the conduit between brand and consumer. I help clients find the subject and medium that best fits their unique identity, and then, I produce high-quality content that meets their objectives. Currently, I am a content strategist at Alliance Media, where I have collaborated with companies such as Tiffany & Co., Burger King, and Netflix. My specialties include digital media, consumer behavior, brand awareness, and omni-channel marketing campaigns.
Here is a “results-focused” example:
I am a freelance multi-disciplinary graphic designer who has delivered creative and engaging solutions across brand identity, print, packaging, and digital media. In 2013, my online brand campaign for the Dorsey Children’s Hospital won a GDUSA award, one of the most prestigious honors in the graphic design industry. My work has also been featured in Creatique Bloq, Compound Magazine, and on the Creative Review blog. Skills: logo design, web design, branding and identity, typography, and UI design.
Here is a “personality and results” hybrid example:
Every brand has stories to tell—stories that will not only engage, inform, surprise, delight, and impact their audience, but that will also deliver on measurable business goals. I am the conduit between brand and consumer. I help clients find the subject and medium that best fits their unique identity, and then I produce high-quality content that meets their objectives. Currently, I am a content strategist at Alliance Media and I welcome connections from new partners or industry professionals.
• Successful multidisciplinary collaborations with premier brands such as Tiffany & Co., Burger King, and Netflix.
• Graphic design work featured in Creatique Bloq, Compound Magazine, and on Creative Review blog.
Knowledge and skill areas: digital media, consumer behavior, brand awareness, omni-channel marketing campaigns, logo design, web design, branding and identity, typography, UI design, packaging, CSS, HTML, InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator
Whether you are currently enrolled at UCSB or you have graduated, your “Education” section should always be filled out on your profile.
Beginning with your college education, enter each of the institutions you have attended in order from most recent to most distant. Include the dates that you have attended, as prompted by LinkedIn. Make sure that you spell your degrees and majors accurately and note that a “Bachelor of Arts” degree and a “Bachelor of Science” degree are spelled as such.
Optionally, you can add more details about the institutions you have attended, such as any minors or emphases associated with your degrees, activities or societies with which you have been involved, and honors or GPA you have earned. Note that some of this information can be placed in alternative sections on your profile that feature it with greater emphasis, so consider the different sections that are available.
In this section, list all of the significant experiences that you have acquired. Consider your LinkedIn as your “extended resume” in that there is no page limit, and thus there are fewer restrictions on what should or should not be included. You can go as far back in time as you need, however, it is typically best to limit high school experiences to two or three at most. Though there is no official limit, you want to do your best to keep your profile visitors engaged.
Your “Experience” section also provides various options for formatting the details of your experiences, unlike the established rules on a resume. At a minimum, it is good to include descriptions of each role, rather than omitting the descriptions altogether.
Descriptions can be brief (i.e., 1-2 paragraphs) and can either be written as complete sentences using personal pronouns (i.e., “I” and “My”) or as bulleted statements, like the descriptions on most resumes. Because of the similarity to resumes in this aspect, it is typically acceptable to copy and paste the bulleted statements from your resume to your LinkedIn profile, if you need to create a profile quickly. Regardless of the format that you choose, maintain consistent writing conventions throughout all of your experiences.
People don’t know what you don’t tell them. If you leave off descriptions from your experiences, your profile visitors will know very little about what you have accomplished. You will also miss valuable opportunities to be found in searches based on keywords that could be included.
Add Rich Media
Include any media files (e.g., documents, presentations, images, or videos) that capture your accomplishments. This could include scans of award documents, samples of projects, photographs of you performing relevant work, and more. The adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words” applies well to this situation.
LinkedIn offers you many types of accomplishments to highlight, including publications, certifications, patents, courses, projects, honors and awards, test scores, languages, and organizations. Not all of these will be relevant to your experience or your career goals, so you do not need to include all of them. Choose the ones that are most relevant to you and add them to your profile to show your unique attributes.
Pay special attention to projects, as an area of your profile that can be built out strategically to emphasize relevant work you have done. A “project” is any time-based assignment within one of your experiences, courses, or research initiatives. Similar to a resume, you can include projects to customize your profile toward your “target audience.”
Your LinkedIn profile offers this section as a means of indicating any professionally-oriented interests you have. This can be another way to show your engagement or dedication to a field or industry, without requiring prior experience in the area. Consider how the interests that you choose could impact someone’s impression of you, and choose the ones that represent yourself intentionally.
Skills and Endorsements
The “Skills” section provides you with another opportunity to include relevant keywords on your profile. There is no official rubric system that justifies whether you do or do not have a skill on LinkedIn, so as long as you are confident that you can explain more if you are asked about it in the future, you can probably trust your internal judgment.
To get started with this section, enter a handful of skills that you believe you have and add more as you continue to grow professionally. Take a look at other peoples’ profiles--particularly profiles that represent a related field or major--for inspiration in identifying the types of skills that you have.
When skills are featured on your profile, people in your LinkedIn network can “endorse” you as a sign of support that you have this skill. While this is not intended to be a popularity contest, it can be a positive sign when a prospective employer visits your LinkedIn profile and sees that trusted people within your network have endorsed you.
LinkedIn offers additional ways to interact with skills and develop them further; explore all that this feature has to offer by clicking on skills to see more information.
Another powerful section of your LinkedIn profile is the “Recommendations” section. Similar to the “verified reviews” we see about companies and products in our daily consumer life, this section provides you with an opportunity to increase the likelihood that a prospective employer will trust that you are a quality candidate.
You can think of a LinkedIn recommendation as a miniature letter of recommendation from someone who knows you well professionally, which stays on your profile at all times. You can ask for recommendations from anyone in your LinkedIn network, which can include professors, TAs, supervisors, coworkers, classmates from group projects, and other professional connections. You can even write recommendations for others, which is typically viewed as a positive gesture as long as reciprocity is not expected (e.g., do not expect others to write you a recommendation in return for a recommendation you wrote for them).
If you are trying to convey a certain theme or “personal brand” on your LinkedIn profile, a recommendation that addresses this theme can be effective. You can frame your recommendation requests by asking your recommender if they would be willing to write about their observations of you doing a specific task that may support this impression.
Requesting recommendations on LinkedIn is similar to requesting letters of recommendation for more formal scenarios, such as graduate school applications. You typically want to provide advanced notice along with a tailored message; you can apply many of the same principles and strategies for success.
Develop your plans for requesting LinkedIn recommendations by reviewing our tips for Letters of Recommendation. Many of the same principles apply.
Settings and Privacy
As with all modern platforms, LinkedIn has many settings related to information privacy, notifications, and account access. Because LinkedIn is closely tied with your professional reputation, we advise that you browse all settings to ensure that you understand the inner workings of your account.
You can adjust any setting based on your level of comfort. Continue reading for a few highlighted settings that we recommend you closely review.
Edit Your Public Profile and Profile URL
When you create your profile, LinkedIn provides you with two versions of your account: the version that people within your network see, and the version that people outside of your network see (e.g., strangers). Through this setting, you can customize how your profile is seen to people outside of your network. You may want to consider the immediacy of your job search plans; a public profile that is turned “off” will not be found by the employers you could be trying to attract, but it also provides more privacy for when you are not actively searching.
LinkedIn also offers you the opportunity to customize your public profile URL. By default, your LinkedIn profile URL consists of complicated characters at the end. We strongly recommend that you edit your URL to look more professional, using a format similar to linkedin.com/in/yourname.
Update Your Profile Viewing Options
While you may be able to secretly view someone’s profile on other social media sites, LinkedIn’s default sends others a notification when you view their profile. This is a reciprocal feature, in that the option you choose also impacts your experiences when viewing others’ profiles.
You may want to use this feature strategically at different points in time. When you are not actively looking to draw attention to your profile, you can choose to stay anonymous. When you are actively networking or searching for a position, you can choose to show your identity so that your chances of people seeing you increase.
Share Job Changes and Profile Updates
This setting controls how your profile updates are broadcasted within your network. In some instances, you may find it to be useful for your profile to automatically update your network when you have a new profile change such as a new job or internship. In other instances, it may be bothersome to your network if they receive frequent updates about small changes to your profile.
Once you have developed your profile, visit drop-in hours for a review of your LinkedIn profile.