In today’s professional world, building and maintaining a digital presence is vital for networking, job opportunities, and industry engagement. Beyond your written resume, employers often rely on platforms like LinkedIn to get a sense of your professional capabilities and experiences. Learning how to represent yourself well online in a professional capacity can feel confusing or overwhelming. However, building a stand-out LinkedIn profile that will get you noticed and open doors is easier than you think.
#ICANHELP recently hosted a LinkedIn workshop to help students optimize their profiles and start building a professional network that will support them long-term. Here are the top tips we gleaned from the four breakout rooms managed by LinkedIn rockstars Uma Panchapakesan, Cindy Palmer, Dory Caplin, and Heidi Barker. Use these insights to power up your LinkedIn profile and start building a stronger digital network!
(Pssst . . . teachers, you can use these tips to design a practical, hands-on workshop for juniors and seniors who are getting ready for college and want to improve their professional digital presence.)
Eat the frog and tackle your bio first. This is the hardest section to complete because it’s tough to condense your life and experiences into just a few paragraphs. Remember that your resume and education follow this section, so don’t simply list those details. Your bio is the space to synthesize that information and turn it into a compelling story.
What do you want people to know about you that they can’t learn from reading the list of jobs you’ve had or schools you’ve attended? If you need inspiration, find public figures or influencers you admire and read their bios. There’s a ton of variety out there, so the sky’s the limit!
LinkedIn has several sections to highlight relevant skills and interests. Brainstorm your top skills that relate to your desired career or industry and make sure to highlight them on your profile page. For example, I want to become a researcher in the healthcare industry, so I’ve called out my project and data management skills that I’ve developed by interning with #ICANHELP on my page.
Your interests don’t need to be as targeted; they can showcase your personality beyond your career goals to help you connect with others with similar interests and start building a community.
Your LinkedIn page offers two primary areas to engage people visually: your profile picture and your header image.
Your profile picture doesn’t have to be a professional headshot, but it should show who you are in a positive light. If you love to snowboard, crop a photo of you on the mountain in your gear! If you’re a big reader, maybe a shot of you wandering through the library or your favorite section in a used bookstore.
Most people ignore their header image and leave the nondescript blue-grey background in place. Don’t leave this spot empty! Use a creative platform like Canva to design a unique background that reflects your interests. Play around with adding text, multiple images, and more to shape people’s perceptions and draw their attention.
Bonus: use the Creator feature to upload a short video that plays on top of your profile image. This allows you to share a 60-second elevator pitch of yourself to showcase your accomplishments and goals.
Building a genuine network takes time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take action to speed up the process a little bit. While the sweet spot for authoritative and trustworthy profiles is 500+ connections, if you’re a student, no one expects you to have that many (but it makes a good goal to aim for).
Start by connecting with all of the people you know in real life (teachers, co-workers, fellow students, family friends, mentors, etc.). Your connections will fill your LinkedIn feed with updates and lead you to other people that you want to connect with. If you don’t know the person, it’s always a good idea to include a sentence or two in your invitation explaining why you’d like to connect on LinkedIn. For example, you could try connecting with your favorite author or a public speaker whom you saw give a talk or lecture. Find real reasons to engage and you’ll be surprised by the response!
If you’re not ready to connect with someone (or don’t think they would accept your request) you can opt to follow them instead to keep up with their content. You can engage with them over time by liking their posts and commenting, which could lead to a more organic connection request.
One more important point: don’t spam people. You’ll end up with a feed filled with voices you don’t know and don’t want to engage with, which defeats the purpose of building a strong LinkedIn profile.
Don’t be shy about asking your teachers, employers, and mentors for recommendations! Public feedback is extremely valuable when it comes to applying to school, for internships, scholarships, jobs, and other professional opportunities. Let others help lift you up by shining a light on your talents and accomplishments.
LinkedIn is filled with fascinating conversations about work, life, and everything in between. This is a platform where people engage with each other deeply through long-form posts, comments, and video content.
The variety of content can also be overwhelming. Start by identifying your core values, interests, and goals. Find public figures and influencers who share similar views, interests, and experiences (or who have experiences and wisdom you want to learn from) and engage with their content. Who inspires you or works in the industry you’d like to be in?
This is a great way to begin finding your own voice while learning from others who have gained a following on the platform. And the people you choose to engage with don’t have to be mega-famous with thousands of followers. In fact, it’s the micro or nano-influencers who will take more time to engage with their audience and reply to thoughtful comments.
Don’t forget to share your own updates as well! This will give others a chance to interact with your page and you can gain experience guiding the discussion that may take off in the comments.
If you want to build a solid presence that isn’t overwhelming, start by setting aside a few 20-minute blocks of time each week to read, like, comment, and share on LinkedIn.
Time to put these tips into practice! Create a LinkedIn to-do list and schedule time to complete your profile updates. You can even post an update when you’re finished and ask people in your network to share their feedback! (If you tag @ICANHELP in your post, we’ll definitely help out.)
Want to participate in our next live workshop or webinar? Check out our Events page to register for upcoming sessions!
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