This article is based on a presentation my former business partner and I conducted at the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers (SHPE) regional conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Our presentation was targeted towards engineering students looking to acquire summer internships and/or full-time positions after they graduated. We went through a case study of a junior engineering student named “Jimmy Muñoz” who creates his LinkedIn page, develops a networking strategy and utilizes this strategy to acquire a summer internship with a local computer software company in Phoenix. Although you may not be an engineering student, I feel that the content in this article and the subsequent article offer immense value to any student/professional. Let’s begin by looking at the case study:
“Jimmy is an aspiring engineer just like you. He is a junior at ASU and is starting to prepare his resume to compete for an internship opportunity in the summer. He has gone to the Engineering Career center and structured his resume to appeal to various potential employers. Unfortunately he is unsure of what steps to take next. What do you think he should do?”
As of 2015, there are 414 million users of LinkedIn worldwide. Of those 414 million users, 128 million reside in the United States. This equates to well over half of the US working population. LinkedIn has become one of the primary recruiting tools for recruiters across every industry. Some smaller companies only recruit on LinkedIn so in order to gain exposure with these smaller companies; a candidate must have a presence on LinkedIn. As a result of this monumental shift in the way companies recruit, job-seekers have more power than ever before. Gone are the days that a candidate has to attend career fairs and company mixers to be noticed by employers. Nowadays I could be in my PJ’s eating a bowl of cereal while searching for job opportunities and expanding my network via the LinkedIn online platform.
So what makes a great LinkedIn page? Let’s go through each section:
Your LinkedIn profile picture should be simple and professional. Although you may feel that a picture of you and your friends partying Cabo will make you look more easygoing and fun, recruiters won’t see it that way. You don’t need to spend a few hundred dollars to get professional head shots for your profile picture. I recommend dressing up in professional attire, standing against a plain wall and have your friend take a picture of you using your smartphone. The picture quality on most smartphones is more than sufficient to create a high quality profile picture.
When recruiters search for users on LinkedIn, they use keywords that match with skills they are looking for. For example, if a recruiter is looking for a software developer, they may type “C++” in the search bar. When they execute the search, all the profiles with C++ referenced on them will be retrieved and displayed for the recruiter. In the search screen, the only parts of a candidate’s profile that are displayed are the profile photo, the candidate’s name, and their “headline”.
Having a memorable headline is a great way for you to stand out from the crowd. Recruiters may have 100 profiles that meet their criteria so a memorable headline is a great way to differentiate you instantly. An example of a good headline for a graduate may read “Aspiring engineer with C++ experience searching for opportunities in the aerospace industry”. This headline utilizes keywords that recruiters look for and highlights what industry you are looking to break into. Get creative with your headline, add some of your personality to it and watch as you start receiving more traffic to your page.
After the recruiter has decided to click on your page, he/she will come across your summary section. The summary is an overview of what you want the person viewing your profile to walk away with. This is where you would highlight all your academic and professional experiences as well as issue your “Call to Action”. A call to action is what you want from people who visit your page. Are you looking for a job/internship/research opportunity? Are you looking to join a club or organization? Do you want people to reach out to you with new ideas for businesses? By explaining what you want at the end of your summary, the person who views your profile will get a better sense of what you are looking for. If the relationship seems mutually beneficial, they may even reach out to you with an opportunity.
This is the section of the page where you get to show the world how awesome and talented you are. As on your resume, you’ll need to list the professional and academic positions that you have held thus far. Don’t skimp on listing certain positions because you may feel that they don’t offer value to employers. I speak from personal experience when I say that the skills I developed working at various restaurants during college have been invaluable to me in my career. Learning how to operate in a team environment, how to deal with conflict/difficult customers and providing excellent service are just a handful of skills that I acquired. Employers love to see these traits in candidates so be sure to highlight them accordingly.
Once you have your experience listed on your page, begin to carefully craft your bullet points to highlight your accomplishments in each position. Recruiters will only spend 4-5 seconds skimming your page so including attention grabbing words at the beginning of your bullet point will help you keep their attention longer. Don’t be afraid to use a thesaurus to look up synonyms and expand your vocabulary. Instead of using the phrase “worked in a team” consider using the phrase “collaborated with my peers”. Instead of writing “started a study group” say “Established and led a study group focused on achieving high marks”. Be creative with the phrasing of your bullet points. Remember, the longer the recruiter is on your page the better your chances are of being remembered.
One of the final pieces of your LinkedIn puzzle is your honors and awards section. Honors and awards such as scholarships, grants and fellowships should be displayed prominently on your page. Not only do these awards distinguish you from other candidates, they show recruiters that others believe in you. Offering summer internships and hiring new graduates is risky business for employers. Young candidates who lack of experience have limited history for employers to evaluate. As a result, many candidates don’t work out for the company. Having scholarships and other awards shows the employer that you have a high probability of becoming an asset.
Giving back is part of human nature and it can also be a great way to support causes you believe in. Finding a foundation or organization to support not only affords you the opportunity to give back, but it also expands your network. List your volunteer work and the foundations/organizations you are a part of in this section. Many companies support organizations and foundations that line up with their company values. Belonging to these organizations/foundations shows the recruiter that you have values that align with the company (discussed in the next article). These organizations will also help you when reaching out to professionals and asking them to speak with you. Who knew that helping others could feel good WHILE helping you advance your career?!
I want to congratulate you on taking your first step to becoming a networking super star. Developing an all-star LinkedIn page is not easy but hopefully this article helped you along the way. In the next article we’ll discuss how to use your LinkedIn page to expand and tap into the potential of your network.
At the end of each article I like to recommend a book that I found helpful. My recommendation for this article is “Winning” by Jack Welch. This book has phenomenal information on how to approach your career, how to become a more effective manager/leader and how to navigate your way through industry. I have provided the link for the book below:
I would love to hear your feedback on the post and the book. Please feel free to reach out!