LinkedIn offers a great way of raising your visibility with recruiters, networking with alumni and other professionals, engaging with employers and finding out about jobs – advertised and not. It’s a very powerful tool if you want to:
- develop a professional online profile to complement your CV and build your professional brand
- connect with alumni around the world for insight and guidance
- build contacts with people working in your chosen sector
- search for organisations to target by industry sector or location
- research jobs and different types of role and career paths.
LinkedIn is also used by recruiters globally to post jobs, search for, vet and contact candidates, so having an effective presence can be incredibly helpful.
We set out below our advice and recommendations on making the most of the different features available on LinkedIn. As you’re reading, think carefully about what you want to get out of the platform at this point. *Please note everything mentioned is available on the free version of the platform.
Building your LinkedIn profile and your professional brand
We’re often asked how a LinkedIn profile should differ from a CV. Your CV’s main purpose is to secure an interview for a specific role and will need to be succinct and as tailored as possible to that job and organisation. You can use your LinkedIn profile to showcase more of your experience and let a bit more of your personality and interests shine through. Just make sure what you include will be consistent with any applications you’re currently making.
Here are some tips and suggestions on how you can get the most out of your LinkedIn profile.
Your headline is likely to be the first thing that will be read, so it’s worth making it attention-grabbing and meaningful. The system defaults to your current position, but you can replace this with a phrase that summarises something about you that you’d like to emphasise (in under 120 characters); who you are, what you do, your passion, the value you provide, what you are looking for. You can use sector keywords to help ensure you are found in searches.
Here are a few examples for inspiration:
- “Master’s student studying Business & Marketing | Graduate 2019 | Interested in careers in Digital Marketing & Social Media”
- “Penultimate year BSc Accounting and Finance student seeking accounting internship opportunities in the FMCG sector”
- “LSE government student volunteering to help a local London charity raise more funds. Previous fundraiser at FoodCycle.”
Add an appropriate photo. According to LinkedIn, if you do, your profile will be viewed 21 more times and you’ll receive 36 times more messages than if you leave it off.
It's a good idea to use the same photo across all your platforms so that your face becomes recognisable to your contacts.
Don’t forget you can personalise your background photo, choosing one that is professional and appropriate, possibly reflecting the industry you’re interested in.
At the top of your profile, your most recent experience and education appear next to your name and headline. If you have more than one current experience or education, you can choose between them; make sure you use what’s most relevant or interesting.
This is a powerful part of your profile and, as many people leave it out, is something it’s worth spending some time on as it can help you stand out. You can write in the first person, sharing your accomplishments, areas of specialism and interest, your aspirations and career goals. Show your personality and share what you enjoy doing. Consider including the top three things you want a potential employer to know about you. Think of including keywords relevant to your industry or area of interest to help recruiters find you in searches. If you need some inspiration, check out summaries from other students and from professionals working in the industry. Don’t hesitate to ask your peers for feedback.
Grab the reader’s attention in the first two lines to encourage them to click to “see more”.
You can also include links and media such as pictures, videos, files, so why not use this opportunity to showcase an achievement, a presentation or a link to a blog post you've published?
You can also include links and media in the sections about your work experience and education. If you have worked in a start-up, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) or small organisation that doesn’t have an organisation profile on LinkedIn, consider adding a link to their website. It might also be interesting to add examples of your work in photos, publications, presentations. Ensure anything your share is not confidential and that it can be published online.
In the skills section, make sure you include skills that are sought after in the industry you’re interested in, as well as your broader skillset. When you’re focused on a specific sector, check how its professionals describe their skills; go to the profile of a particular organisation click on “People” in the menu on the left. All employees will be listed, and you can filter “What they are skilled at”: this list collates the skills that the employees of the organisation have mentioned on their profile.
Recommendations are an underused feature of LinkedIn, but it could be useful to include testimonials of your work and abilities from former managers, colleagues or clients. Make sure any recommendation is relevant to your target audience. Feel free to be proactive and get two or three good recommendations; they can be particularly valued by recruiters.
Explore all other sections such as publications, projects, volunteer experience, to decide whether you want to add them to your profile and how to make the most of them, keeping in mind that you want things to be relevant to your current goals.
- If you speak more than one language and are considering working in different countries, it’s worth creating your profile in multiple languages. By default, your profile will appear in the language set by the person viewing it. If they're using the site in a language for which you haven’t created a secondary profile, they'll see your profile in the language of your primary profile.
- Pay particular attention to the fields that are weighted most in search algorithms: the headline first, then the job titles and skills, then the summary. These are the sections where it’s most important to include keywords associated with your area of interest, to rank higher in search results.
- Think carefully about the first two lines of your summary and work experiences, as this is what the reader will see before clicking on “see more” to see the full section.
- Take some time to scroll through all the settings of your account; privacy, communication and public profile. Find the balance between transparency and privacy, keeping in mind, of course, that the more ‘public’ your profile, the easier it is for recruiters and contacts to find you.
- It is worth editing your public profile by selecting the sections and details appearing on your profile to non-logged in members, and by customising your public URL.
Searching for information, exploring your options and expanding your knowledge
LinkedIn allows you to grow your industry knowledge. By researching profiles, jobs, companies, groups and posts you’ll find out the hot topics, key trends and developments, important and emerging players in a particular industry.
Reading through profiles, in particular, of course, those of LSE alumni, will give you good insight into different career paths, routes to roles you’re interested in and the kind of experience you need.
Check how others describe the projects they’ve worked on, what keywords they use, what skills they highlight. This can help you prepare for applications and interviews. It’s also interesting to see what articles or posts professionals share.
Do some research to decide which groups and key influencers you might follow in your areas of interest, to get news and updates and to know what’s topical. It’s also good practice to follow your target organisations and keep up to date with their news, projects and events. They’ll view this as evidence of your interest and motivation. Organisations who are actively hiring can choose to first search among the profiles of people who do follow them.
Remember that what and who you follow appears on your profile and is therefore part of your professional branding.
If you have an upcoming interview, don't hesitate to look up the names of the interviewers or panellists on LinkedIn beforehand; this can help you prepare your interview and think about some specific questions you can direct to them.
Companies are increasingly advertising their open positions on LinkedIn, so it’s worth checking it out as well as CareerHub and other specialist job boards.
Pay attention to the kind of job matches you’re receiving: if the jobs suggested don’t reflect what you’re looking for, this could be an indication that your profile isn’t quite right. Think about adjusting your profile headline and skills to get a better match.
Searching for LSE alumni is useful for many different reasons:
- to see what alumni have gone on to do and generate some ideas of options after your degree
- to identify alumni working in a specific organisation you’re targeting
- to start or extend your network in a specific country or location
- to get a list of smaller organisations or less well-known ones in the field you are interested in, to possibly address them a speculative application
- to identify contacts you could reach out to.
On LSE’s main LinkedIn profile click “Alumni” on the left-hand side bar. You can then search the database of over 200,000 professionals, filtering by location, organisation, area of study, expertise etc.
By playing around with the different criteria, you will be able to narrow down the list, do some further research and consider reaching out to those you feel might be able to offer you help.
Making connections, growing your network and interacting
Working on your professional network is a long-term investment. You never know what the future holds – what is certain is that your network is and will be an asset for you to create partnerships, grow your business, make a career shift, find critical information and learn about new projects of potential interest.
Networking for professional purposes has always existed as a critical way to find work, develop business, share information, create opportunities and offer mutual support. With LinkedIn this is made even easier.
As you make new connections, interact with others, build and maintain your network, it’s important to follow good practice. First and foremost, remember to always be professional, genuine and considerate in any interaction, whether that's with recruiters or anyone else.
If you’re new to LinkedIn and building your network, start with the people you know: friends, family, fellow students on your course, colleagues, tutors and lecturers, the careers service. Then think of connecting with people you meet at employer events, conferences, or indeed any other networking event.
When you’ve identified someone you’d like to reach out to it’s important to add a personalised note to your request to connect: this will greatly increase your chances of your connection request being accepted.
In the 300 characters at your disposal, mention a few words about what you find interesting about their background, how you’re connected and explain why you’re reaching out.
Once a connection request has been accepted, you can of course exchange messages with your new contact, but the next stage might be to ask for the chance to chat or meet, whether virtually or face-to-face.
When asking for a meeting, be straightforward about the fact that you’re asking for help. Introduce yourself more fully, explain why you’re getting in touch and how you feel they can help, for example by sharing their insight into an industry or organisation, by offering advice about your career options, by explaining how they got where they are. The more specific you are, the better they will see how they can help. You could consider listing a few of the questions you’d like to ask.
It’s very possible that recruiters will get in touch with you directly, either by making a connection request or sending you an InMail message, sometimes about a specific opportunity. Whether it’s something you’re interested in or not, first thank them for thinking of you and taking the time to reach out to you.
If you are interested in the opportunity, make sure you respond positively, showing genuine interest in the role and the organisation. Give some availability and the ways you can be contacted.
If you’re not interested, give your reasons why, emphasise that you’re nonetheless open to new opportunities and explain what you are in fact looking for.
Networking by its very nature involves meeting people you don’t know. In most cases this is perfectly safe, but it is sensible to take precautions. If you are contacted by an unknown person, where no common ground or reason is obvious, check their LinkedIn profile, where they work, cross-check details and ask classmates if they have also been contacted. Don’t feel obliged to accept a connection request. And you can decide at any time to remove someone from your contacts without them being notified.
Most importantly, consider personal safety as you would in any other setting when meeting or interacting with a stranger. LinkedIn provides guidance and resources on how to deal with safety and harassment issues that may occur on the site. This information can be found by typing in “safety” in the “help” function.
LinkedIn automatically offers opportunities for you to maintain your network, by sending notifications of role changes, work anniversaries, and by updating your news feed on your landing page with posts from your network. You can of course choose to react to these notification and posts by liking, sharing or commenting on them.
You can also post your own content, share news with your contacts, groups or the wider network: about an article you’ve read, about a conference you’ve attended, or about a post you’ve published, on LinkedIn or elsewhere. Exploring and sharing topics that matter to you, showing your expertise and writing about what inspires you is an excellent way of building your professional brand.
Reach out regularly to your contacts, keeping them up to date about changes in your situation, sharing or commenting on interesting news, following up on things that are of relevance to them, continuing to show your interest.
Using LinkedIn as a career changer
It’s worth considering how the features of LinkedIn can help you navigate the process of changing careers and securing a successful transition.
Make sure your profile focuses on your future rather than your past. Edit your headline to suggest greater relevance to the job you are hoping to move into – focus on your expertise, interests, values, and relevant keywords.
The summary is the perfect place to work on your career narrative. You know best in what way your past experience and your intended new path connect, so tell it as a compelling story, giving a brief explanation of those elements of your experience that are most relevant, highlighting the area you are looking to move into, what you enjoy doing most, and what your next step ideally would be. Stress key transferable skills you have developed that you know are sought in your future industry.
Make the most of all the sections of your profile: if you don’t yet have relevant work experience in the sector you target, you may have worked on a related project, have done some volunteering or taken a course connected to the sector or professional area. Emphasise skills relevant to your new industry and reorder them to keep the most important at the top of the list. You could also consider asking for a recommendation that highlights skills, a project you worked on or an achievement pertinent to your new area.
Using LinkedIn’s research options to their full extent can help you find out more about your new industry and role: key actors and stakeholders, trends and news, existing roles, typical career paths, sought-after skills.
Consider joining groups of industry professionals to ensure you're up-to-date on topical issues, challenges and trends. Follow organisations in the sector so that their updates feed your LinkedIn landing page. This is a great way to show your interest in your future industry.
Review profiles of professionals in the roles you’re interested in to see how they got where they are, how they present their role, past and present projects, and what skillset they showcase on their profile.
Finally, look at job opportunities to see how the roles are described and what the skills requirements are.
It is of course extremely useful to talk to professionals who work in the sector you wish to move into, and who can share with you their first-hand experience of the industry.
Make the most of the networking features of LinkedIn, contacting LSE Alumni and other professionals. Let your current contacts know what you are looking for, as they might also have relevant contacts to put you in touch with. When getting in touch, be specific about your career shift and what information you need: the clearer you are, the better people can help you and signpost you correctly.
Through these conversations, you will gain invaluable knowledge which will help you understand how your background can be of interest, what your personal added value is, and therefore how best to pitch your career change.
Your network can also advise you how best to proceed with your search and make you aware of current projects and roles or organisations you would otherwise have been unaware of.
The wide range of features and possibilities offered by LinkedIn can feel overwhelming. It can be a good idea to spend some time clearly identifying what you want to achieve from the platform. Gain visibility? Search information and career options? Expand your network in a specific industry? Search for a job? You can then set yourself an action plan, setting aside a certain amount of time each day or week to do some research, sending out two connection requests per day, sharing and commenting articles, creating content or even creating your profile in a second language.
As mentioned above, your profile, your online activity and your interactions all contribute to your professional image. The more consistent, insightful and genuine you are with your connections, the groups, organisations and influencers you follow, as well as in your headline, summary and skills, and via the recommendations you give and get, the better your professional branding will support your career goals.
Having LinkedIn on your smartphone enables you to check the site regularly, receive notifications and, if you're in job hunting mode, ensure that you can respond to messages quickly.
To activate the search algorithms, and therefore rank higher in search results and increase your visibility, all the following actions will have an impact:
- complete your profile and update it regularly
- use keywords
- add media and links where possible
- add connections
- join groups and be active in groups
- share updates, posts or articles
- comment and share others’ updates, posts or articles
- endorse skills and be endorsed
- get and give recommendations.
And if you’re still not convinced you should be on LinkedIn
It’s fine to decide not to be on LinkedIn, but it’s important to make an informed decision. Good reasons could be to protect your privacy or because you simply don’t think it is the right social media for you.
Some points worth keeping in mind:
- Employers are likely to search your name in a search engine on the web – if the first link appearing on the search results is your LinkedIn profile, it’s probable they will not explore further – so having a LinkedIn profile helps you keep control of what others can find about you on the web, and in the end, keep control of your professional branding. Employers might simply be reassured to see you there. An element of their interest in you could be related to your own network and capacity to help their business.
- You maybe prefer to be active on another social media instead. Check where the people in your area of interest are: do they typically have a profile on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter? Then you’re probably right. If the majority are indeed on LinkedIn, then quite possibly it’ll be the right place for you.
- It is of course a good idea to search your name on the web regularly whatever you decide.