LinkedIn has upwards of 500 million members across 200 countries. So, if you're not making the most of the social network, you should be.
For a soon-to-be or recent graduate, LinkedIn is a great way to research careers that may be of interest to you, extend your professional online presence (prospective employers will look you up after you apply for a job), and to find career opportunities.
We've put together some advice on how to optimise your use of LinkedIn on the job search, with the help of Lara Shannon. Lara works at Douglas Scott Legal Recruitment, the largest private practice recruiter in the UK.
1. First things first...
If you're just setting up your profile for the first time now, or looking to revamp an existing one, here are the key things to focus on.
A high-quality, professional photo is a must - it makes your profile 21x more likely to be viewed, and can get you 9x more connection requests. As you would on your CV, be sure to include a professional contact email address.
From there, think about htese questions: How will someone find you on LinkedIn? Who would you like to find you on LinkedIn? How would you like to be known? You can then work backwards to tailor your LinkedIn to those employers, or professional connections, and achieve your end goals.
That means researching which skills are most in-demand in your desired field of work, which also align with your own skillset, and dragging them to the top of your skills section.
Lara says "candidates should try to include as many key words in their profile as possible", as recruiters use key words to search the site. Typically, she tells me, these key word searches relate to "industry, job titles, and geographical area." So, we're not recommending listing buzzwords like "team player," merely making sure your profile has as much information that's relevant to your ideal employer as possible.
Including your location not only allows you to be found by potential employers, but it also enables LinkedIn to more accurately recommend jobs that may be desirable to you. Lara also says, if you're looking to get into digital project management, for example, you could list yourself as an "aspiring digital project manager," to maximise your chances of being found.
2. Then, optimise and connect...
Once you've covered the basics, Lara explains, "it's essential that you bulk out your profile - listing your education alone will not set you apart."
If you're a recent graduate, currently without a full-time role, Lara advises "extra-curricular activities, volunteering and, most importantly, work experience, are great ways to give people a more informed picture of who you are."
It takes a bit more time, but Lara says it's really important to not just list your previous employment or society involvement at uni, but to highlight your key achievements in those positions.
"Be sure to briefly explain the sort of projects you worked on and any software or systems you used - these are more effective than general buzz words for setting you apart as a candidate who has the foundations of a good industry knowledge."
Your professional summary is also very important as a job hunter. Make it clear, using first person, why you're on LinkedIn and what you're hoping to get out of it - state the kinds of opportunities you're seeking and why you'd be great for those roles. And don't hesitate to inject some personality when summarising your key strengths in those few short paragraphs. That section is one of the first things people will see on your profile.
Now that you've got a killer profile, it's time to start connecting with alumni from your uni and previous employers. You can also join groups related to your industry and follow influencers - this is a great way to keep up-to-date with news and developments in your industry, as well as expanding your network and seeing how the pros are using the platform.
"Connect with relevant people in your field," Lara explains, "and also recruiters who often post their live vacancies to LinkedIn, which will give you a good idea of what sort of roles are most prominent in your chosen market."
3. Finally, it's time to engage and reach out...
Lara explains that the biggest pitfall LinkedIn users fall into is becoming a "passive user, scrolling through other people's achievements in a similar way to how we scroll through our other social media platforms." She continues, "many LinkedIn users who are open to new roles don't capitalise on the social tool that many recruiters work with every day".
The most important thing, as someone who is new to, or just starting to really maximise, LinkedIn as a professional tool is to remember that it's a professional networking site. It is OK to stop scrolling and use it as such. Lara recommends getting your name out there with potential employers, connections or people in your industry, by simply "viewing someone's profile and liking or commenting on their posts".
You should also be regularly updating your LinkedIn status and sharing posts. If you want to get into brand management and marketing, for instance, sharing an insightful article about a recent brand campaign - with a smart status of your own - is a way to get yourself noticed. Share content that adds value to your connections' feeds, and people will start to engage with you in return, which will grow your network and reach on the platform.
Don't be afraid to contact someone who's doing well in your industry via the platform either, Lara says. "Feel free to message them explaining that you're new to the industry and that you were very impressed with their insights."
"It may not always get a response," she continues, "but don't be afraid to reach out and network. Most people are generally happy to answer a few questions."
According to LinkedIn, there are over 1 million entry-level jobs currently listed on the site. So, don't be shy. Start building your profile, making some connections and getting involved. It's the ideal place to learn more about your industry and the key players within it, as well as expanding your professional online presence.