In the decade since LinkedIn began as a career website, online networking has taken on new importance. “In the beginning, it was more a question of, ‘Should I make a profile?’ Now it’s a given that you need to be on LinkedIn to have a professional presence,” says Christa Hinton (MBA ’98, EdD ’12), assistant dean for the Driehaus College of Business and director of the Kellstadt Career Management Center.
Even though online networking has become an accepted part of professional culture, business students and alumni often still wonder how to best manage a profile. Hinton and Colleen Fashing Reaney, associate director of alumni relations, detail four ways to make the most of LinkedIn.
1. Provide the right information.
A LinkedIn profile looks a bit like a resume, but its flexible design lets you add more detail. Instead of just listing your job description, tailor your profile with specific, measurable accomplishments and a headline that accurately describes what you do.
Unlike regular resumes, LinkedIn also has space for a picture. Some people may be uncomfortable posting a photo online, either for privacy reasons or because it’s not a cultural norm in the United States. However, both Hinton and Reaney encourage using a photo. “If you don’t have a headshot, your profile isn’t considered 100 percent complete and you can’t progress with some of the resources on LinkedIn,” Reaney says.
If you want to apply for job postings through LinkedIn, pay attention to the recommendations section. Without three to five recommendations—short endorsements you ask others to write—you might not be considered for certain opportunities. Whereas references for a job often are past supervisors, LinkedIn recommendations can come from co-workers at any level. “I encourage people to do a 360 recommendation: somebody above you, somebody below you and somebody at your level,” Reaney says.
Also, make sure to list your education on your profile. LinkedIn’s search function lets you find other people who went to DePaul, which can be helpful for connecting with old classmates or job searching.
2. Create a dynamic profile.
Keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date is vital. “It’s a living thing that needs to be nurtured,” Hinton says, comparing it to keeping a current resume. “You wouldn’t let your resume sit for 10 years and then go apply for a new job with that same resume.”
LinkedIn is also easier to update than a resume. LinkedIn allows you to edit sections as much as you want; if you try something that you don’t like, you can easily delete it and start over.
3. Decide how you want to connect.
LinkedIn allows users to link with people they actually know and to reach out to potential connections they have never met. Deciding which approach you want to take is personal, and there are two schools of thought.
“If I cannot recognize your name or your face by looking at your profile, I will not connect with you,” Reaney says. Her philosophy is that having multiple “touches” with a person—meeting at a networking event, emailing or having coffee—before asking to connect on LinkedIn can lead to a stronger relationship.
In Hinton’s opinion, “It never hurts to ask.” She is open to connecting with people she doesn’t personally know as long as they explain why they want to link with her. LinkedIn allows users to personalize every request beyond the basic “I’d like to add you to my professional network” wording. For example, Hinton encourages Business Exchange readers who want to learn more about LinkedIn to send her a connection request mentioning this article.
4. Be an active participant.
LinkedIn is about more than just creating a profile. To get the most use out of the site, look in the “Interests” section for companies to follow and groups to join. “When you’re part of a group, it is important to post occasionally, because that helps people know who you are and that you’re part of a larger dialogue,” Hinton says.
Amid updating your professional profile and connecting online, don’t forget that personal relationships still matter when networking. “Remember to get out of your house and actually shake some hands and meet people face to face,” Reaney suggests.
Connect with alumni from all of DePaul’s colleges and schools through the DePaul University Alumni Association group on LinkedIn, which has more than 19,500 members.
Set up an appointment with the Kellstadt Career Management Center by calling (312) 362-8272 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get career advice from the Office of Alumni Relations by calling (800) 437-1898 or emailing email@example.com.