LinkedIn is a powerful career tool that can open the door to new opportunities, expand your network, and promote your professional brand.
By Sarvenaz Myslicki, SWE Editorial Board Chair
Populating a basic profile on LinkedIn can garner attention from recruiters and increase job prospects — even for those not interested in the social aspects of the platform. A great time to set up your profile is as a collegian, especially if you are seeking internships or full-time positions. If you’ve already graduated, though, it’s never too late!
Depending on your individual goals and starting point, there are three different “levels” and associated tasks described below. The tasks don’t need to be completed exactly in order, but it can help add structure to the process.
Create your profile
Goal: Land your first internship or full-time job, or improve your job prospects beyond your current role.
- Pick a title with keywords that will work well in a recruiter search. For example, if you are a computer engineering major seeking a full-time job upon graduation, you’re better off with a title such as aspiring software engineer or computer engineering student rather than just student.
- Upload a professional headshot. According to LinkedIn, “members who include a profile photo receive 21x more profile views and up to 36x more messages.” A professional doesn’t necessarily need to take the photo, but it’s important to take one solely of yourself with a plain background. Headshots where you have been obviously cropped out of a group or have a vacation background aren’t ideal.
- Draft a brief “about” section and add anything else that you would put on your resume. This could include relevant skills, courses, certifications, volunteering, extracurricular involvement, and work experience.
Boost your profile
Goal: Develop and showcase your skills to a broader network.
- Build your connection count. LinkedIn connections don’t need to be as close as the “friends” of other social media platforms. They can range from one-time acquaintances met at a networking event to colleagues you have directly worked with. However, they should not be complete strangers, and you should be wary of accepting requests from individuals who may be trying to sell you a product or service.
- Take LinkedIn’s courses and assessments to boost niche industry skills you may not have covered as part of your degree. Passing LinkedIn Skill Assessments can give you a credibility boost because you will receive a custom badge that you can showcase on your profile. If you are already employed, check to see if your company provides free access to LinkedIn Learning as a benefit.
- Give and receive recommendations. Be prepared to send an outline or summary of the type of strengths or experiences you want your recommender to highlight so they don’t have to draft it from scratch. When giving recommendations, remember that what you say about working with others will also reflect on what it’s like to work with you.
Advance your brand
Goal: Help others by sharing your expertise or be seen as a thought leader in your industry.
- Post content that you’ve authored yourself, or share content that features you from other sources. Examples include a recorded presentation you delivered at a conference, news coverage of an initiative you helped lead, or an article in which you are quoted as a subject matter expert.
- Reshare articles or resources that are relevant to your industry. Be sure to add your own thoughts or a brief summary when you reshare; otherwise, it will be hard for people to connect which parts resonated with you and how you feel about the content in general.
- Understand LinkedIn’s content algorithm. Unlike many other social media platforms, your network will see content that you “like” or comment on in their feeds. In a way, “liking” and commenting on LinkedIn is similar to resharing on other platforms. With that knowledge, you may choose to be more mindful or selective of the content you engage with.
With LinkedIn’s many features and nonstop reel of career highlights from your network, the platform can certainly feel overwhelming at times. While LinkedIn is a great way to invest more proactively in your career, it’s important to not get caught up in career comparisons — and know that it’s OK to not have a fully loaded profile from the start. Your online brand can grow and evolve over time, alongside your own unique career path.
Sarvenaz Myslicki (she/her) has been an avid SWE member for more than 10 years. She has held leadership positions at the section and Society levels and currently serves as chair of the editorial board. A vice president of engineering with American Express, Myslicki holds a B.S. and M.S. in computer science, as well as an Executive MBA.