Getting Started on LinkedIn: Advice for Recent Grads

In honor of LinkedIn’s IPO on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, I thought it would be a good time to share some reminders about why the site is valuable to young professionals and how to use it effectively.

As the largest and most vibrant professional social network in the world (100 million members in over 200 countries and counting), LinkedIn provides a wealth of opportunities for personal branding, networking and finding jobs.

As a spokesperson for LinkedIn for the past two years, I’ve learned a lot about how to get the most value out of the site. My biggest piece of advice is this: LinkedIn doesn’t work unless you work it. You must take control of your profile and visit the site frequently to get the most benefit.

Here are some tips for getting started, especially if you’re new to the professional world:

  • Make your profile heading pop. Far too many young professionals insert a generic term such as “Recent graduate” or “Job Seeker” as their LinkedIn profile headline. This is a big mistake. Your profile headline is the first thing people will read on your profile, so you need to think of it as a marketing tool. Be as specific and keyword heavy as you can. For instance: “Honors Marketing Grad from UCONN Seeking Opportunity in Consumer Packaged Goods” or “Recent LSU Grad with Extensive Nonprofit Experience.” For ideas, check out the profile headlines of other recent grads or entry-level employees you admire.
  • Write a professional Summary statement. Your LinkedIn Summary statement should resemble the first few paragraphs of your best-written cover letter — concise and confident about your goals and qualifications. Remember to include all of your experience, including internships, volunteer work, and extra curriculars. You should also include key words and phrases that a recruiter or hiring manager might type into a search engine to find a person like you. The best place to find relevant keywords is by researching the job listings that appeal to you and the LinkedIn profiles of people who currently hold the kinds of positions you want.
  • Display an appropriate photo. Remember that LinkedIn is not Facebook. If you choose to post a photograph on your LinkedIn profile, opt for a professional, high-quality headshot of you alone. You don’t necessarily have to wear a suit, but baseball caps, party photos, cartoon avatars, and glamour shots from last weekend’s formal don’t fit in the professional environment of LinkedIn.
  • Share your (career-related) news. Like other popular social networks, LinkedIn provides the opportunity to share brief status updates with your connections. But again, remember to stick to the professional. I think of my LinkedIn status updates as brief conversations I would have at networking events: “I just read a really interesting article you might enjoy. Here is the link…” or “I’m attending our industry conference next week. Are you going too?”  You never know what nugget might catch someone’s attention and spark a conversation or opportunity.
  • Connect with friends and family. Once you have a great profile, start building your LinkedIn network by uploading your online address book and connecting to friends, relatives, internship colleagues, and professionals you know in the real world. The best networks begin with those you know and trust, and then grow based on personal referrals.
  • Customize your connection requests. As you build your connections on LinkedIn beyond your friends and family, don’t use the generic “I’d like to connect on LinkedIn” note. Instead, always customize your connection requests with a friendly note and, if necessary, a reminder of where you met or what organization you have in common. You’ll impress people with your personal touch.
  • Join groups. To get even more out of LinkedIn, join groups related to your professional interests and communities. I recommend joining your university’s LinkedIn group first, and then search for industry groups related to the career or careers you want to pursue.
  • Don’t be a stranger. Once you have a great profile and have joined some groups, your work is only beginning. Set reminders in your calendar to visit the site on a daily basis to reach out to connections (with informational interview requests, check-in notes, etc.), to read through and comment occasionally on group discussions where you have something to add, to update your status and comment on other people’s updates and to research available job and internship opportunities in the Student Jobs Portal.

What other advice do you have about getting started on LinkedIn? Please share!

Share this post

hi, i'm lindsey!

Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


Learn 25 Practical Ways to Manage Across Generations