This question was asked on Quora: “How do you optimize your LinkedIn profile for internships and job searches when you’re still in college or have just graduated?”
I use The 7 Systems of Influence framework to work through questions like this.
- Vision: What do you want? That’s pretty straightforward, you want an internship or job, preferably one that will lead to other good things for your career and life.
- Genius zone: What makes you unique? There are a LOT of students out there. They’re all smart, good looking, creative, hard working, and have unlimited potential, or at least that’s the picture they’re all going to present. How can you set yourself apart and not just say you’re unique, but show it with concrete facts? For example, if you speak multiple languages, that’s a huge plus and you should list those languages on your LinkedIn profile and consider creating additional LinkedIn profiles in separate languages (I don’t mean create an entirely separate profile, I mean use the functionality LinkedIn has built in to create additional language profiles). If you have lived in different countries, or have particular expertise with a certain type of business, then make sure this all shows up prominently on your profile. You may think you’re lacking in experience, but if there is a business out there looking for someone who speaks English, Chinese, and Spanish, who can travel between the US, China, and Mexico to help the CEO of a multinational with translation and cultural matters, then perhaps all you need are the language skills to snag an incredible opportunity. Whereas if you target a marketing internship at Facebook that doesn’t involve your language skills, now you’re competing against every other marketing student in the world and ignoring a huge asset you could leverage to create “an unfair advantage.” Write down all your “expert zones,” like language skills, where you’ve lived, and every other skill that’s worth mentioning, then start overlapping/connecting them to see what “genius zones” show up. Also, list these skills in the skills area of your LinkedIn profile.
- Audience: Who is the ideal audience for you to go after? It’s not merely “employers,” it’s going to be employers who are looking for someone who has your genius zone. How can you identify them on LinkedIn and make a list of a few hundred to target?
- Content: What content will get your ideal audience to do what you want them to do? If you put “Seeking employment” in your LinkedIn title, that’s not going to impress anyone. Going back to our genius zone example, if you put “I help CEOs at multinationals to navigate language and culture in China, Mexico, and the US,” now that’s a title that would get someone in HR who has been tasked with finding someone to do that job to say “Wow! This is exactly what I’m looking for!” Key content on your LinkedIn profile will be your title (tell us what you do and who you do it for), the first three lines of your bio/summary (you gotta hook us here, otherwise nobody will read the rest), your photo (get a professional photo, and make sure you’re smiling), your banner (don’t use the default blue one, put something in there that’s relevant to your genius zone that helps drive home the message you want to communicate), and then the rest of your bio. The other info on your profile is important, but nobody will look at it if you don’t get these first parts right.
- Action: Don’t stop at optimizing your profile. Make a plan to create content on LinkedIn that will attract your target audience. Don’t write articles–they’re virtually worthless. Write short text posts. Your posts should center around your genius zone. Don’t talk about yourself, unless you’re using a story from your experience to illustrate a point. Talk about points, trends, facts, and others. Find articles that relate to your genius zone, summarize them, and comment on them. Think of your target audience and how you can help them because of your genius zone.
- Collaborate: Who can you collaborate with to get in front of your audience? Start by connecting with lots of people who either are part of your ideal audience, or are connected to your audience. Create content they want to comment on, which will then put your content in front of other members of your ideal audience. Here’s an idea for a post–ask your connections for advice on how to find your dream gig, or for advice on what you can do as a younger person on LinkedIn, like Austin Henline did. Get the LinkedIn community to support you.
- Love: No, not the romantic kind, the kind that seeks to understand others and cares about them. Here’s a secret–employers are people too. They’re not monsters. They’re not made of money. They’re not Santa Claus with a big bag of cool jobs to give out. They’re you–20 years from now, and they’re struggling to keep their own job, overcome challenges, solve problems, and figure out life. If you go to them and say “Give me a job!” you come across as entitled and high-maintenance. If you truly care about them and go to them and ask “Can you help me understand the challenges you’re facing?” then they’ll tell you, and in their answer you might see a problem they’re facing that you can solve. If you develop the talent to care and inquire, you will never lack for a well-paying job.
What advice would you add for a recent or soon-to-be graduate who is trying to figure out LinkedIn? Tell me in the comments.Liked it? Share it!