Unsure what goes where? Everything a bit of a mess? Worried others are doing it better? Everyone remembers their first time. Filling in a LinkedIn profile, that is. Forget your first kiss, first car and first dodgily-rolled fag on the way back from school: its LinkedIn thats the true modern rite of passage.
In centuries gone by, daughters of aristocrats were presented as debutantes to a gathering of high society, overseen by the King or Queen. The young women made their debut in order to be displayed to eligible bachelors and their families, guaranteeing that suitable matches would be arranged.
In a similar way, LinkedIn is the bridge between adolescence and adulthood, education and work. Debutants and bachelors have become young adults and employers. The middlemen at Court who used to identify matches and broker agreements are still around, of course. Im one of them.
The double-edged sword of LinkedIn is that youre in control of how you represent yourself. You get to determine the content, the tone, what to show and what to hide. You can choose whether you put up your Grade 2 Trumpet as much as you can choose to show your work experience or lifelong volunteering.
Why bother? Frankly, even an average LinkedIn profile will be viewed several times a day. Many of these views will be curious ex-schoolmates hoping youre doing well or begrudged exes hoping youre doing badly, but some will be recruiters and headhunters trying to find the right people for jobs. A good LinkedIn profile keeps these people looking; it holds their gaze, retains their attention for longer than the average profile, and makes contact more likely. A good LinkedIn profile might mean you get messaged immediately about a particular opportunity, or saved for later.
A polished turd is still a turd
The first thing I would advise any young people to do is very simple. Have things to write about. Much of this article and the next will help add polish to a profile, but no amount of clever structuring or good writing will save you from not having enough to write about. If youre at school or University, make sure youre picking up experiences and skills that will provide you with content for life. You want the challenge to be writing about things selectively, rather than making much of little. Speaking as a someone who has recently moved from student-ship to work, youll never have the time again.
Test your profile by playing buzzword bingo
If you can imagine a contestant on The Apprentice saying what youve typed, delete it. Passionate, creative, specialised and excellent are all wildly overused. Headhunters read these words countless times a day: pick different ones or, better, illustrate your passion and excellence with clear examples. My enthusiasm for X lead me to doing Y is much more engaging than I am passionate about X.
Be open about what you like
You might have an impression of LinkedIn as humourless, po-faced, or just plain corporate. Its image goes with things like lanyards, Bluetooth headsets, boring suits and entry-level German saloons. But headhunters and recruiters are real people, and real people buy into real people. Cutting the buzzwords will help, but dont be afraid to go further: display your interests and hobbies, and write about your work or education in a way that conveys your character. Niche interests, enthusiastically written about, are a great way of showing your personality.
Have things to click on
LinkedIn offers a considerable platform for showcasing multimedia content. You can link to online publications, newspaper websites, YouTube and can even upload images and documents. Remember the longer someone is looking at your profile, the better. Include clickables to retain their attention and develop their sense of who you are.
LinkedIn isnt like Facebook. Part of its function is professional networking, and it is perfectly acceptable to connect with people you want to be connected with; imagine youre all at a huge party and you take the opportunity to introduce yourself. Youre vastly more likely to be found in searches if you build your network (more in the next article), so for now, connect to everyone you know, and those you might want to know.