Adapted from SECTOR Edition 20 (June 2019)
Nowadays social media is becoming increasingly important. Not just for socializing, but also for the job market. Searching for a job or employee and adding connections are things that happen on LinkedIn. But how to use this medium the best? We asked Tamar Pagrach and Friederike Terwyen from SBE Career Services.
SBE Career Services helps students to make the transition from university to the labour market. By giving workshops and coaching. Career Services prepares students for the next step.
Friederike came to the Netherlands as an international student. Therefore, she understands the challenges and benefits of living in a foreign country and taking the first steps to the labour market. With a background as a psychologist and coach, she started her career as a recruiter. In this role she gained experience with LinkedIn.
Tamar has a background as a lecturer and policy adviser at the VU. Four years ago she started working for Career Services. For this role, she completed a professional coaching degree.
Why would you recommend to create an account on LinkedIn?
Tamar: LinkedIn is the most widely used online platform for networking. It gives you the opportunity to present yourself, look at it as an extension of your CV. I definitely recommend creating a profile.
Friederike: I believe that it is more than a networking platform. Any organization that is interested in you will most likely look up your LinkedIn profile; perfect opportunity to portray yourself. Likewise, users can research organizations and find out about job opportunities. Hence, I recommend making an account if you want to be found, or want to search.
What is the best way to use LinkedIn?
Friederike: There are a lot of waybs to use LinkedIn, it is important to know what you want to achieve. You could use it as network, to find a job or to gather information. LinkedIn provides an excellent platform to do all of the preceding.
Tamar: You can use it to present yourself, to be visible to the world. Therefore, I recommend you to have your profile on public. If you worry about privacy, then don’t be on LinkedIn. The whole purpose of LinkedIn is showing the world that you exist and what you have done.
However, LinkedIn is a professional tool, so choose the information you show wisely. If you are not interested in recruiters contacting you, you can turn off specific settings such as these.
Is it important to make a lot of connections? And what type of connections should you have?
Friederike: Generally, in the beginning you do not have a lot of connections. As a starter nobody expects you to have a lot of connections so don’t worry about this. But you can already start making connections now: friends, your fellow students etcetera. At some point in the near future these people will have jobs in companies or countries that might be of interest to you. Don’t hesitate to make connections, it can only help you.
Tamar: Mostly you should be able to find at least 50 connections. Think about people in your programme, your thesis supervisor, lecturers, your friends from secondary school. Having these connections in your network can be valuable in the future. Opinions on who to add or who not to add differ per person. For me it is important that I am associated to the person in some way, for example through school. I do not necessarily need to have spoken to the person before.
Friederike: I have a different rule. A lot of people sent invites, but I don’t accept everybody. I am more selective in who to accept. For me it is important that I personally know the people in my network, instead of adding hundreds of connections.
Tamar: If you want to add someone that you don’t know that well, then it is also nice to leave a message saying where you met. Leaving a personal message really helps. Especially if you did not speak to the person before. It is also good to use the same rules online as offline. When you approach someone you don’t know that well, be polite.
Profile picture: what are the do’s and don’ts when it comes to this picture?
Tamar: It has to be a professional picture, no holiday pictures. Preferably, have a picture made for the purpose. You want to use a picture where you smile, show your teeth. Research shows you are more likeable when you show your teeth and when you smile genuinely. Also be aware of what you wear. Think about the industry that you are interested in and adapt your picture accordingly.
Friederike: If you want to work for a formal organisation and that is your target, then choose more formal clothes. If you want to work in a start-up perhaps you can choose a more casual picture. Another tip is not to make a close-up from a part of your face, recruiters want to see your whole face. Too zoomed out makes the picture vague, a nice balance would be a picture with your face and part of your chest. Finally, think about the background. Generally something quiet is preferable.
Why should you add an introduction or summary to your profile? And what should you write?
Friederike: It is a good way to create a red thread. It leads people through your profile. Where do you want to go? What is your motivation? Don’t just write your name and what you did, but make it personal by putting the “why” in it. Why did you do things in such a way?
Tamar: You can add certain things you want to highlight. It is always good to have a goal in your summary. Write a clear goal, not something like “I am looking for a next challenge” because this is vague, everyone has a different definition of a challenge. Be as specific as you can.
What kind of working experience do you put on your profile? Only relevant? Or also things such as a holiday job?
Tamar: At the start of your career I recommend you to put all your experience in there. Try to think about what you learned from the position, and what competencies or skills you did develop that can be useful in your future career.
Friederike: Be specific, point out what you are good at. For instance, you could indicate that your student-job has taught you how to manage your time efficiently. This way even though the work itself might not be relevant it shows your are capable in dividing your attention and working hard.
Tamar: At some point, later in your career, certain experience may no longer be relevant to mention.
Sometimes it is not clear where to add certain information. For example, is a committee work experience or volunteer experience?
Tamar: I would say: You place everything you do next to your studies, but do not get paid for, under volunteer experience. If you get paid, you add this under work experience. In other words, internships and student-jobs go under work experience and committees are volunteer experience.
What type of skills are useful to put on your profile?
Tamar: You can always change the skills that LinkedIn automatically assigns to you. For example Dutch is not something I would like to be endorsed for when it is my native language. You can put it under languages only. So I would say, select skills based on what you want to show. Think: “what is important for recruiters to see when they look at my profile” and select those.
Friederike: Well, I would keep Dutch as a skill as it might be useful in some cases. Think about how you want to be found and by which target group. If Dutch is an important skill for that job, you can leave it in. Recruiters have a special search tool in LinkedIn, where they can add search words. The more words that match with their description of the ideal candidate, the higher you come in their ranking. So if they are looking for a person that speaks Dutch, they may use that as a search word as well. Nonetheless, it might be better to put it under languages instead of under skills.
Tamar: I agree that the keywords are important. However, your profile will become boring if it is only an enumeration of keywords. You should try to weave in as many keywords as possible into your story, but stay authentic. The search algorithm of LinkedIn starts scanning for keywords at the top of the page. The earlier you introduce the right keywords, for example in your heading, the higher you will appear in the search of recruiters. So use important keywords in your title, or introduction and not just in skills. For skills I would rather go for skills that you actually want to show and highlight extra on your profile.
Do you recommend to add interests?
Tamar: Yes. But I would make them very specific. If you say “I like traveling, reading and cooking”, that is not very original. This applies to a lot of people. Make it specific by sharing something personal about your travel for example “I visited 33 countries”. Or say “I am really into rock climbing holidays”. Saying that you like sports is also vague. Do you like watching sports? Playing sports? And which sports? Be specific!
Friederike: I agree. It could be that the interviewer has the same interests as you, and it could help to break the ice during an interview.
Do you want to learn more about LinkedIn? SBE Career Services offers workshops about how to professionalize your profile. During the workshop you will get tips and tricks, work on your summary and receive feedback. You can also schedule an appointment with one of the career coaches for individual feedback.