LinkedIn for new grads – Five Rules You Can break

(A one-time pass to break some rules)

Most new grads (or soon-to-be-grads) I know have some kind of profile set up on LinkedIn – probably because you were told you should. But what now? Is your LI profile any good (as in getting you job offers or representing you professionally if hiring managers look at your profile)?

Rule you can break #1 – Only use a professional headshot

You’ve probably been told you must use a professionally taken headshot. Not true. funny_family_photos_07You probably don’t have the budget for it and the thought of getting one taken causes you to have flashbacks of your elementary school photos or those family photos your Mom made you participate in.

What you need is a photo that shows you looking like a young professional a company would want to hire. You can crop from an existing photo with others where you feel you look pretty good. smaller_guy_croppedMake sure there are no other heads or arms showing nor anything like bottles or wine glasses. Guys – don’t use a photo with you in a tuxedo or a muscle shirt unless the photo is cropped to not show your attire. Ladies – if you’re wearing a strapless or off-the-shoulder dress, be sure you crop close enough that only your head and neck shows. You can’t find anything? Ask a friend who likes you and is patient to take a number of shots until you get one you like. Remember – you want to look like a young professional, not a model.2014-07-14_1428

Can you use a graduation photo in your cap and gown? I’ll give you a free pass to use one for 2 months maximum. It’s better than not having a photograph at all. More than that is embarrassing (back to that embarrassing Mom stuff again – e.g. having your grad photo up on the mantel for the next 20 years)

Rule you can break #2 – Don’t say you’re looking for a job

Hire Me in cut out magazine lettersIt is usually recommended that people do not say specifically on their profile that they’re looking for a job. It looks too needy and is not attractive to recruiters or hiring managers. But new grads (and you can be considered “new” for up to a year after graduating) are in high demand and this is the time to flaunt your status!   I do however recommend that you are as specific as possible – “seeking opportunity as an electrical engineer” or “*Psychology Graduate, Specializing in Survey Design. Interested in Market Research and Analysis.”  Not graduated quite yet but want to get your name out there? You can put your graduation date in your headline e.g. “Ecommerce | CRM | Social Media Marketing| Market Research | Graduating Dec. 2014

Rule you can break #3 – Don’t show your age

I often recommend job seekers not to “advertise” their age in our youth-centered world by showing that they graduated many years ago.   In the case of new graduates, it shows why you don’t have a job and are looking for one so go ahead and include the dates of your education (if you took 10 years to finish a Bachelors, you’ll need to also include some work history along the way!) Young is fine – however be sure you don’t come across as immature.

Rule you can break #4 – Don’t brag

If professionals from their older 20’s and up are still bragging about test scores and grades without more recent accomplishments (not grades) to replace them, it’s kind of sad.   This is the last time grades will matter. Unless you go into academia you will never be asked about your grades again.   But for now, especially if they’re impressive, you can include some of your results.

Rule you can break #5 – Don’t talk to strangers

StrangerDangerPeople like new graduates. You remind us of our youth and aspirations.   It’s okay to reach out to connect to people on LinkedIn who you don’t directly know or know well so long as you are polite and give a reason when you send them an invitation on LinkedIn. This is a rule I won’t give you permission to break – NEVER send the generic LI connection request “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” But if you write something about why you’re connecting people are likely to be generous and accept. Some examples might be:
“I see you’re a graduate of my school (name here) with a similar degree. I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn and look forward to talking with you sometime about your career path.”
“I was an intern at your company this past summer and I’d like to continue the connection on LinkedIn.”

There is lots of good free advice out there for new graduates and how to use LinkedIn. Just do a Google search. The articles are generally good but tend to take themselves rather seriously. Have some fun this summer and good luck on your job search!