January 31, 2016

Linkedin logoI’ve watched so many students and friends set up LinkedIn profiles. They go from resistant, to fascinated. By the time they’re done, they’re sporting a success glow that’s better than a suntan.

The resistance to dealing with LinkedIn is totally understandable. Still, it might be time to get over it.

My college students no longer groan when I help them set up their profiles. They want the professional polish, the shot of instant confidence.

Old fart, tech-challenged, middle-aged friends are flocking to LI, too. Among other benefits, a decent profile implies that they’re still relevant in the 21st century.

So if you’re working, volunteering or consulting, this online networking site is a great place to expand opportunities and contacts.

In other words, go there and get nosy. See exactly where people worked and when, and who they know. Figure out how they got to where they are today. Take a chance and connect.

That’s the lure of LinkedIn. The downside? Setting up a profile. As a teacher, I’ve learned that most people — even the youngs — detest following written directions.

Which is why I like The Ultimate LinkedIn Cheat Sheet. This diagram is an infographic — a chart that presents dense information in a visually appealing format. Get what you need, at a glance. Use it to start a profile or tweak the one you already have.

The cheat sheet starts by explaining how to set up the top of your profile:


For me, LinkedIn is  all about taking stock of who we are and feeling good about ourselves. I had one party-hearty college student who dreaded making a profile because he felt like a zero. He was from a low-income family and had worked all his life in a bunch of nothing jobs.

Or, so he thought.

Creating his LI account showed him he actually had great skills. Even he was impressed! He cut down on boozing and found new self-respect. He told me he wanted to be the guy in the profile, 24/7. Imagine, LI offering validation and inspiration. 

He’s in good company.

A few years ago, I was chatting about LinkedIn with a high-level executive buddy employed by a big international firm. He said a profile was irrelevant at his professional level. Translation: LinkedIn was beneath him. But he’s on LinkedIn now. So are Bill Gates, President Obama, Hillary Clinton. As a sign of the company you’ll keep, Donald Trump is NOT on LI. Thank goodness for that.

My best LI story is about a student from one of my communication courses. We had reached the segment on making free LinkedIn profiles. This one student in particular kept procrastinating. But a few weeks after she finally completed this homework assignment, a surprising message landed in her profile inbox.

She thought the message was a joke or spam. Why would a recruiter for a fancy retail store invite her to apply for a job? Still, the student followed through and got her answer during the in-person interview. The recruiter had punched in key words for specific job skills and the student’s name came up.

My student went from working as minimum wage night manager in a ghetto ice cream store to well-paid night manager at an upscale women’s boutique specializing in $300 jeans. Even though she had no fashion experience, she translated her ice cream job into on-the-money key words: retail, sales, brand development, customer service, customer satisfaction, team leadership, trend analysis, organizational analysis.

In creating the profile, I had encouraged her to look at what she actually did on the job. Working at night in a rough neighborhood, she knew how to break up the occasional fight and manage rowdy customers. Without getting into all that, she distilled the skills down to the essential points. So in her profile, she also mentioned her sense of humor, friendliness and ability to think fast under pressure. Good skills for any night manager or any manager, anywhere, don’t you think?

Once she shared her success, the entire class rushed back into LinkedIn to seriously improve their profiles. They found the motivation for dealing with the most annoying part — filling in resume employment dates. From there, creating the skills section becomes a thoughtful self-reflection. The infographic cheat sheet helps with this too:


Photos are also important. Figuring out image sizes is clearer with this section of the infographic:

scale photos

There’s plenty more on the full chart. I like a lot of it, although, imho, it’s overkill to say a professional profile headshot is necessary. Just post a shot that feels professional — not silly.

Very rarely do I hear about people finding jobs directly through their profile. But being on LI helps with schmoozing and the interviewing process. I know this for a fact because my LinkedIn shows me who’s been checking me out.

(Note: If you trade up to a paid,  premium LinkedIn membership, you can click anonymously on profiles. If you’re on a free account, beware of clicking repeatedly on a person’s account. They can see you doing that, which makes you a stalker.)

LI is actually more than a resume dump. For instance, you can join groups that share your professional interests. Alumni groups for your high school and college are also considered important. In my journalism classes, we use LinkedIn as a research/reporting tool to dig up names of people at specific companies who might talk. We also search by job titles, geographic locations, etc.

For additional potentially helpful information:

Even if you’re not in the mood to deal with LinkedIn right now, at least you have this page as a resource. Drop a bookmark! At some point, you might want to take stock of your identity and what you bring to this world. Going through this post again will help you see just how great you really are.  

P.S. — Just found this April 12, 2016 article in The Wall Street Journal. Worth reading: ignoring LinkedIn is hurting your career.