03/29/2018 Steph Anderson

Recent grad? 5 steps for beefing up your LinkedIn profile

College graduation is quickly approaching and you’ve started to turn your attention to the next chapter of life: starting a career. You’ve taken the first step — receiving a solid education — but you definitely need to keep climbing. Finding a job is a job in itself, and when you have minimal experience, it can be a little tricky.

There are numerous technical tools to help you score your first professional gig. One of the most important is LinkedIn because it helps you define your professional image and highlight your skills, experience and interests. What’s more, recruiters and hiring managers adore LinkedIn. When vetting candidates, 87 percent of recruiters find LinkedIn most effective, according to Jobvite research.

That means it’s up to you to catch their attention, but how is it possible to create a compelling LinkedIn profile when you’ve never had a real job? While working experience is often the focus of a professional profile, it’s not the only part. By thinking outside the box, you’ll quickly realize you have much more experience than you think you do. And that’s what you need to highlight on your page.

To create a compelling LinkedIn profile when you only have minimal working experience, follow these five simple steps:

A quality headshot: A picture is worth a thousand words, but if you have nothing (or worse, something unprofessional), you risk leaving recruiters speechless. According to LinkedIn, your profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if you have a photo. Remember, this image is the foundation of your first impression. Dress nicely, use a plain backdrop and smile! Crop the photo on your face (there’s a reason it’s called a headshot) and you’re good to go.

Spend time on the headline and summary: The headline will appear under your name next to your photo and should be polished yet attention-grabbing. For example, “X major and an aspiring X” — simply fill in the X with your education and then your hopes for the future. As for the summary, in a paragraph or two talk about your school experience and what motivates you for the future. Keep things clear and concise but not boring, using bullets if desired.

Detail education: Don’t dismiss the experience you received throughout your educational journey. It’s not a secret you’re a recent grad, so be proud of your hard work to get that degree. Give recruiters insight into what you achieved. There are sections where you can add in coursework and projects and highlight any awards received. You should also add in experience gained through study abroad programs and leadership roles you had in clubs or university societies.

Rethink experience: Any jobs or volunteer work you’ve done could become an important part of your profile if you highlight them in the right manner. For example, a restaurant server must learn excellent customer service, money management and teamwork. Those are certainly skills worth highlighting. Go a step more and add the top 10 most important skills you’ve learned to the featured skills section and ask your network to endorse you.

Be active: Want to prove you’re passionate even though you don’t have a ton of experience? Stay active and engaged on LinkedIn by posting relevant content to your profile, share interesting industry articles and comment with useful insight on what other people in your network share. You may even go the extra step and publish your own blogs to demonstrate your knowledge and thought leadership while inviting comments and conversation from other professionals.

Once you catch a recruiter’s eye, it’s up to you to maintain their attention with a winning interview. Fortunately, there are several effective ways for you to spin a lack of experience to your benefit during an interview so you are positioned to get the job offer you really want.