LinkedIn & Online Branding

Social Networking: Social networking sites allow people to join online communities with other people by schools, places of employment, interests, geographical information, etc.

Professional Networking: Professional networking sites are websites that allow people to join online communities in the same manner as social networking sites. The difference between the two is that professional sites are used primarily to understand more about your current or desired field and to stay connected with other professionals in a more specialized community.

How do I get started?

  1. Identify your short-term and long-term professional goals
    A healthy online network is one where you can contribute to the professional development of others as well as your own. Knowing your goals helps you to target the right networks and connections.
  2. Research key information about employers or industries
    Before seeking out or engaging your contacts within a professional online community you want to be knowledgeable about your field as well as specific employers of interest. Professionals will recognize you as someone who is serious about his or her career knowing current issues, professional organizations, and hiring trends.
  3. Talk with professionals in your network to find employers and industries of interest
    Once you have connected with professionals through online professional networking sites in your area of interest, begin talking with them about their interests. Use your understanding of the employer or industry to articulate how your skills would be a good match.
  4. Give back to your network
    It is considered a poor practice to only gather information without giving information. Remember how you benefited from others' information and provide helpful information for those who will be looking for it.

LinkedIn is a useful database for career exploration and making career connections.  The University of Virginia Alumni, Students, Faculty, and Staff Group on LinkedIn is another resource for finding out where UVA alums ended up after graduation and beyond. You can also use the “Find Alumni” option (under the “Connections” tab), and even narrow by major.

Handouts from LinkedIn

Get Started With LinkedIn

Visit the LinkedIn For Students to find instructional videos that help you understand the features and benefits of using Linkedin, plus there are student specific resources. You may also want to consult these resources:

Take the First Step

Probably the biggest area of opportunity new users miss out on with LinkedIn is that they rush to put up a profile, and they don’t take the time to create an effective presence on the site before connecting with others.  Take your time in executing these steps to a complete profile:

  • Add a profile photo
  • List all the jobs or positions you’ve held, along with descriptions of your roles
  • Have 5 or more skills on your profile
  • Write a summary about yourself
  • Fill out your industry and ZIP code
  • Add where you went to school
  • Have 50 or more connections – it’s easier than you think to get connected!

Creating your LinkedIn profile will also be easier if you gather a few key resources ahead of time. The most important is to have an updated copy of your resume available, along with your transcripts, a good profile photo, and a draft of a summary.

But how can I take a good profile photo?

As a student, your options to have a professional headshot are likely limited. What you can do, however, is focus on taking a photo that represents you at your professional best. Choose professional attire, ensure that your hair and skin look the best they can, select a background that enhances you and doesn’t distract from you, and find a situation that provides for good lighting.

What should I say in my LinkedIn Summary?

Your LinkedIn Summary is a place for you to tell the professional story you want about yourself-a place to “connect-the-dots” of your experience. To get started, consider answering these questions in your profile summary, within the 2000 character limit:

  1. What am I interested in, professionally?
  2. What do I aspire to, professionally?
  3. What are my best skills or experiences that have prepared me for these aspirations?

Look at the summaries of professionals you admire, or some of the examples on LinkedIn University to find a profile summary that matches your personality and lines up with your industry of interest.

Improve Your LinkedIn Profile with VMock's Aspire Tool 

VMock's new Aspire tool helps you strengthen your LinkedIn profile by giving you instant suggestions to improve your key profile elements.  It also provides a skills gap analysis and recommendations and even analytics to strengthen the search engine ranking for your profile!  

Frequently Asked Questions About LinkedIn

What is the purpose of LinkedIn?

LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange and enhance knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals.

It is an online destination that allows you to represent yourself professionally to potential employers, alumni, and the broader professional community of your choosing.

How can I use this tool in my job search?

Students have used LinkedIn to do any and all of the following: find and contact alumni, develop their Google Search rankings, set up informational interviews, research companies prior to an interview, learn about their chosen industries, expand their network by contributing to professional discussions, and staying current on news in their future industries.

What is the most effective way to connect on LinkedIn?

The first, and easiest, is to search for a person’s name and click the ‘connect’ button. You can also import your email contacts and browse the user directory for potentially interesting contacts.

Pay careful attention when importing your email contacts to ensure that you aren’t sending email invites to everyone in your address book, and always personalize your connection messages. LinkedIn offers form text that states “I’d like to add you to my professional network,” but you should personalize it to reflect some of the following:

  • Letting the contact know how they met you or why you’d like to be connected
  • How you think this relationship would be mutually beneficial

Anecdotally, LinkedIn users seem to respond more positively to personalized invitations than the pre-populated message.

What should I avoid doing when using LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a place to create and manage a professional image of yourself, and that should guide all of your interactions on the site. Keep your focus on connecting to people that you know and have something in common with, strive to personalize your interactions with others on the site, and remember that it’s not a place to air grievances about your job search. Focus your energy on being authentic, helpful, and enthusiastic in your interactions.

I’m Already On LinkedIn—Now What?

Consider using ALL of the available sections

You already know that LinkedIn offers you the ability to edit a summary section, a section covering your work experience, groups and associations, skills, and recommendations. However, there are even more sections you can use to customize your profile. You could consider adding sections on:

  • Courses, Honors and Awards, and Languages
  • Organizations
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Test Scores (certain industries are more interested in this data than others.)
  • Community Service
  • Show samples of your work by uploading them to your profile.  LinkedIn allows you to upload written documents, video, and other forms of media to enhance your page

Engage with LinkedIn Groups

Groups are where the promise of “exchanging knowledge” truly comes to life. You may want to start by joining the University of Virginia Alumni, Students, Faculty, and Staff group which is where students, alumni, parents, and recruiters regularly interact. Beyond that, you could search for groups that focus on your related interests, such as: future career fields, networking in a certain geographic location, and based on your college affiliations As you connect to people, take a look at the groups they’re a part of-that’s a great source of future inspiration.

As you search for groups, you can see additional data about each group in the results, such as the number of people in your network that belong to the group, and most importantly, whether or not the group is active. LinkedIn Groups all have a similar structure that includes discussion boards, the ability to post and view jobs, and search the member directory. As a student, the discussion boards are a key source of insight into the issues, concerns, and challenges of a particular industry or professional situation, and it’s a great place to observe for a little while. Within each discussion board, you can follow the discussion and receive additional information when others comment, and you can also like the discussion.

Within each group, we recommend adjusting your update settings to prevent getting overwhelmed. You can do that by choosing “my settings” under the “more” menu in each group.

How can I ensure my profile is widely visible?

Create a public profile link. Making your profile public gives you a short, easily shareable link that you can include on your resume, cover letter, email signature, and business cards. Making your profile public also improves your Google search results for your name, which can be very helpful if you have a common name, or it can assist you in making the right information about you accessible.

  • To get started, Go to  Profile  “Edit your profile”
  • Click the edit button beside "Contact Info" on the initial pop-up window, leading you to yet another pop-up window. Your personal profile URL should appear at the top of this new window. After clicking on your URL, you should be taken to a page with your public profile settings.
  • On this new page, click "Edit URL” found on the right. Type the last part of your new custom URL in the text box.
  • Click Save.

You can then visit the “settings” page and then choose “edit your public profile” to make changes to the content that is shown online. You can show all of the same sections that are available to registered LinkedIn users, or restrict it further.

In Summary

LinkedIn can be a powerful tool if you take the time to use it well. It is an important component in creating an online personal brand, and it shows employers that you have the confidence to successfully navigate online professional networking. Take your time in developing your profile, think about the long term impact of using the tool, and contact us if you need any assistance!

More to Explore

Schedule an appointment through Handshake, or by calling the UVA Career Center at 434-924-8900 M-F from 8 am-5 pm.

Networking is one of the most successful ways to develop your career path. 

Check out upcoming events to build your resume, develop job search strategies, meet top recruiters, and more.