This was written by Kate Dullaghan, a Registered Nutritionist with a passion for public health. In her spare time, Kate loves to cook up a storm in the kitchen, complete marathons and travel the world.
I’m quite an active user of Facebook and find it great for keeping in touch with the family when travelling, however I regard this as my social space and as such, I try to keep my posts visible only to those who know me well. On a professional level it’s LinkedIn that gets my attention. LinkedIn is a social networking platform used by over 360 million professionals globally to present their professional identity, education and employment history. Through LinkedIn, you can showcase your skills and experience, network with colleagues and others in your field, provide and receive endorsements and recommendations, seek and advertise jobs, join university, organisation or interest based groups and write and read blog posts (such as this one by Daniel Goleman). My LinkedIn profile is essentially my online resume, so it’s important that I keep it up to date because you just never know who is looking! And besides, keeping on top of it doesn’t take too long, especially if I update my profile as things happen ‑for example, a new job or project I’ve taken on, some professional development, or even instances of volunteering.
This is particularly relevant when undertaking placements during your studies. Detailing your role, contributions and outcomes of any projects you’ve worked on during your placement is a fantastic way to highlight some of your experiences. And of course, it’s best if you do all of this as you go along, or shortly afterwards, as it’s so easy to intend to do it later and then either forget to do it altogether or forget key details of what you did! Here’s a basic tutorial to help you set up your profile, and here are some great tips for students.
Much of my current work is project based, so my profile reflects what I’ve done and who I have done it with. It allows me to connect with people who I have collaborated with, even if only briefly, thereby opening their own network to me. Far more importantly however, it allows me to seek recommendations from those I have worked with, which I can then display on my profile, thus capturing that moment in time. Not only is it lovely to have nice words written about you from a colleague or collaborator, I find it a fantastic way to summarise great working relationships whilst they are fresh and before everyone has moved on, committing them to history. Besides, where else can you ask for a professional reference unless you have a job interview? Should that occasion come up, whilst I’m on that topic, having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile not only looks good to prospective employers, it certainly makes updating resumes and putting together cover letters a little easier!
So, having updated your profile to reflect the projects you’ve been involved with, you may also like to request to connect with your supervisors and other professionals you have met on placement. This will (a) help you network with peers in your field of interest and (b) set you up with the opportunity to seek recommendations from individuals you worked with to display on your profile! Having your experiences listed on your public profile and then backed up by people already in the industry will give you a great head-start when it comes to entering the job market once you’ve graduated. Obviously don’t forget to update your profile with details of the placement first and, again, it’s a good idea to do this whilst everyone’s memories are fresh.
You might be wondering just how LinkedIn can assist with finding potential work opportunities in the future. It’s obviously helpful to have an ongoing record of the work you’ve done and with who. It is a valuable way to network with other professionals in your area as well as. You can also connect with similar interest groups to keep abreast of developments and job opportunities. That in itself is great, but what if I told you that not only is LinkedIn the professional ‘social network’ of choice? Recruiters are also active users of the network. Keeping your profile current and professional (and that includes your picture!) gives the right impression to potential employers, including those who you may not even realise are appraising you for future opportunities.
Whilst on that topic of keeping up-to-date, I recently received a notification from LinkedIn asking me to congratulate one of my connections on working on this particular project for seven years. Not unusual, except that he left that employer not long after I had also moved on, around three years earlier! He’s now updated his profile to reflect his current situation after he received my prompt. He later thanked me as many of his connections then subsequently contacted him when they received his profile update.
Whilst I certainly don’t consider myself to be a heavy user of LinkedIn, I am quite thankful I have established and continue to tweak my profile as I engage in and complete new projects. It’s allowed me to interact with people I may not have connected to without LinkedIn and to bring life to my resume not possible on paper alone. So how do you think you might benefit from having an accurate professional online profile?