Getting Started on LinkedIn

Recently, I asked a room full of university students the following question: "Are you on LinkedIn?" The chart above is how they responded.

Yikes. If you're a young adult, it looks like you might need some convincing. So, here's what I told my students: 

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What's LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network. It has 277 million members, and 2 people join each second.  

LinkedIn can be used to search for people, careers, knowledge, and leads. 

Why should you be on LinkedIn? 

LinkedIn is a great way to promote yourself, find people in your network who might help you find a job, and give you some insights into your career path. For instance, you can look at people in your chosen field who are further along and see how they got there. 

Quantcast puts LinkedIn as the 4th most popular site in Canada, and Alexa ranks it at #8. According to MediaBistro, 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find and vet candidates. And, according to CollegeRecruiter, 80% of jobs are unadvertised. So, you have to network to find them. A LinkedIn profile helps you network 24/7.  

If you're convinced, but unsure how to get started, here's how. This is a very basic walk-through, but there are some pro tips along the way. 

Getting Started on LinkedIn

Sign Up

It's really easy to sign up. Just go to LinkedIn.com and follow the instructions. 

Pro tip: Despite what it says on the homepage, it will take a lot longer than 2 minutes to set up your profile professionally. Have a complete, polished version of your resume in paper or (preferably) digital form and set aside 30 minutes to an hour

You'll need to put in an email address. 

Pro tip: use a professional-looking email address. LinkedIn can display and share your email with people you contact inside the network, so you don't want your "fluffypartybunny69@hotmail.com" showing up right under your "Aspiring professional nutritionist" byline.  

True: It's free. False: it will take longer than 2 minutes to do it right. 

True: It's free. False: it will take longer than 2 minutes to do it right. 

Step 1: Start Creating Your Profile

LinkedIn will ask you for a bit of basic information about your current employment or status. 

Pro tip: Choose your company or school from the list, so that you can let the network start to help you find connections. If you work in a specific department of a larger organization, you should include that information in your job title. 

For example, an earlier version of my profile said I worked for the University of Alberta Research Services Office (company) as a communication coordinator (job title). By changing the company to simply "University of Alberta" and my job title to "Communication Coordinator, Research Services Office," LinkedIn was able to suggest people at the U of A that I may know, and got much better at finding me people to network with. 

Step 2: Connect with people you already know &
Step 3: Find people you may know

Here's where you use your "fluffypartybunny" email. LinkedIn can suck your contact list from Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail and generate a list of people in your address book with profiles on LinkedIn. 

Then, it shows you a screen with all of them checked and asks if you want to connect with them. Pro tip: Uncheck all, and then only check people who would know you instantly by name. This is because LinkedIn is going to send all of these people a generic "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn" email. As I've pointed out before, this is not a good LinkedIn strategy

In step 3, it will show you a list of people you may know, based on others you know from step 2. Same pro tip applies here. 

Step 4: Choose your plan

LinkedIn offers free plans and paid plans. Young professionals can probably get by for years (or forever) on free plans. Paid plans are great for people who rely on networking to recruit or grow their business. 

The remaining steps: Populate your Profile

With your polished resume at your fingertips, populate sections of your profile as LinkedIn walks you through each section. But, before you do that ... 

Pro tip: Crank up your privacy settings while you make changes to your profile so that people you connected with in steps 2 and 3 don't see. My husband was a latecomer to LinkedIn, and when he added his profile, LinkedIn announced to his network that he had a "new job"—sure, it was new to his profile, but he'd had that job for 10 years. That didn't stop people from congratulating him on that "new" job, though.

You can dial the settings back down when you're done. 

Privacy settings are accessible by mousing over the little icon of a head. Shortly, that will be a picture of you, but we're not there yet. 

Privacy settings are accessible by mousing over the little icon of a head. Shortly, that will be a picture of you, but we're not there yet. 

Do your best to populate as many of the sections as you can. LinkedIn lets you embed and link to multimedia, too, which is a great way to showcase your skills in a way that a traditional resumé doesn't allow. I've embedded presentations and linked to websites I've built or worked on for each related job. 

Remember to add a photo of yourself as well.

Good photos

  • Are close enough to show your face and just show your shoulders and your head.
  • Show you in the professional dress for your chosen profession. You don't need to wear a business suit if the people in your chosen profession wear jeans, but you might want to be wearing at least business casual.

Avoid photos that:

  • Show you with other people. Readers may not know which person you are.
  • Show you in party finery like wedding dresses, prom dresses, tuxes, etc. If you wouldn't wear it to an interview, don't post it on LinkedIn. 

Start Networking! 

Once your profile is done, you can start putting it to use. Ask to connect with people you've met (remember to personalize your invites and remind people where they know you from) and try to participate on the platform. 

For great tips on how to do that, check out these resources: 

Good luck, and I'll see you on LinkedIn. But only if you remind me where I know you from.