As a third year, I’m all too aware of the stress and pressure associated with applying for internships. It feels (and, indeed, is) absolutely crazy to be applying for things that start in summer when the leaves are only just falling off the trees, yet here we are, all freaking out over the same few placements to land that golden grad job.
With that in mind, I thought now would be the perfect time to tap into the zeitgeist and write a guide on using LinkedIn effectively. There are so many guides out there on this same subject, but most of them are written by people who unironically use words like “synergy,” so if you’re a real person and not a corporate robot (yet), this one might be a little more useful.
Game the System. Play the Algorithm
If someone’s looking for you, you want them to be able to find you. Use your full name (or, at least, the name people will use to search for you); go through the rigmarole of getting your profile to “All Star” status (it’s really not that hard); and get a few of your friends to endorse you for skills. All of these things will ensure that you actually show up when people search for you.
If you’re a third year, now’s a great time to start connecting with classmates, because everyone’s in the same boat. Even if you’re not a third year, now’s still a better time than a year in the future: the earlier you start, the better. Try and only connect with people who might be relevant, but don’t underestimate the number of people that group may include — you’re surrounded by smart, talented people here, many of whom may be able to help you out in the future with advice and opportunities. Connect with them now, while they still know who you are.
Flesh Out Your Profile
Include any work experience you’ve done, no matter how irrelevant it might feel. LinkedIn isn’t like a CV: you don’t have to keep it to just one page. That’s not to say that concise writing isn’t important — brevity is the soul of wit, so try and keep your descriptions of each role to a sentence explaining the role, followed by a few bullet points. Rather, it’s to emphasise that there’s a bit more leeway about what you can include. Once you’ve got a few solid internships under your belt, it’s less important to include that you worked at Costa during your gap year — but even then, proof that you can actually work, rather than just think, can be very useful for potential employers. (Top tip: a recently introduced feature is the option to reorder positions on your profile, rather than having them sorted just by date. This is a really good way to keep the impressive stuff at the top, and indicate actual career progression, rather than an inconsistent mix of interesting and menial work.)
It’s also great if you can have something for each section. Languages, volunteer experience, publications, and awards are all really helpful. The Courses section isn’t really a place to put all your modules — it’s more for things like the PSC, summer courses, or professional training — but apart from that, put in anything that might be relevant. If you’ve written an article for a student journal, grab a PDF of it and pop it in the Publications section.
Also, a cover photo goes a really long way to making your profile stand out. Just grab a picture of the Quad, or the Gateway building. The ideal cover photo, of course, is one of you looking professional and speaking to a crowd — but anything’s better than the default banner, which is frankly complete trash and was definitely designed by someone who says “synergy.”
Keep It Up to Date
It’s much easier to just maintain your profile than it is to start it from scratch, years after you did some of the work you might be putting on there. If you do manage to get an internship, put it on your profile while you’re still there, and edit the description over the course of the internship so you can highlight the most important bits of what you did. Nobody’s notified when you update a description, so don’t be afraid to refine it and edit it loads. The important thing is the end result, because that’s all recruiters will see.
Connect With Alumni
When you go on a company page on LinkedIn, if there are any St Andrews alumni working there, it’ll have a little piece saying “[x] people from your school were hired here.” Click it, and it’ll take you to a list of their profiles. Not all of them will be visible, but you can connect with them and add a brief note explaining that they’ve never met you but you’d appreciate career advice/internship application support/someone to hold you while you cry. Most of the time, they’re happy to oblige — and if not, who cares? They probably just didn’t see the message.
LinkedIn can be a useful tool, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s a great way of having an expanded, and slightly more personalised, version of your CV — and you can even put a link to it on your CV, though if you’re doing this, make sure you have a customised URL — but it’s probably not going to get you a job on its own. Using it effectively can be a great way of connecting with alumni and developing mentoring relationships with people who can help you, so don’t be afraid to connect to strangers. But most importantly, don’t freak out. There are so many routes to success, and so many different ways of getting that first big break. It doesn’t need to happen while you’re here. Stay calm — and while you’re at it, connect with me on LinkedIn.