How to Create a LinkedIn Profile That Will Get Employers’ Attention

Include LinkedIn in your online networking strategy

As a PhD, you may not currently have a LinkedIn account. If you haven’t joined the platform yet, you are missing out on an important networking opportunity.

LinkedIn is a search engine and social media platform that functions as a giant job market. Hundreds of millions of professionals interact regularly on LinkedIn, posting updates, and sharing information on recent projects, products, and job postings. (Note: LinkedIn reports 675 million monthly users, and Twitter reports around 330 million monthly users. Might be time to include LinkedIn in your online professional development!).

Here are some of the networking opportunities you can explore with a LinkedIn account:

  • find out who’s who at companies of interest
  • learn about other professionals’ career trajectory
  • find professionals who graduated from your PhD-granting institution
  • message professionals to request informational interviews or to follow-up after meeting at in-person networking events
  • learn more about companies of interest (e.g. number of employees, educational background of employees, location of employees, job openings)
  • connect with recruiters and hiring managers
    update your network on recent projects and accomplishments
  • read, share, and comment on post and updates from professionals and businesses
  • publish LinkedIn articles positioning yourself as a thought leader

What sets LinkedIn apart from other social networking sites like Facebook is its focus on business connections. The profile you set up is devised with employers in mind.

Sign up for a free LinkedIn account

Creating an account on LinkedIn is free of charge. The premium paid packages offer additional resources and functionality. For example, with a Premium account, you can send In Mail (direct messages) to people with whom you are not connected. One way to work around this function if you only have a free account is to send a “Connect” request, adding a personal note. There is a limited character count, so you have to be succinct, but it’s good practice to write concisely anyway!

Read and take notes from other LinkedIn profiles

Before jumping right into creating a LinkedIn profile from scratch, take time to learn how LinkedIn works.

Read several profiles to see how other professionals in your desired field have set theirs up. Pay close attention to profiles of PhDs who have transitioned to your target industry. This research will help you develop your own professional brand.

Takes notes on the visuals they use. How are they dressed? What banner photo have they selected? What message are they trying to convey?

Analyze the language they use in their About section, in their articles, and in their work history. What are the keywords you should include in your own profile? What are the key skills that they highlight in their profile? Keep in mind that LinkedIn is a search engine, so using the right keywords will matter for recruiters and employers seeking talent.

What companies are they following? Consider following the industry leaders and key companies that you are targeting. The companies you follow will be featured on your profile and their posts will populate your feed.

A note of caution: LinkedIn sends a notification to each person whose profile you view.

Control your narrative on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not the place to write the comprehensive history of everything you have ever done. Instead, you want to control what the reader sees of your background. This curation of information is crucial for PhDs trying to reinvent themselves.

Take time to devise a LinkedIn strategy and to develop your professional brand. Social media is both an opportunity and a liability, so it is crucial to use it mindfully.

Remember that you should behave on LinkedIn as you would in an office. Your current and future boss could potentially be watching. Keep your tone professional by avoiding controversial topic and rants.

Adjust your profile settings to control what information gets shown on your profile and in your network’s feed. For example, if you are tweaking and editing your profile, you may want to disable the setting that notifies your network of any changes to your work history or profile headline. You can also block certain people from viewing your profile if you are concerned about your privacy.

Add aesthetic appeal to your LinkedIn profile

1. Include a headshot on your profile

A professional-looking profile picture is a key element. Your picture is your first chance to make a good impression on a potential employer.

A professional headshot can cost hundreds of dollars, and as a PhD candidate or postdoc, you might not have that kind of budget. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly fine to ask a friend to take a picture of you. A good smartphone camera and the right lighting will do the trick.

Here are some tips to make sure your profile picture looks sharp:

  1. Make sure the picture is updated and looks like you so people can recognize you at networking events and in interviews.
  2. Avoid low-resolution images. The ideal size is 400 x 400 pixels.
  3. Your face should take up 60% or more of the frame.
  4. Smile and look at the camera. People are more likely to view you as likable, friendly, and trustworthy.
  5. Use a simple background.
  6. Take your picture outside on an overcast day or when the sun is setting to have the perfect lighting.
  7. Wear an outfit that follows your industry dress code (for some, that may be jeans, for others, a suit and tie).

If you are still hesitant about posting your picture for the world to see, keep in mind that LinkedIn’s research team found that people are 14 times more likely to view your profile if you have a picture than if you don’t.

2. Add a banner to your profile

The banner photo you choose should align with the message you are sharing. Is your work international? Then consider using a cityscape from another country. Are you trying to break into the tech industry? In that case, find an image of tech designs or products that matches your professional interests.

Interact with businesses on LinkedIn

Here’s a secret: businesses love when professionals engage with their content on LinkedIn. Writing thoughtful comments on businesses’ posts and tagging them in yours can help bring more traffic to your profile. Companies want to see that you are interested in what they do. The more you learn about them, the easier it will be to understand their needs as well as how you could fit in and add value.

Populate your LinkedIn feed with relevant content by following companies and organizations you might want to target. Select relevant groups and hashtags.

Become a key opinion leader (KOL)

One of the top sections of your LinkedIn profile is the “Activity” section which features your LinkedIn articles and comments. This is a key area to develop because your articles appear even before your work history.

Publishing LinkedIn articles is an effective way to increase your visibility on the platform and to establish yourself as a key opinion leader (KOL). Show that you are an expert in that industry by showcasing what you know.

Expand your LinkedIn network meaningfully

Once your profile is set up, connect with professionals in a meaningful way. Ask people you meet during informational interviews and at networking events if they wouldn’t mind connecting with you. It is a great way to thank them, and to keep them updated on your career transition progress.

With practice and time, your LinkedIn networking skills will sharpen and you soon will be drawing the attention of employers. Expand your LinkedIn network meaningfully.

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