If you are a recent college grad, have at some point been a college grad, or have ever tried to get your first job, then you’ve probably run into the circular trap that hits most young people when they enter the job market, “How can I get the experience I need to be qualified for this job when no one will hire me because I don’t have experience?” Well, now we can add a 21st-century twist to the problem. It goes something like this:
“I just graduated from college; and everyone says that my generation is totally social media-savvy so I should have a killer LinkedIn profile to help me get work. But what do I put on my “professional record of note” when my professional record consists of 2 internships and waiting tables during the summer at my local pizza place?”
First of all, if you’re in that situation, breathe in and breathe out. It’s going to be OK, we’ve all been there. Secondly, understand that LinkedIn is great precisely because you can use it to show what experience you do have even though you might not have a long work history. It’s a great way to tell your story – and frame the way potential employers will view you.
When companies hire, they are looking for someone who can do the job. That might sound obvious, but think about what that means. The interviewer is looking for someone who has a high-likelihood of success in the new position. That’s why experience is important – it’s a good indicator of whether or not you will be able to handle the responsibilities of the role. But you can use LinkedIn to fill in the hole left by your lack of experience – it can illustrate that you have the skills necessary to do the job, even if we don’t have a long line of jobs.
Here are five places on your LinkedIn profile where you can look like a competent professional instead of green rookie:
- Photo – Do you still have a photo cropped from that fraternity social (the last time you were actually dressed up)? It might be time to get a new one. The trick here is not to look older than you are; the trick is to look polished and competent. Are you someone that an employer would want representing them? Look around your area for networking events that have a photographer giving free social media headshots, and while you’re there, do some networking.
- Headline – If it says “Student at XYZ University”, time to change it. That doesn’t tell a potential employer anything about you. Your LinkedIn profile headline is just like a newspaper article headline it should create interest and excitement for the visitor. They should know right from the start what you are about. How about Professional in (your field or industry)?
- Summary – This is huge because this is where you can create the context for your visitors. You can influence how potential employers see you. Imagine that someone is hiring for a job you’d love and would be great at; they are sitting across the table from you and they’ve just asked “Why should I pick you? What will you bring to the team?”. Use the summary to share that answer!
- Experience – You might not have a long list of experiences, but make sure that the work experience you have adequately shows what you can do. But don’t make this a bullet-pointed resume section. Tell your reader about the learning opportunities you had in each position. What abilities did you develop at each role that you can transfer to your next position?
- Volunteer – More and more young people participate in volunteer activities – and even if you aren’t getting paid, it’s still experience. Helping organize a fundraiser or leading a team on a community clean-up day are experiences that translate directly into the for-profit world. Use the volunteer section to not only show your involvement in areas that concern you, but also how you’ve refined your skill-sets.
(By the way, if all of this doesn’t help you, then your LinkedIn profile is providing you with another service – it’s showing you where you do have gap in your professional experience. Look for ways to fill that – internships, apprenticeships, maybe an entrepreneurial effort.)
When you use all of these tools, you can create that killer LinkedIn profile, no matter that you are at the start of your career. You’ll give yourself the best opportunity to move past the no job/no experience dichotomy. Good luck!