Gone are the days of deciding that an online presence is "just not for you" when it comes to the job hunt. If you're actively look for a job, it's hard to be taken seriously if you don't have a professional footprint—or if you have a weak one.
You have to have a LinkedIn profile—it's a no brainer at this point. Recruiters and hiring managers use the site to look for potential job candidates, and everyone in almost every industry uses it for networking. And while it's bad form not to have a LinkedIn account, it's almost as bad to have a profile that says nothing about why you're a rockstar.
Here are a few tips for how to create a LinkedIn presence that shows you in your best light and attracts the right people.
1. Customize your URL.
Make your URL distinctive so people can more easily access your profile. An ideal URL will look something like this: http://www.linkedin.com/in/yourfullname. Don't force people to type in a bunch of incomprehensible numbers and letters. Simply modify your "public profile URL" in the settings section to make this change.
2. Make a sharp first impression.
Create a basic profile that is visually appealing, clear, concise, and welcoming. Upload a photo—the most professional one you have. Write yourself a compelling (but concise) headline to help recruiters and visitors to your page get what you're about without having to read too much—think of it as a mini elevator pitch.
3. Expand upon your application documents.
Use your LinkedIn page to detail everything that doesn't fit in your resume and cover letter. In the description space beneath each job title you list, detail your responsibilities and positive results. Upload links to your portfolio, or other documents and videos that showcase your best work. Add a little something extra to really make every section sing.
4. Get eyes on your page.
Once your profile and URL are where you need them to be, start connecting. Send requests and invitations to your existing professional and personal contacts—your friends, classmates, former co-workers, current co-workers, etc.—plus to any other people in your industry you know or want to know. Any time you have a positive networking interaction with someone, shoot them an invite on LinkedIn (and personalize the message... don't waste an opportunity with the standard "Hi, Name, I'd like to connect with you on LinkedIn.") If you get invites from people you don't know, check out their profiles. Can they be potentially helpful to you and your career? Are they interesting in their own right?
5. Snoop around.
Start stalking the companies you would love to join. What can you learn by digging around on those company feeds? Do you have any existing contacts that have connections to these companies or industries? Can you score yourself an introduction somewhere?
6. Maintain your profile.
Don't just make a profile once and forget to do anything new. Stay active. Remind your contacts why they thought you were worth connecting with in the first place. Share articles and links that are relevant to your industry. Keep your profile updated with every professional change. Engage with other people's content on a regular basis—particularly people you might be trying to impress.
7. Use keywords to attract hiring managers.
If it's clear you speak the language of your chosen industry, you will come across as informed and professional. Using key terms in your headline and profile make it more likely that hiring managers will stumble upon you as a candidate, even if they aren't specifically looking for you.