By Brianna Alexander
As graduate students, our days often involve planning and executing experiments, analyzing data, and eventually presenting and publishing the acquired results. We are passionate about what we do, and we understand the importance of working hard now to secure ourselves future success. However, outside of our bench work- what can we do to make ourselves more marketable, expand our professional networks, and explore post-graduation job prospects?
One task to consider, in-line with our technologically-progressive climate, is revamping our LinkedIn profiles! LinkedIn, according to the company description, is “the world’s largest professional network,” with the vision to “create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” It is an online platform that promotes professional development by enabling users to network and make professional “connections,” showcase professional skills and backgrounds, learn about related job openings, and more! The practicality and usefulness of LinkedIn are undeniable.
To guide us on how to build a magnetic LinkedIn profile, iJobs hosted a virtual zoom session Wednesday, May 27th, presented by Ms. Penny Pearl. Ms. Pearl is a Rutgers alumna and the founder of 2actify, a program that provides guidance and resources for strategic career advancement. In her presentation, Ms. Pearl began by highlighting two helpful methods to attract career opportunities: (1) inbound, where the focus is on profiles, resumes, etc. and (2) outbound, where the focus is external, or on the process of meeting and interacting with professionals. The bulk of her presentation and the subject of this article are inbound ways to attract opportunities, particularly as it relates to the key components of a magnetic LinkedIn profile, such as optimizing page structure, the tag card, and section details.
The first point discussed was how to optimize the structure of the LinkedIn page. There are over 690 million users on LinkedIn, as listed on the website. That said, an optimal page structure is one feature which can quickly help users stand out from the masses. We want the structure to be logical, concise, and informative. To that end, there were four distinct points that Ms. Pearl provided on improving page structure: 1) Pages should be written in the first person where every word counts. She stated that pages should not be text-heavy, and thus, it is imperative to make sure that every word included highlights our skills and/or value. 2) Pages should contain clear and relevant categories (i.e., leadership, communication) with listed skills and a value statement for each category. 3) Value statement: this was heavily emphasized by Ms. Pearl. She stated that as opposed to having a list of tasks that were completed at a previous job, that we should write a statement that describes our overall team contribution and what we have to offer a future employer. We want to convey our value. Finally, 4) If possible, pages should contain keywords that are tailored to a position of interest. As a bonus, she provided a few tips on settings that can help improve the LinkedIn page, one of which was to ensure that alerts and notifications are enabled, so that we can respond to messages and requests on time, demonstrating our engagement.
We next discussed a very important feature of the LinkedIn page, referred to by Ms. Pearl as the “Tag Card.” The Tag card is the top portion of the LinkedIn page, which includes the photo, background and headline.
The photo, she stated, should be a clear head shot as it is how we will be recognized by viewers. Ms. Pearl described the background section essentially as our billboard. It is where we can showcase our creativity by displaying an image that is representative of our professional field. She even informed us of a free tool on the 2actify website to help users design their own LinkedIn background with instructional videos. Moreover, the headline is a very critical section of the LinkedIn profile. According to Ms. Pearl, the headline should simply state three things: (1) what we do, (2) how we do it, and (3) where we do it; furthermore, this section should have a combination of both soft skills (i.e., communication, collaboration) and hard skills (i.e., data analysis, cell biology). Additionally, she advised that graduate students avoid using the term, “graduate student” in the headline and instead to identify as a scientist. As this section will take some work, she encouraged users to open a word document and practice writing this section so that every word counts and is truly value-reflective.
The last major point covered in Ms. Pearl’s presentation were some tips and tricks on sharpening up specific section details.
- About– here, the first three lines are the most significant because these are the lines that are immediately visible to the viewer without him/her having to click, “read more;” thus, she advised us to make sure that this portion is descriptive.
- Rich media– this is an often overlooked and under-utilized section where users should feel free to add different media– documents, videos, articles, presentations—any visual representation of our work that could help potential employers appreciate our skills.
- Activity– while this is not a section that we actually write, it is still essential in terms of demonstrating how engaged we are in learning about a specific field or area of interest. Therefore, the more we share articles, connect with others, and upload materials, for example, the better it looks in our activity section.
- Experience– this section should be bulleted and followed by a few sentences for the value statement.
- Skills + Endorsements– this section is more interactive, where we can have our connections endorse us for specific skills. To that end, we should select our top three skills for endorsement as opposed to having a long list with fewer endorsements.
- Interests-this section will be based on the groups, influencers, and organizations that we follow. This, Ms. Pearl said, could be something unique about our profiles, where employers can see our involvement and level of interest.
Our daily lab activities and the busy life of being a graduate student can make finding a job after graduation seem daunting. One way which we can increase our job prospects, learn about potential employers and expand our professional network is to build a magnetic LinkedIn profile! Ms. Pearl shared with us the astounding statistics that 80% of jobs are found through networking and we are 9x more likely to get a job by being referred! Thus, it is clear that taking the time to generate a stellar LinkedIn profile is definitely a worthwhile investment. So let’s get linked!
This article was edited by Janaina Pereira and Tomas Kasza.