Using LinkedIn for your career
LinkedIn is a popular networking site with around 50 million students and recent graduates worldwide. Creating a LinkedIn profile as early as possible will put you in a strong position to begin connecting with employers and searching for graduate jobs.
Keep adding information to your profile as you gain experience at university. Show examples of skills you've developed through your course. Include work experience or placements, part-time jobs, volunteering and extracurricular activities.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a social networking site with a particular focus on careers and industry. Users of LinkedIn can upload details of their work and education history, network with other users, and join relevant groups to build connections.
LinkedIn can be useful for finding unadvertised vacancies by connecting with recruiters, or receiving contact if your profile is viewed by someone who thinks you may be a suitable candidate. Other activities which are popular on LinkedIn are joining groups which interest you (this could be workers who share a particular attribute with you such as gender, or connecting with others in a particular sector), and following organisations which are of interest to you to stay up to date with their news. LinkedIn also offers online courses under LinkedIn Learning which cover a diverse range of topics. Users of LinkedIn Learning can also access a wide range of live events delivered by experts. Current University of Portsmouth students have access to free LinkedIn Learning courses which cover a diverse range of subjects.
LinkedIn is a useful resource to use at any stage of your career journey, and the earlier you begin developing your profile and making connections, the stronger your network and more in depth your profile will be.
LinkedIn lets you
- Build a network of professional contacts
- Source career profiles for your chosen sector
- Connect with people you may have networked with before
- Look for job opportunities
- Research organisations that might provide graduate opportunities
- Research companies and individuals when getting ready for an interview
- Promote your image and achievements and present your work and CV
The information below will make developing your LinkedIn profile easy! Our advice will help you reach an ‘All-Star’ profile level. You can then begin to network with prospective recruiters and employers.
Differences between a CV and a LinkedIn profile
CVs and LinkedIn profiles have a lot in common but they work in different ways. Don't copy and paste from one to the other without editing the content first.
Focus on your skills and experience and tailor and re-write your CV for different job roles. You should only ever have one LinkedIn profile. The aim is for your LinkedIn profile to complement your CV.
Your CV should be concise. When writing, always ask "is this necessary?" Only include details that are relevant to the position you are applying for.
However, on LinkedIn you can add more details from a range of experiences. Your LinkedIn can provide further insight into your skills and experience.
Your CV should:
- Be a static document
- Be concise and limited to no more than 2 pages
- Not have a photo
- Be a text-only document
- Be adaptable for different jobs and sectors
- Target a specific recruiter
Your LinkedIn profile should:
- Be a dynamic document
- Have a professional photo
- Include media files that support your portfolio such as PowerPoint presentations, documents, photos, PDFs and links
- Allow you to be targeted by recruiters, connect with alumni and professionals to get insider information
- Let you tap into work experience and job opportunities
Remember, you can control who sees your CV but anyone can view your LinkedIn profile. Make sure it's up-to-date and the content is consistent with your CV. You should only have one LinkedIn profile, and connections can't be transferred if you open more than one account.
Building your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn has written a guide to building a profile specifically for students. Follow their steps and use our tips below to build your LinkedIn profile.
Structuring your profile
LinkedIn is simple to set-up, although it's not as easy as creating a Twitter or Instagram account. You need more initially than simply a username and profile picture.
You’ll need to add work and education information, an effective personal summary and an idea about how you want your profile to look.
To start with, just basic details are needed. Use your real name so you can be easily found in a search. Unlike other forms of social media, it's good to have a visible, professional email address on your page. You can always use your university Gmail address (@myport.ac.uk) which you'll still have access to following graduation.
You can give your LinkedIn profile a unique URL, which can make you easier to find. These are given by LinkedIn on a first come, first served basis, and so if your name is already taken, you might consider adding any middle names you have to see if these are available.
If you're connecting your Facebook to LinkedIn, your Facebook profile needs to look professional too. Check you privacy settings to see what information can be viewed by those you are not 'friends' with.
Once you've set-up your profile you'll be asked what you’re most interested in. If you're not sure or would like to keep your options open choose 'not sure yet'. You can select things like 'building my network' or 'staying up-to-date with my industry'.
Your headline is the opening statement directly below your name on your profile.
If you're already employed your headline will be your job title and employer. If you're searching for work then this is your chance to state your goal. Employers and recruiters search LinkedIn using keywords, so be specific and keep it concise.
Make sure you choose a profile photo that is appropriate for your purpose. Remember, you want to make a good impression. Choose something with a plain background and good lighting.
A good quality profile photo will likely result in more views of your profile.
If you get the chance get a high-definition, professional photo taken. This will help you stand out.
You also have the option to add a cover story to your profile, which is a video up to 20 seconds long. When you have uploaded your cover story, your profile photo will have an orange circle outlining it. Your photo appears as normal in searches, but on your profile, your cover story will play silently unless it is clicked on to add sound.
If you wish to add a video cover story to your profile, it is important to determine what your goal is here. Do you wish to use this opportunity to advise that you’re looking for new work opportunities, or do you wish to highlight particular skills and experiences? This can act as a recruiter’s first impression of you, and set the tone for your profile.
When recording your cover story, ensure that your video is well lit, and you’re dressed professionally with a neutral background. Try to avoid filming somewhere where there will be conflicting noise, such as near to a busy road.
Try to practice your video a few times to get comfortable with your script and avoid sounding unnatural or stilted. Be sure to speak clearly, make eye contact with the camera, and use positive body language such as sitting or standing up straight.
Use the summary section to introduce yourself. This is your opportunity to generate interest with a recruiter, and frame your profile in terms of what you particularly wish to highlight to employers. This might be academic knowledge, industry experience, or particular skills which you think will be of interest.
Give examples of relevant qualifications and experience, talk about your interests and objectives and speak in the first person. You could cover content such as your ambitions and career aspirations, and highlight what you consider to be your best achievements.
This section should demonstrate your passion for your chosen sector or interest, as this enthusiasm can help you stand out from other profiles.
It can be helpful to break your summary up into sections with headings or bullet points to avoid any large paragraphs of text.
You can also use this section to advise employers that you are open to being contacted about vacancies and opportunities.
This is your initial pitch to a potential employer. Aim for something like:
I am a recent 2021 graduate from the University of Portsmouth, achieving a first class MSc in Computer Animation. I have extensive experience with a variety of software, including virtual reality modelling, and am looking to collaborate on exciting new projects. While I am currently working on a freelance basis, my aspiration is to obtain a permanent position as a Lead Animator.
My project animation, ‘A Breezy Day,’ achieved a first class result and publication in the University’s student showreel. This project was a short film, and all elements including writing, direction, and animation were undertaken as a solo project. This involved extensive use of Autodesk, with added elements of Adobe.
I also achieved first class results in all of my other modules, and frequently led study groups and workshops to lend peer support.
During my undergraduate degree in BSc in Computer Enterprise, I undertook a placement year with Sony Entertainment. This placement focused on the development and conception of new Playstation titles, and I gained experience in the following areas:
- Shadowing initial concept development meetings
- Contributing to character and world design meetings
- Created initial animations of various games elements according to specifications given by management
- Playtested games in early concept and gave extensive feedback
My first self published game, ‘Big Balloon Bonanza’, was published on Steam in 2019. This game uses a side scrolling format with 3D animated cut-scenes, and has received multiple recommendations from players.
I have also contributed to the animated web series, ‘Tales from the Underworld’, in which I collaborate with a team of approximately 5 artists and animators to deliver episodes on a weekly basis. This series showcases a variety of different art styles, and has featured claymation in one episode which I partnered in designing and executing.
Any recruiter searching for an experienced animator, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
You will likely have gained a variety of experience through many different areas, such as part-time work, placements, volunteering or involvement in a club or society. You should include all of these within your experience section to give employers a full impression of your background, skills, and knowledge.
Don’t feel that you must only include experience that is directly related to your sector of interest, as all of the areas listed above will have given you valuable skills which you could use in future employment.
It is important to consider the skills and knowledge that you gained from these experiences, rather than simply listing what it was that you did. For example, working in a cafe could be used to evidence your communication skills with co-workers and customers, teamwork skills, and organisation from serving customers efficiently. These skills are far more likely to be of interest to a potential employer than, for example, just recording that you serve drinks. All of your experiences will have relied on you to use or develop some sort of skill, so it is important to reflect on this while writing this section. As you’re not tied to a page limit in the same manner that you are with a CV, you can include the full range of your experience. Be sure to really go into detail about the different skills you developed in each to help the employer understand exactly what you could bring to a role.
LinkedIn lets you add detailed information, including achievements and highlights. Use bullet points to present your information and make the content more readable on a screen. You can also include media files, such as PowerPoint presentations, portfolio documents, photos, PDFs and links.
This section highlights skills you've developed. There's the opportunity for your connections to endorse you for your skills, which will increase your visibility to others. To encourage people to endorse your skills, leave your own endorsements on their skills.
Examples of skills include teamwork, public speaking, communication, customer service, research and time management. Think about the skills you need for your chosen career. Use the job profiles from Prospects or job role person specifications to do some research.
In this section, you can make and receive recommendations. Increase your chance of getting a recommendation by writing recommendations for your close connections.
Recommendations that you provide or receive should be professional. Base them on your experiences and skills from a study project, job role or volunteering position.
Accomplishments may include additional qualifications or certifications you've received. Include accomplishments such as:
- language skills
- projects you've worked on
- awards or prizes
- exceptional test scores
Getting the most from LinkedIn
Once you've built your profile, how do you use LinkedIn effectively and go from "Intermediate" user to "All-Star"?
Utilise keywords to your advantage
Keywords needs to be a recurring theme throughout your profile as this is what will draw prospective recruiters into reading more about your range of experience.
However, it is important to avoid what might be described as 'buzz words' in your profile. For example, 'creative', 'strategic', 'passionate' and 'experienced'. Simply using these words won't convince people that you have these qualities - you need to demonstrate them as well - both in the way you describe yourself, and in the way you use LinkedIn profile features to market yourself as a candidate.
To help you identify keywords consider:
- Collecting job adverts and putting the descriptions into a word cloud to find the words that are recurring
- Using Job Profiles on Prospects and Targetjobs too
- Carrying out thorough research to be confident you have the right keywords for the types of opportunities and employers you are applying to.
Evidence your work
Use the 'Add Media' option to evidence your work – attach and embed articles you’ve written, videos, presentations, photos and links.
It is important to ensure that anything you upload is of a high quality and professional standard. Consider whether any content you are uploading is confidential - you should only add documents that you have permission to share.
- Connect with friends, peers and colleagues that you already know
- Join groups that interest you
- Get involved in discussions
- Follow pages of employers you’d like to work for
- Connect with people you've met through networking
Join LinkedIn groups
Search for groups that are relevant to your chosen career area. Details of LinkedIn groups are often included on the websites of professional bodies. You can also look for University of Portsmouth Alumni groups and locate any regional networking groups.
You may wish to join groups for workers within your chosen sector, or perhaps for people sharing a certain characteristic. LinkedIn groups can be useful for sharing and finding relevant information and articles, connecting with others, and gaining support from group members.
Indicate your interests
Related to the potential to increase your networking opportunities, following a range of organisations and joining groups that reflect your study and career interests will trigger relevant content and posts to appear in your home feed, such as news, recruitment information or articles.
Ensure you engage with this content by liking, sharing or commenting on posts. This increases your visibility to others through LinkedIn.
Use the Alumni tool
LinkedIn is an effective research and job search tool. Specifically, once you have followed the University of Portsmouth’s LinkedIn page you will have the opportunity to access the Alumni tab and accompanying tool to spend time exploring what the university’s previous graduates have gone on to do in relation to their careers. Look for people who have followed a particular career route or who work for an organisation that interests you.
You also have the opportunity to follow the dedicated Careers and Employability Service LinkedIn page to find out more about accessing our range of support and other opportunities we are promoting.
Connecting with people you haven't met
If you have no connection to someone, we don’t recommend adding them. However, you can approach mutual connections you know and ask them if they might introduce you.
Use the 'Grow your network' feature under the My Network tab to find people you may know. People in your network are identified with an icon on the profile next to the person’s name:
- If you’re connected, the icon will display whether they’re a 1st, 2nd or 3rd connection, or if you share a Group with them
- If you’re not connected an icon won't appear
Remember, LinkedIn is a great way to follow-up with people you may have met briefly.
Increase your visibility
There are a number of functions available through LinkedIn that will enable you to increase your visibility to recruiters:
Use the ‘Open to’ button that appears below your contact information when editing your profile.
This gives you the option to indicate that you are open to ‘finding a new job’ and will increase your visibility when recruiters are looking for suitable candidates.
Take the LinkedIn Skill Assessments to include specific badges on your profile.
When you populate your ‘Skills and endorsements’ section with relevant skills and abilities you will now have the opportunity to take one of LinkedIn’s dedicated assessments. Having passed an assessment, LinkedIn will offer you the opportunity to add a badge to your profile for the associated skill. Again, having this badge will allow recruiters to identify those candidates with the desired skill set for their role.
If you don’t pass an assessment for any reason, LinkedIn will signpost you to further online learning and development opportunities and you can retake the assessment when you are ready.
Ensure you use hashtags when you create an update to share with your network from your LinkedIn homepage. You can add your own hashtag by typing # and the word or phrase directly in your post. Hashtags on LinkedIn help you discover topics and interests most relevant to you, and give you the opportunity to engage with them. This will help to increase both your activity and visibility to prospective employers overall when you react to, comment on and/or share information via your LinkedIn feed.
How to use LinkedIn for employer research and applications
Not only does LinkedIn provide access to what might be described as a “hidden jobs market”, but it offers a fantastic resource for general employer research and an opportunity to make direct applications to a range of organisations.
Questions you may want to ask yourself during your LinkedIn research include:
- What does the organisation do? What information do they offer as part of their overview? What have they listed as their ‘specialities’?
- Where is the organisation located? Does it have a central location and/or multiple locations?
- What information has the organisation shared through their recent posts? Do they have any ongoing projects or recent news about the organisation?
- Can you locate prominent employees within the organisation on LinkedIn? Have they shared anything on their profile about the company, such as projects they’re involved in?
- Does the organisation have any upcoming events that you could attend to find out more?
- What roles are currently being advertised through LinkedIn? Do you meet the minimum requirements for any of these opportunities?
- What does the recruitment process involve? Can you use LinkedIn’s ‘Easy Apply’ function?
- What stands out about the organisation? What is their unique selling point compared to their competitors or similar organisations?
- Finally, having carried out research through LinkedIn and other sources, how do you view the organisation? Why might you want to work for them? What appeals to you?
Use your connections
If you establish connections associated with an organisation, you have the opportunity to reach out to them to ask questions about their experience, how they have progressed within the company and the type of opportunities available. Aim to be creative and have fun carrying out your research, so that you can navigate how best to approach the organisation for an opportunity when you are ready.
Make the most of LinkedIn’s premium free trial
Whilst this free trial is only available for 30 days, it offers a great opportunity to access additional benefits that can support you in your employer research, general job search and applications. This includes information about who has viewed your profile, insights on where you stand in terms of applications to a particular job role and InMail features. These aspects of LinkedIn may help you to identify and contact recruiters who have looked at your profile. Use these insights to make new connections, identify gaps in your profile and find out more about prospective employers.
Searching and applying for jobs
The LinkedIn Jobs tab allows you to search and apply for specific jobs, in addition to setting up a dedicated ‘search alert’. Depending on the posting, you can ‘Easy Apply’ using the details included on your profile or you may be redirected to the company’s website to make a direct application. There is also the option of saving job postings so that you can access them at any time to make an application.
Use LinkedIn to support your interview preparation
At a later stage, once you have secured an interview, you can also use LinkedIn to research your prospective boss and/or staff team. Before going for an interview, you can use LinkedIn to research hiring managers and members of your interview panel to find out about their likes, interests and more. This information could potentially be used during the interview process to create relatability and to demonstrate to the employer that you have carried out thorough research and considered your own “fit” with the company.
Final LinkedIn tips and resources
- Create a custom URL to use on your CV
- Include a profile link in your email signature so people you email can click on it
- Keep your page updated – the more you put into LinkedIn the more you’ll get out of it and the busier you are on the platform the more visible you’ll be and the more connections and hits you’re likely to get
- TARGETjobs - The graduate’s guide to creating the perfect LinkedIn profile
- TARGETjobs - Social networking and graduate recruitment: manage your online reputation
- TARGETjobs - How to use LinkedIn: research, networking, and building your brand
- LeisureJobs - Ultimate LinkedIn cheat sheet
- Prospects - Getting a job: social media and job hunting
- Jobscan - How to write a LinkedIn summary - Examples and tips
The advice provided by LinkedIn itself and the range of blog articles available also offer a really positive starting point for students and graduates:
- 10 LinkedIn tips for students and new graduates
- How to use LinkedIn for your job search
- 20 steps to a better LinkedIn profile
- 10 LinkedIn profile summaries we love (and how to boost your own)
- LinkedIn for students and future graduates
Need more help and information?
You can get more help using LinkedIn at the Careers and Employability Centre. Our advisers can review your profile and answer questions you might have.
Remember, the rules for effective networking apply to LinkedIn and any online networks. Make sure you read our top tips on how to network before you start.
LinkedIn also provides a series of quick tips and videos to help you create a profile and network effectively.