I’ve noticed in the past week that many of the members of the class of 2012 have either created or freshened up their LinkedIn profiles. This is great! If you haven’t done so recently, as school winds down, take stock of your online presence—particularly LinkedIn.
1. Create a LinkedIn profile if you don’t have one—and make sure the message it sends aligns with your long term goals. Why? It creates a professional presence on the internet—where many people find their own attorneys or attorney referrals, sometimes vet job applicants, or find others who have attended the same schools or have similar professional interests. Some of you may think that you don’t need a LinkedIn profile because you don’t have your dream job. That is not true. Several recent graduates have created profiles which create a very positive impression and also underscore expertise and interest in a given area. (How many of us know that we have our dream job yet, anyway?) Finally, to me, being able to say something positive about yourself regardless of your current situation shows that you have a long-term view of the profession you have chosen. If I were an employer, I would generally think that was attractive.
2.Use a professional photo to accompany your profile. It doesn’t have to be you in a suit standing in front of legal books. In fact, if that doesn’t seem normal to you it will probably look weird. But it also can’t be you doing shots of tequila.
3.Then, join LinkedIn “groups” that are meaningful to you—ie, S.J. Quinney College of Law; community organizations you are involved in; your other college alumni groups; and (when you become a member of a bar) bar associations and sub-sections. Group membership signifies your relationship to others who serve as connections. It also allows you to see “discussions” started by other members—these often include job postings or information on networking events.
4. In addition to joining groups, reach out and connect with people you know. Classmates, former classmates, school administrators, and work colleagues are a good start.
5. It would seem to go without saying, but in general, avoid wasting time trying to connect with people you do not know at all, or who are not part of any organizations you belong to. That “connection” is not a real, so how it is it valuable to you? Also, be a little cautious about attempting to connect with people with whom you have had only a passing conversation or interaction. If they have a million connections, or if they have connected with a lot of other law students/recent alumni, it could indicate that they are open to connecting with you. But if they don’t have a vast number of connections, it might indicate that they don’t want to connect with people that they don’t know. If you try to connect with someone you don’t know well, and they decline, don’t take personal offense. They are just keeping their LinkedIn account limited to those they actually know.
6. If you have a LinkedIn profile, dust it off every once in awhile. It is almost as bad to have a patently stale or inaccurate profile as it is to have none at all.
7. Remember that you probably won’t use your LinkedIn profile in the same way you use your facebook profile, if you use facebook for social purposes, posting photos, and commenting about random things. Generally, most folks use LinkedIn to create a professional image, get their name out within a group or professional field, and to be able to research other professionals. It is not used to post family reunion pictures, or start a conversation about how lame last week’s party was.