Students understand more and more the power of LinkedIn, and the importance of not only being on LinkedIn, but also actually using it to successfully market themselves and connect with professionals. I feel like I’ve worked with a gazillion students on how to create an effective LinkedIn profile, and the one section that causes my students the most problems is that dang summary section! In advising sessions the following questions always come up: “Do I use first or third person?” “How long should it be?” “Should I discuss my passion for baking?” “Should I list skills…isn’t that redundant since there is that ‘Skills & Endorsements’ section already in my profile?” “Do I really even need a summary?”
Yes! Students should totally take advantage of the summary section!
Earlier this year I was talking to an employer representing an international management consulting firm, and I asked him on what criteria he selected students for on-campus interviews. He said something like, “Well…most of the resumes looked exactly the same—the same GPA’s, classes and projects, extracurricular activities, and degrees. So, I looked for athletes.”
Really? That was the deciding factor? It kind of blew my mind, as a non-athlete (I’ve always been a “husky” fella…and I was always kind of artsy) I knew, if I had been in the resume pool as an undergrad, I would have been out of the race. What I took from that conversation is that students need to leverage their “real life” and interests in the job search as well, and include them in their self-marketing documents and strategies (like their LinkedIn summary).
So, I’ve been trying to come up with a formula to help students construct their LinkedIn summaries (I work with a lot of engineers…and they LOVE formulas). My formula is basically strengths/skills + interests + tie-in to industry = a good LinkedIn summary. This technique allows students to show they have the skills required for an industry in a personalized way, making them unique from other candidates (like how the athletes were stand-outs for that management consulting employer). I also ask students to only write one sentence per topic (e.g., interests), to keep their summary concise.
I’ll use myself as an example. Currently I work with STEM students, but don’t have an ounce of STEM professional experience. My background is in documentary, TV, digital media, strategic communications…and counseling. How would this background inspire confidence in my STEM students? How could I leverage my past experience and skills to suit the career needs of STEM students? Let’s break it down with my formula, shall we?
Strengths/skills (hard and soft skills/strengths) – marketing, advertising, media, social media, telling stories, design, presenting, breaking down difficult information into digestible and understandable bits, advising/counseling, student development, motivating, inspiring, humor, strategic, empathic, activator. (Are you recognizing some of these StrengthsFinder terms? I love this assessment!)
Interests – design, music, photography, the history of my hometown (Durham, NC), Sci-Fi (Yes, I’m a nerd.), acting, documentary and hearing the stories of others, social justice, equality, anything vintage, learning/education, learning about other cultures.
Tie-in to industry (STEM students) – Storytelling is the underlying theme…teaching students to successfully tell their professional stories to employers. Education and social justice is another theme…especially in my work with international students and helping them find work in the United States.
Summary (with “Specialties”) – Storytelling is the heart of my career development and employer relations philosophy. Using my background in strategic communications and documentary, along with my experience in career services, I share the professional stories of my students with employers to create and grow meaningful relationships. I teach my students how to understand and share their stories with employers successfully to find careers they care about. I work with students from all over the world to help them better understand who they are, how they want to change the world, and how to create a strategy to make it happen.
Specialties: Social media and job-search strategies, professional relationship development and maintenance, resume and cover letter writing, networking, job interview preparation, professional development, assessment application and review (StrengthsQuest, Strong Interest Inventory, MBTI), workshop facilitation, and assisting international students in navigating the American job-search process
See how that works? I maximize that non-traditional media/storytelling background to help me stand out from other career counselors.
My typical answers to student questions about the LinkedIn summary:
- First or third person? Either one is fine. Students should decide based on what professionals in their chosen field are doing. A creative writing student’s summary will more than likely be written in the first person and more conversational, whereas the summary of a finance student may be in the third person and much more professional.
- How long should the summary be? Not too long. I suggest four to six sentences (or fewer).
- Discuss an outside passion (e.g., baking)? Sure, if your student can somehow tie it in to their chosen industry and prove it gives them a unique point of view, lens, or ability to do their job in an innovative way.
- List specialties in the summary? Sure. Your students’ profiles are basically word banks, and we want to make sure it is peppered with as many industry key words as possible…we want employers to find our students as they search LinkedIn for talent.
What ideas do you have for creating killer LinkedIn summaries? Share your summary and expertise with us!