From making your viewing history private to crafting the perfect online brand, three Cornell students and a career services advisor share tips on how to make the best of an ever more important career platform.

November 24, 2019

Career Talk: The Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn

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In today’s digital era, LinkedIn has become an essential tool for many to find job opportunities, network and cultivate career interests. While a handful might consider themselves to be pros of the work network, for those just starting out on LinkedIn, the art of marketing yourself online can prove to be tricky.

As internship and full-time recruiting continues to kick into high gear, The Sun asked Cornell’s Career Center and three “LinkedIn famous” students — active LinkedIn users with over 1000 followers on their profiles — for their tips and tricks on how to best navigate the vast, sometimes confusing world of career networking.

What is your background?

Jen Maclaughlin: I’m the Assistant Dean and Director of Arts & Sciences Career Development. I’ve been at Cornell for a little over three and a half years, but within the area of career services for 17 years.

Julio Lopez ‘21: I’m a junior in [Applied Economics and Management] with a concentration in marketing. Freshman year, I did a two internship type of thing where I was working for my local non-profit, my local United Way — that was during the day, like regular office hours. But then at night, like overnight, and the weekends, I was working at a startup company called GOALOOP. I actually got my offer to work with Microsoft next summer early this year in March.

Eric Hu ‘20: I’m a senior in Arts & Sciences. I study Economics and Biology and I’m minoring in Business. My freshman year, I interned at two start-ups: one was a growth type consulting firm and the other one was a database platform for buy side equity reports. My sophomore year, I interned at a credit fund in a private equity firm called KKR. My junior year, I did investment banking at a bank called Evercore, where I’ll be returning full time.

Shoshana Swell ‘20: I’m a senior studying Performing and Media Arts and Information Science. I started within the film industry and my sophomore year, I discovered product design and went full-fledged within that. Last year, I was at Facebook as a product design intern in Menlo Park, California. After graduation, I’ll be working as a product designer at Facebook in New York.

What advice do you have for Cornell students who are just starting out on LinkedIn?

Maclaughlin: I really emphasize skill sets to be placed onto LinkedIn because that’s essentially what employers are looking for. There are eight core competencies that deem students to be career-ready: critical thinking and problem solving abilities; communication skills; professionalism and work ethic; teamwork and collaboration; leadership; digital technology; global and intercultural fluency; and career management. I highly recommend that students really try to place these on their LinkedIn profiles.

Lopez: Think of your LinkedIn account or page like a website, where recruiters have a different interface in which they can search for applicants. If you’re looking for an internship, your header should be something like “junior at Cornell University seeking a summer internship in product marketing.” Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who you don’t know. But 100 percent of the time, add a note on the connection request. I was talking to a professional and he said, “if you don’t have a note, you failed the first test.” Say why you want to connect; don’t just connect randomly to people for no reason.

Hu: As far as content goes, taking the time to have a more academic lense and providing something substantial rather than commercial is very important. In addition, we don’t realize as students how extensive the alumni network is, and alumni love to help. I think people are scared to cold call. I think any alumni will be delighted to get a LinkedIn request and move that to phone or email for a student.

Swell: It depends on what industry you’re in, but I would say one of the biggest benefits is messaging people to set up a time to call. It could be very scary to actually speak with people who are seniors at different companies, but I think that’s one of the best ways to look for possible career fields you want to go down. It’s a good tip to always add a note when you’re connecting with people–and you can only do this on a desktop. It becomes this more personalized approach, especially if you don’t have a ton of mutual connections.

What guidance can you give on building LinkedIn profiles and crafting summaries?

Maclaughlin: I think of LinkedIn as a Master Resume, which is more inclusive. It’s going to have everything that you have done, while a regular resume is created based upon the specific job to which you are applying to. It can create this bigger narrative about who you are as a person, as opposed to the resume — which is much shorter. It needs to be readable, but not too long.

Lopez: For me, personally, have everything on there. You never know, there could be someone who is looking for somebody like you that had that one particular experience. For the summary, I personally like the “I” because it feels more personal, like I’m talking to somebody. Second, I’d definitely have an objective for your professional aspirations. For me, that’s increasing the number of Latinos that are in power in the business world. The summary is like a mini cover letter. Make sure you always change it every year.

Hu: Absolutely cherry pick. A lot of times, LinkedIn is just used as a screening tool. The last thing you want is a summary of your resume. Some people make the mistake of essentially copying the resume’s bullet points on LinkedIn. If it’s a known role — for example Software Engineering at Facebook — everyone knows what that is, so you don’t need a description. Other times, for example, startups or projects that you’ve founded, you want to give a brief description about why that’s unique. For extracurricular projects, you can attach papers, files, and links to websites under “Add Media.” That is another way to make your profile stand out.

Swell: As a freshman, I think putting your experiences under the “Experience” category could be beneficial if you had a primary role or lead within a project. Other things I put under “Experience” are any roles in a project team and other campus-related experiences that I have a very dedicated role to that are directly related to my career. There are some extracurriculars, like being in Cornell Fashion Collective or Thread Magazine, that I put under the “Education” section for Cornell as bullets.

Can you describe your path to becoming “LinkedIn famous?

Lopez: It definitely starts off with content. I’ve been able to be in talks and spaces with people who are considered LinkedIn influencers. The number one recommendation that they always give is content. Find something you’re passionate about, and share content about it. You may not think you’re big, but if someone likes that content, then somebody else in their network will see it. So the more often you do it, the more often you appear in other people’s timelines. Number two: I would like, comment, and engage on other people’s posts. Then other people in their network will see your account, your profile, and they’ll see what you’re doing. You have to look at it like social media.

Hu: I think everyone kinda starts the same; they begin and they have no idea what to do. Luckily, I had a couple of older people at Cornell that I modeled my LinkedIn account after. You start out by essentially spamming everyone you know in your nearest connections. LinkedIn is not to be used as your resume, it’s an initial screening. Also, it’s really important that you not only engage with your own network, but try and see people that you might want to follow or companies that you are interested in. Be really involved in the space rather than being a watcher on the sidelines.

Swell: When I discovered product design, I originally looked in LinkedIn to find people who I could reach out and learn more about the industry. I never was someone who wanted a certain amount of LinkedIn connections. It’s just about who I can reach out to; who is someone I would be interested in following on their journey?

What professional opportunities have you gained from being active on LinkedIn?

Ramos: I was posting a lot of things on LinkedIn related to marketing, and a recruiter from this new program at Microsoft reached out to me. I got a phone call and then they flew me in. I really loved everyone, and that’s when I decided to take the offer. LinkedIn is so big right now, particularly with the bigger companies, like the tech companies. They are aware that this is the network that people use and they use that to reach out to networks that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Hu: The bigger strength of LinkedIn is getting in touch with the right people in order to get the softer opportunities. Maybe you want to get a job, and there’s 20,000 applicants. You reaching out on LinkedIn, and not just connecting, but following up, making a phone call, exchanging emails, is really a strength of LinkedIn. That can lead to internship opportunities. For me, it has been more invites to conferences.

Are there any LinkedIn “faux pas” that students should be aware of?
Maclaughlin: First of all, always portray yourself accurately and appropriately in a professional manner. Know that LinkedIn is different from places like Facebook, Snapchat, etc. Often, students think that they should exaggerate their experience, but you don’t want to overextend what you’ve done. Finally, a big faux pas is reaching out initially to say, “Can you help me with a job?” without taking the time to invest in the person. A much better approach is reaching out and saying, “I’m interested in learning about you.” The purpose of LinkedIn is networking, and networking is about relationship building, and there needs to be a give and take. Also, every time that you talk to somebody on LinkedIn, ask “Can you suggest others whom I could speak with about this field?”

Lopez: LinkedIn is a professional network, and sometimes some people don’t see it as such and will post things that would go on Facebook, or Instagram. Be very wary of these things. Make sure you spell things out. Don’t just put the suggested auto-click messages, because those do appear on your profile.

Hu: There’s private browsing mode on LinkedIn, and that’s the first thing you should take on. The scariest thing when you’re essentially stalking these people multiple times and they get a little notification.

Swell: The algorithm for LinkedIn’s feed is very different from other platforms. When you like a post, you’re endorsing it two times more than say, an Instagram post because it will show up on your news feed. Make sure what you’re liking is endorsed by you and something that you would approve of. So liking and commenting is way more of a heavy interaction that will show more about you to your followers.