Developing a Strong Online Presence: LinkedIn


By Katie Southon, SCS Advising Leader

It’s the digital age. Most recruiters and job applications have potential candidates apply online. When you’re applying to jobs, you will need to upload your resume, your cover letter, and fill in other information that they ask for, including contact information. One question that I have noticed more over the years has been the option of adding your LinkedIn link to your application. This allows recruiters or hiring managers to get a sense of your online presence and get to know more about you, expanding on what is in your resume. If you’re going to link your profile, it’s important that your LinkedIn reflects your experiences and communicates them in a professional way. Having an updated profile is also a strong start in building and maintaining a lasting network. The following tips can help you update your LinkedIn profile and make it stand out:

  1. Customize your background

The Data Science Research Collaborative at the University of Illinois has created a website that generates a custom banner for LinkedIn. You can customize this with your name, major, and college. There are more than 40 backgrounds to choose from, so choose one that fits your personality and reflects your Illini pride

  1. Update your headshot

Is your profile picture still your senior photo from high school? It’s time for a refresh. The Professional Portrait Lab will take a new headshot for free and it’s right here on campus. Wear whatever makes you feel professional: a suit or blazer is a solid choice, but not required. Check this link to be sure you have the most updated information before going in for your photo. ​​

  1. Spice up your bio

Your bio is essentially your online elevator pitch. Customize it to yourself and keep it brief. This is a great spot to also include what industry you are interested in and what your career goals may be, but don’t get too specific. You want this to apply to a wide range of companies you may apply for.

  1. Explain your experiences

Don’t just copy and paste your resume bullets. LinkedIn gives you the space to expand a little more on what you did and what projects you worked on. Keep it concise and only include important information, but feel free to add a specific or two to give recruiters a better idea of your skills.

  1. Highlight your involvement

Another challenge with resumes is having enough space to explain your involvement in organizations like RSOs. On your resume, you may only have space to note your RSO and your leadership position, but on LinkedIn, you can add more details about what you did and how you made an impact. This is also a good place to add RSOs that are less relevant to your job skills, but can help someone understand you better as a person. If you are in a hiking club or do volunteer work, put it in your experiences section! You may connect with someone over mutual interests.

  1. Early career endorsements

As a student, endorsements can feel daunting. You may notice your managers have several endorsements by coworkers and feel as though you need them too, but you should keep in mind that your manager is an expert in their field. As an intern, you have not yet mastered a topic. It’s okay to not have any on your page yet. Keep in mind that when the time comes, it’s best practice to have endorsements that are relevant to your technical skills and that have been written by someone experienced in that area.

  1. Reaching out through DMs

People love helping students and are generally receptive to being reached out to over DM. Reach out to start making that connection, but make sure you have a purpose for your message. Start by introducing yourself. Then, lead into why you chose them to DM specifically and finish up with your request. Be polite and professional and always follow up with a thank-you message once the conversation has concluded.

  1. When/what to post

LinkedIn posts can be a way to interact with your network, announce a new job opportunity, or share your experiences. As a young professional, it’s important to tailor your story to your audience. Personally, I post on LinkedIn when I have started an internship and share my hopes for the summer; when I end an internship, thanking key members of the team; and when I attend events like a professional conference, posting a few pictures and highlighting my biggest takeaway. If you publish or present research, a LinkedIn post can help broaden your reach and memorialize your experience. Your network will appreciate hearing what you are up to, so a post every once in a while can help maintain your connections, celebrate your successes, and document your career journey.

  1. Respond in a timely manner

Just like any other method of reaching out to a recruiter, an alumni, or an expert in your field, the typical rules of respect and courtesy apply. Reply within 24 hours whenever possible to keep the conversation going.

I hope these tips are helpful in curating and customizing your LinkedIn profile to be a unique landing page for employers and your network to dive more deeply into your career journey and understand you as a person. If you need more help setting up a strong page or want someone to look over your profile from an outside perspective, reach out to SCS Career Services and set up an appointment. They’re always happy to help!