Want to know why a great LinkedIn profile is essential, even if you plan to get your next job on campus? Follow this quick guide to looking good online!
You probably already have a LinkedIn profile, but if you are like a lot of MBA students and graduates I talk to, you probably aren't entirely sure why you should have one or why it's worthwhile to keep it looking good. In this article, I am going to talk about how to make a great MBA LinkedIn Profile and why you should do it even if you think your next job is going to come from campus recruiting.
If you’re already sold on the value of LinkedIn and want to get straight to work sprucing up your profile, head here.
Alternatively, if you want to download the guide and work through it on your own, click on Aurora Borealis below.
If you want to really understand what it can and can’t do for you as an MBA, and why making it sharp is a good use of your time, read on!
LinkedIn: Do I HAVE to?
A question my MBA clients often ask is: What the heck am I supposed to do with LinkedIn?
It’s a good question and one I think the world is still trying to figure out.
I was one of the first million users of LinkedIn because I was actually in business school when it launched.
This was way before Facebook, so everybody thought it was going to change the way we network and the way we do business.
It’s been over a decade since I opened my account, and it hasn’t really done either of those things. The basic rules of building relationships are the same as they have been for millennia, and even the internet hasn’t made a dent in what we value in our friendships: emotional connection, open communication, affinity, shared experience. The internet facilitates very little of this, and that’s why the majority of your job search and networking activities will remain offline.
People often think LinkedIn merely adds another item to our professional to do list: “Well, it hasn’t helped me get a job yet; but, still, I guess I’d better keep it up to date!”
Then there are those who already have established professional networks, like the majority of my colleagues from the Boston Consulting Group, who choose to ignore it altogether.
Here is a screenshot of one of BCG’s most important Partners:
He has one of the biggest professional networks in the global Consumer Goods and Healthcare industries and runs six BCG offices. He is one of the most influential men in the management consulting space. And yet he only has 154 LinkedIn connections.
This particular Partner understands that LinkedIn doesn’t help him impress his clients, build better relationships, or gain more trust within his network. That’s why – as one of the busiest people you will ever meet – he has decided his LinkedIn profile is one thing that can stay on his “Never gonna do it” list.
But for the rest of us, LinkedIn HAS changed the world in a meaningful way, so we are probably better off keeping it on the “to do” list.
What is LinkedIn good for?
I write a lot about networking, but I call it “Making Professional Friends.” The word “Networking” sets up a transactional paradigm that – let’s face it – feels smarmy. It’s much more empowering to engage in making genuine connections and nurturing meaningful friendships than to “network.” Friendship makes work more rewarding and enables us to fulfill our full potential.
Making friends as an adult is hard. If you consider yourself just barely an adult, you will soon understand what I mean. Without the shared experience of college or graduate school, without the large overlapping networks we traffic in as teenagers, and without the luxury of schedule autonomy and extensive free time to devote to budding friendships, building genuine new relationships is infinitely harder.
LinkedIn doesn’t really solve that problem, because it doesn’t give you any of those things – shared experience, face time, or schedule autonomy – that help cultivate real friendships.
But it does give you one important thing that makes it worth your time and energy: access to new people.
Creating genuine friendships takes time, consistency, and perseverance. Not everyone you meet will become a friend. To find one person that you want to spend time with, you’ll have to meet at least 10. And since you spend the majority of your life working with the same people day in and day out, your opportunities for social churn are minimal. Unlike high school and college, where you are always coming into contact with lots of new people, your sources of new social connections in adult life are effectively limited to four places:
- Your morning or evening commute (and that’s only if you take mass public transit!)
- Live networking events
- Online dating
These are the four primary sources of new connections in adult life. These are the places where you can come into contact with a large number of new people and decide which of them you’d like to turn into friends. Have I missed any sources? If so, please drop me a comment.
The smart way to make friends on LinkedIn
Why do important BCG Partners ignore LinkedIn? Because they aren’t interested in being contacted by hordes of distant strangers. And frankly, neither are most of us. Have you ever received a cold email on LinkedIn? Did you just ignore it? Or send a polite: “Thanks for your interest, but I don’t have time”? Those would both be appropriate responses.
This is because LinkedIn is not a live networking event, where you are free to approach just anyone. It would be rude if someone ignored you face to face, but the internet permits this kind of dodging, and it’s the social norm.
But that’s OK, because what LinkedIn provides – that none of those other three outlets do – is transparency in the network. You can see who each person is connected to, understand how many degrees of separation exist between you, and – ideally, if you are doing it right – find a way to get personally introduced to anyone you would like to meet on LinkedIn.
This is what makes LinkedIn truly genius.
Reid Hoffman understood that the best way to make a new connection is to be introduced by a mutual acquaintance. LinkedIn facilitates this while still giving you access to thousands of people who might one day become professional colleagues, mentors, friends, and collaborators.
(By the way, as I was writing this, Reid did this fantastic talk to the students at Said Business School. Check it out on Periscope here. And while you're at it, follow Said on Periscope. They share great content!!)
LinkedIn for MBAs
Anyone who has conducted an active job search outside the nurturing environment of campus recruitment understands the power of LinkedIn. There is no better way to discover and be discovered by people you might one day work with.
If you are in such a job search, one framework I love and frequently recommend to my clients is the Two Hour Job Search by the charismatic Steve Dalton. Check out his book here. Or watch this YouTube video.
Dalton suggests efficient ways to scan professional opportunities and connections to make a job transition easier. I recommend some of these techniques if you are in the process of changing jobs and don’t know where to start.
But most of the people I work with know exactly where they want to go – or if they don’t, they soon figure it out! As it does for my BCG Partner friend, LinkedIn holds unclear value for the already well-connected and well-resourced job seeker, MBA candidate, or MBA student. If you are a rising MBA or current student, it will likely seem that on campus recruiting – AKA live networking events – will provide you with all the new connections you might need. Though that might be true for many MBAs – both in and out of school – there are a few important reasons it’s still worth your time to maintain your LinkedIn presence.
In normal times….
- Remember that first and foremost LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. It allows you to keep tabs on your professional network, follow the news about them both big and small, update them on your career, and connect them to each other. If you want to create a thriving network (which, of course, you do!), LinkedIn is a great tool to keep in touch.
- A strong LinkedIn presence increases your visibility to recruiters. The further you advance in your career and the more you specialize, the more your profile will be sought and scrutinized by head hunters. Apple, for example, doesn’t post its most elite and senior jobs. You won’t even know they’re hiring until you get a phone call out of the blue. It’s the ultimate “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” So keeping your profile robust and up to date ensures it will appear in the detailed searches professional recruiters do and enable them to proactively contact you. Even if you are happy with your job, don’t relinquish the option value of new opportunities!
In active job search times…
- LinkedIn is one of the best ways for you to connect with people who work for firms you’re interested in. It’s easy to search for people you already know at your target firms or even those who are one or two degrees removed. It’s simple: just reach out to your own contacts and ask them to introduce you to their contacts at target firms through LinkedIn. This networking ability is especially powerful when combined with your school and MBA program databases. (Again, refer to the Two Hour Job Search to make this process easier to manage.)
- Even if you’re recruiting primarily on campus, you can’t neglect the possibility that your target firms are scrutinizing your web presence as an additional screen. Though the downside risk of a crappy LinkedIn profile is small, competition being what it is, why would you leave any points on the table? Why not take any opportunity to enhance your professional persona and shine?
- Finally, you can even use LinkedIn to search for open positions in your field of choice. Whether you apply online or simply use this research to understand the market, company values, and job requirements, it is a great launching off point for a search.
So MBAs need an impressive and detailed LinkedIn profile because…
- You will almost certainly want to reach out to alumni or other connections to ask for new introductions. Without a complete LinkedIn profile, they won’t know who you are or how you could add value to their organization or connections. You are then effectively asking a very big favor – that they vouch for you with no information to go on. Make it easy for people to refer you to others by clearly conveying the relevance of your experiences and transferable skills.
- Depending on the level of support your program provides and the number of companies coming to campus in your target field, a portion of your job search may be “off-campus.” This means you will need to do some of your own work to initiate contact with your target firms. The content of your LinkedIn profile is critical because it will be the first impression you make as a professional.
- Even if you meet all your target companies on campus and establish personal contact that way, it can’t hurt to have a LinkedIn profile that really shows your experiences and personality in a meaningful way.
So let’s do this. Now you know why it matters. Here’s a really quick guide to sprucing up your LinkedIn presence.
The Key Components of an Awesome LinkedIn Profile
Read on, or download the guide here:
Quick Changes, Big Impact
- Professional Photo
- Vanity URL
A Little More Work, Really Important
- Experiences and abilities
Some Other Stuff
- Skills and endorsements
Quick Changes, Big Impact
Get a professional looking picture of yourself.
It makes a big difference. It doesn’t have to be a professionally shot photo. I’m personally not a fan of those overly-staged, tilted-head, fake-smile pro pics. Just make sure it’s not a blurry selfie or a vacation shot. If you don’t think this matters, poke around in your network and see how the picture quality subconsciously influences your opinion of people.
Choose a Headline that summarizes who you are as a professional and not just your job title or MBA program.
Be creative, concise, and relatable.
Choose a custom URL using your name.
By the time I got around to it, angelaguido had been taken, but firstnamelastname should probably be your default choice. As you can see, I chose a slightly cheeky alternative. To change your URL yourself, start at your LinkedIn homepage. Look for the Profile tab at the top of the page; click on that and choose the first link in the drop-down menu, Edit Profile. Once you are on the Edit Profile page, look for the URL for your LinkedIn profile page, which appears just below your photo. Hover over it and a little gear will appear. Click on the little gear icon next to your LinkedIn profile URL to edit it.
(Note) – turn off notifications if you don’t want everyone in your network to get an update about each change you make.
Go to Account and Settings (hover over your picture in the top right corner) -> Privacy and Settings -> Privacy -> Sharing Profile Edits. Set that to "No."
A Little More Work, Really Important
Your LinkedIn Summary will be the most frequently read part of your profile. It’s your opportunity to make a real connection with anyone who is looking for you. Some tips for excellent summaries:
- Write in the first person (everyone knows you wrote it yourself!)
- Make it a mix of personal and professional.
- Include the past - some things you have done; make it unique.
- Include the present - where you are and what you are doing now.
- Include the future - what you are looking to do in the future. Make this inspiring to read.
- NO: I want a job in marketing.
- YES: I am seeking to apply my creativity and love of consumer design to a product marketing role where I can influence tangible bottom line impact.
- Be human and real. Be yourself. Make this memorable – a summary only you could write.
Fill out your profile entirely. Include each job you’ve had (at least the ones that are relevant.) It’s OK to include summer internships. Maybe leave out that one summer you spent bussing tables for the family restaurant. But as long as the work you did was relevant to your career, include it.
Make sure you connect to the actual company’s brand for known organizations. As you type the company name, a list of entities will appear. Find the right one and select it, so that the corresponding logo of the company appears to the right of your job title.
Add Education including relevant coursework, community service and volunteering, and - again - make sure the logos of relevant schools and organizations appear.
Fill out the whole thing.
Be sure to make your entire profile public so anyone can learn about you. Edit this in
Privacy & Settings > Edit Your Public Profile.
Experiences and abilities
As part of completing your professional experience section, you will want to write short summaries that characterize your accomplishments in those jobs. A few tips for good experience summary sections:
- Include a quick summary of your role. For a good example of this, check out the experience summary for each job on my profile. Write 1-2 sentences, and use lay speech so that anyone in any field can understand it.
- Below that, add specific actions and outcomes you produced. Use the MBA Resume Protocol to create a brilliant resume with bullets that focus on actions and results, and then copy and paste your top 2 or 3 of those into each position. So it might look like this:
BCG Women’s Initiative Captain
Working with firm leaders, I led recruiting and affiliation activities for the firm's women in the Americas region. I coached candidates to succeed in BCG's competitive case and fit interviews and created and executed the firm's annual learning and development conference for 400 senior women in North America.
- Created an inspiring conference for 400 women, which received 100% positive feedback, by designing the program and managing a team of 7 to execute every last detail of the event
- Enabled 5% increase in women in the class of 2006 by conducting interview preparation workshops and hosting 12 women’s events at top US Business Schools
Include 3-5 and no more for each position.
- Keep it jargon and buzzword free. Remember that as an MBA, you will be valued for your communication, leadership, and management abilities, and that requires you to connect with people across functions and cultures. Show them you can relate to others and communicate clearly by keeping jargon out of it. Again, for far more detailed guidance on conveying accomplishments in a way anyone can understand, check out the MBA Resume Protocol.
- That said, you might want to include technical skills and experiences that are relevant to your specific industry. Take a look at the below examples.
Banking example (accomplishment):
Facilitated successful acquisition of major clothing retailer by performing building detailed operating, LBO, merger models and running valuation analyses including DCF, accretion/dilution, and sum-of-parts to support business diligence.
Programming example (accomplishment):
Led 9 analysts in developing a mobile app using Java and C++ to display financial data for the company’s leadership team, reducing environmental footprint by eliminating usage of paper.
If you plan to stay in your current function or industry (finance and technology respectively for the examples above) or if you are transitioning into a job where your technical skills will be valued, it is a good idea to include the names of protocols and specific technical processes. Just be sure that the Role Summary is intelligible to any industry outsider.
Some Other Stuff
Skills and endorsements
To make sure you get credit for your skills and abilities, be sure to fill this out. It will be more important if you are seeking a job where certain technical skills (programming experience, specific modeling skills) will be valued. Think carefully about the skills you want to be known for – strategically choose the most valuable ones for your career (Hint: Consulting, Marketing, Program Management and their ilk = Good; Microsoft Word = Useless). Then set the skill list to be open for endorsements. Endorsements matter less to MBA recruiters, and only help if 30 people in your network validate that you have certain skills. Again, if technical skills or esoteric coding abilities are part of your repertoire, they are all the more valuable.
These are relatively less important for MBAs, because the kinds of jobs you will likely be seeking will require you to know someone at the firm before you are brought in for an interview, so recommendations from unknown individuals will carry less weight than the recommendation of someone who currently works at the firm or even someone who is a company alum. That said, if there are a few key people who can really vouch for your work, take the time to ask them to fill out a recommendation for you. This will further help facilitate new connections and headhunter awareness. Again, see mine for strong models of how you might like your referrers to speak about you and your work.
A very small point, but if you are seeking a job in San Francisco, it might be a good idea to locate yourself there so that recruiters in the area can find you. Again, for MBA’s this will be less relevant, but if you are indeed conducting a job search in another geography, use location to position yourself.
Once your profile is all spruced up and ready to go, connect with people!!! If you haven't taken the time to add your connections from your various email accounts and your cell phone contacts, do it now!!
The true value of LinkedIn expands exponentially the more it reflects your network in real life. The more people you are connected to, the more people can contribute to your career advancement and the more value you have to offer vour own network by virtue of shared connections, referrals, and new opportunities. So take a moment now to connect with the people you already know.
Remember, if you'd like to download this guide for later, you can do that here.