Best Practices: Your LinkedIn Profile

Now that I’ve talked a little bit about LinkedIn, I want to go into what makes a good profile:

Your photo
Have a photo. This is, in my opinion, a non-negotiable. Show people what you look like, unless there are legal reasons why you should not (or if your professional identity is intentionally divorced from your image and/or real name). The practice of getting professional headshots done seems to have fallen by the wayside, but I think they can make your profile stand out, especially as a job seeker — it shows you put effort into yourself, and by association, into your professional reputation. That being said, if you can’t afford a professional headshot, ask a photographer friend, or even ask a friend to take some decent photos of you, even on a phone — photos for which you’ve dressed up, as these will be your first impression to potential employers and those with whom you’ll be networking. I don’t think you necessarily need to wear a suit, unless you’re in an industry in which the suit is the standard dress code, but you will want to look the part for your job, in a way that makes you feel (and by association, look!) comfortable and confident.

Want more tips? A quick Google search yields plenty of articles, but this post by Lydia Abbot about photo tips is a good place to start.

The headline is a feature that may strike some as odd, but can be a useful tool, especially for job searching. Of course, you can just fill it with your current role, but if you’re searching for a job, this is a great area to write a short elevator pitch about who you are, what you do, and (if you aren’t worried about alerting a current employer to your job-searching status) what you’d like to do in your next role. Someone looking for job in character art for online games might write:

3-D Character Artist with four years of experience looking to crush a role in online games.

It’s punchy, fun (which is often appropriate for games), and shows drive, while also including a concrete goal and keywords. These keywords are searchable, so including them here is a great way for potential employers to find you.

Keep your contact info updated
A great tip, and one this article from goes a little more in-depth on. If employers can’t get in touch with you, you’ll miss out on all the opportunities you’ve worked so hard to develop. This is especially important if you’ve moved, changed your email or your number, or have recently left your job.

Fill out your job and education history
This is crucial. Depending on where you are in your career, I don’t think you need to include every job, volunteer experience, award, or skill, but having at least two or three fleshed-out job histories from your most recent and most relevant jobs is huge, along with at least one school (high school, college, or graduate school, whichever shows your most current level of education). If you’re newer in your career history, it’s okay to use some padding — do complete those Classes or Volunteering sections.

There’s some discussion on how these areas should look, whether they should be in first or third person, and whether they should be paragraphs or bullet points. I’m not sure I have a particular preference, although I think bullet points (or a combination!) can be easier on the eye for someone who is reading profile upon profile, and first person is more engaging than third. Just make sure each bullet point is fleshed out, and your tone doesn’t get too conversational — though online, this is still a professional setting.

Here are two examples — both in first person:


As a receptionist at Stark Industries, I was responsible for many crucial tasks, such as keeping track of appointments, coordinating security checks for high-risk visitors, and finding ways to keep The Hulk busy until Dr. Banner was able to collect himself for his lab hours with Mr. Stark.


In my role as receptionist at Stark Industries, I:

  • Kept track of appointments with top-of-the-line proprietary software
  • Coordinated security checks for high-risk visitors
  • Used my customer service skills to relax The Hulk so that Dr. Banner could make his appointments

Goofy examples, I know, but I hope it shows you the merits of either version. Whichever you choose, remember to keep it consistent throughout your entire profile.

By keeping your education and job history neat and up-to-date, you’ll be able to easily remember when you did what, and employers will be able to see your roles and responsibilities.

This can seem like a throwaway area, but there’s no reason not to fill it out. Just keep an eye on it – others can endorse and influence these skills, and while it can be very flattering for someone to think you’re better at something than you are, that doesn’t actually help you or your potential employer. So make sure your skills are ranked and appear according to your preference. If you’re having trouble figuring out what to include, look at the profiles of others in your industry, and curate your own accordingly.

Recommendations are one of those things that feels very difficult to ask for, but at least in my experience, people are usually willing to write them, especially if you reciprocate. It also doesn’t matter as much what they say in your recommendations (though you do only want to include the positive ones!), but the fact that you have written recommendations from others you’ve worked with is a vote of confidence in and of itself, as your coworkers or others in your network have staked their own reputation on endorsing yours. So get a couple on there! The best come from current or past managers or reports, though colleagues, clients, and others can be great, too. If you are just starting out, professors and fellow club members (really, anyone with whom you’ve worked in a professional setting!) are fine, too. Just update once you’ve got some work experience under your belt.

As with all social media, LinkedIn is as useful as the work you put into it. However, the strength of LinkedIn is networks — it capitalizes on information and connections created through your weak ties. If you’re just starting out, send out invites to your friends, family, and colleagues to form your base relationships. From there, remember to add people you trust when you meet them in the future, through jobs or networking events. Adding people just for the sake of numbers is not particularly helpful. Instead, treat your network like an online directory of people with whom you’d like to keep in touch, and with whom you may want to work someday. Pop on to LinkedIn every so often and drop lines to people with whom you’d especially like to keep in touch, or even just casually like and congratulate others on their status updates to keep your name fresh in their minds. If you see an opportunity someone you know may like, send it to them — even if it doesn’t pan out, people remember favors, and will appreciate the thought (just don’t go overboard).

LinkedIn profiles aren’t easy, and need to be updated and curated every so often (4~6 months), but are a great online landing pad for your professional experience. A little work (and a little proofreading!) can go a long way, so start now, and develop your profile along with your career.

Have a different experience? Absolutely let me know!

The Job Search: Elements of a Good Online Presence, part 1: Where to Be

In the age of ubiquitous social media, the great majority of job seekers (certainly urban millennial job seekers) have, at the very least, some online presence and a passing familiarity with how digital social networks work. This change is continually affecting how the job search is evolving, and conventional wisdom is being thrown out the door in favor of innovation, bold chances, and/or best practices.

What do I mean by all of that? Well, ten years ago, it would have been impossible to find Instagrammers with brand sponsorships, as Instagram itself didn’t exist. Or take Nina Mufleh, who in 2015 successfully created her resume in the style of an AirBnb listing in order to get herself noticed by the company. Her bold choice may not have been appreciated at a more traditional company, but was perfect for the tech-savvy, branding-oriented AirBnb. And though when I was growing up, I was taught never to post things online that I would be ashamed for an employer to see (still not bad advice, in my book), many now are growing up without that advice, and social media accounts, while searchable, may not be the end-all to a job or career (unless something distasteful goes viral…always think before you post publicly!). In fact, in certain artistic careers (especially for writers, artists, designers, actors, and video game folks), having a more personally-oriented Twitter or Instagram feed may create a larger, more invested follower base.

So, in light of all that, I want to talk about what goes into making a good online presence, starting with the where. Which social media networks and other online tools should you be using? How can you maximize the returns of any effort you spend online?

This post is mostly geared toward the “traditional” job seeker; I’ll be covering other tools geared specifically toward creatives in future posts.

For job seekers, these are what I think to be the most useful ones, ranked and explained. Am I missing some? Please let me know!:


LinkedIn: Love it or hate it, find it useful for your industry or no, LinkedIn is the online portal for professional networking and recruitment. You can use it as a hub to keep and update all of your relevant education and career history, keep in contact with your professional network, and search for others based on past education or companies you both share. I like LinkedIn because it lets me connect with people in a setting we all understand to be professional, especially as I keep Facebook just for close friends and family. LinkedIn has features built in that, if you allow it, will alert your network anytime you update your profile, and can show that you’re available to recruitment and hiring managers. Also, many hiring sites will allow you to import a LinkedIn profile, making the job search that much easier (though it may require some reformatting once imported!).


Personal website: A personal website can act as a hub for all your social media, and can function as a combination resume/portfolio. For creatives, a separate portfolio may be more useful (and we’ll get into what goes into a good professional portfolio in coming weeks), but for most people, a personal website should function as a one-stop shop for you. However, personal websites can be difficult to maintain, and do come with a monetary cost (unless you have a free website). It can be a tradeoff, but for certain industries, having a personal website can be a great way for potential employers to get to know you.

Published work: I was initially going to call this category a “blog,” but that’s too narrow. Having your work online, in a portfolio or as part of your LinkedIn profile is great, but what I’m getting at here is having work you’ve done in your field “published” in an official way, even self-published on your own blog, can lend you credibility, and can give potential employers a low-stakes insight into your thought process and values. Blogging takes extended time and effort, and the rewards can take a while to show, so if you aren’t interested in blogging, see if you can guest blog somewhere, or post (hopefully sell!) an article on another site. This goes for other media too — illustration, video, etc. The idea is to have searchable work that leads back to your name.


Twitter: Twitter can be extremely useful as a networking tool, but it comes at the cost of time and effort. I like using Twitter primarily as a tool to keep track of goings on and information about my industries—because Twitter is a short-form platform which is able to quickly disseminate targeted information, it’s easy for people to tweet and retweet events, news articles, and other important information. By building dedicated lists, you can keep a targeted eye on the hashtags and news accounts relative to what you’re looking for. It can also be a way to connect informally with important people within the industry, through engaging with them in discussion. Just remember: keep everything polite and professional, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in front of a hiring manager, boss, or colleague. Twitter interactions are just as real as face-to-face, and the reputation you build on Twitter can have a lasting impact on your professional reputation.

Instagram: Instagram, for job searching? Well, even if you aren’t looking to become a professional Instagrammer, Instagram can be used to showcase your visual skills. It’s a great, informal portfolio for artists, fashion and interior designers, creative designers, videographers, and others whose skill can be demonstrated in photo or image. By posting often, and posting things you’ve put care and time into (or even sketches and quick clips!), you can gain the attention of others in your field, or find a fan base for your work that you can use as leverage for getting your next gig.

A word on social media: Social media is as useful as you make it. For some, it will never be useful or enjoyable, and that’s totally fine. It is! Honestly! The best returns on social media come when you post original content frequently on the same channels, and spend time interacting with others on the site. Because of that, find just a few that you like, and stick to those. Or don’t! Social media can be a time sink and can be very emotionally draining, so figure out what level of engagement works for you.

In Conclusion

You only have a limited amount of time, money, and mental energy, so concentrate on LinkedIn to start. The other options can be useful if they interest you, but if not, that’s fine! Take a day to really flesh out your LinkedIn profile as robustly as you can, and if you feel LinkedIn doesn’t offer you enough, then move on to other sites.

Have I forgotten something? Have you built your brand on a different site? Let me know!

The Job Search: Jobs, Jobs Everywhere

The great thing about the internet is that we can search for a new job on a job site with a few clicks of our mouse or taps on our tablets and phones. The downside is that this seeming convenience has actually, in my experience, made jobs much harder to find. Jobs are listed and then never removed; scammers post jobs with ease (and do a better job than many HR departments); jobs are listed without tags and keywords and are thus unsearchable, etc. And though the internet has been a recruitment tool for over a decade, there’s still some hesitation about hiring people who come with no personal recommendations. LinkedIn has made a difference, as employers can see which soft ties (and hard ties, though endorsements and written recommendations) an applicant has in their industry, but in my experience, a personal recommendation is best…if the option is available, and often, it is not.

In this post, I want to introduce you to a number of different avenues to jobs. These are avenues that I’ve used, or have heard of others using successfully. However, I’m just one woman, and my experience here will vary widely to yours. If you have a way to find jobs that I have not covered, please let me know! I’ll update this post.

So, where to start? The following methods have yielded leads for me in the past, though your mileage may vary depending on age, industry, physical location, etc. I will go more in-depth on some of these items, so treat these as jumping-off points for now:

Job aggregate sites

Okay, so I spent my intro to this post maligning these, but they are a great tool to get your search started. Websites like Indeed, Monster, and even Craigslist can give you an idea of what kinds of roles employers are looking to fill in your area (or the location you’re hoping to work in). It doesn’t hurt to apply to these jobs if you see one that catches your eye, but be aware of jobs that seem sketchy or stale, and especially of jobs posted more than 30 days ago. Also, it’s worth looking up all companies on Glassdoor to see a little bit more about their work culture and typical benefits, and to screen for any major red flags. Glassdoor and LinkedIn also have job listings, though as jobs aren’t their primary function, I’ve found them to be less reliable. Again, your mileage may vary.

When you do a search on these sites, many of them will offer to save your search, and send you update emails when new jobs come online. This is a great way to make these sites work for you in the background, and can be set up with just a few clicks. The more specific your search is, the better your leads will be—but try not to make it too specific, or you may not end up with any results, and may miss out on some adjacent opportunities. You may have to play around with the mix, but I encourage you to have at least a few saved searches on these aggregate sites.

Company websites

One strategy to find jobs you’re interested in is to go directly to the company page and look at their Jobs/Careers section. If there are a few companies you’re extremely invested in, follow their main accounts on social media (especially their HR account, if one exists!), and make sure you check back on their jobs page every few weeks to see if there are new positions. That being said, do not harass anyone working at the company. Apply for the jobs you’re interested in and qualified for (or could be qualified for), and if none exist but the company allows you to drop a cold resume, do so (but still write a cover letter!). Then, wait. The old wisdom of calling and following up in-person or on the phone is mostly out. If you have a contact and it has been a few weeks, a polite follow-up email is fine, but do not ask for updates on any current employee’s private social media, and definitely don’t call random people at the company hoping one of them will give you work (yes, this has happened to me!). Too much interest can be just as damaging as too little. Respecting the process outlined by the company will show your prospective employer you can follow and respect their process—critical and basic skills for any potential employee. However, if you do have a personal contact at the company, it’s worth it to politely and succinctly let them know you’ve applied. They may be able to get your resume into the right hands.

Career fair

Career fairs can be useful, awful, or both. I’ve been to booths at fairs that process you like an assembly line, and I’ve been to booths where I’ve had wonderful conversations with the company representatives which, while they didn’t lead to a job, did lead to an industry connection. It’s worth going to fairs that are at least tangential to your ideal career (the more focused the better, of course, but often career fairs can be very general) and speaking with the representatives there. Come up with an elevator pitch for yourself: I’m [YOUR NAME], I’m looking for a career in [INDUSTRY] doing [JOB FUNCTION], preferably in a company that [PREFERRED MISSION STATEMENT/BENEFITS/OTHER SPECIFICS]. Ask about the company—this is your low-stakes chance to see if you and the company (or any specific position) are a good fit. Don’t take up too much time, especially if there’s a line, but do remember that these representatives are paid to be there to talk do you. Don’t be shy in approaching them! After your conversation, drop your resume and business card (which you will absolutely have printed and brought with you, right? Good.) with the representative, and remind them of your interest in their company, and the position you’re looking for. Make sure to get a card from the recruiter, and to follow up on LinkedIn with a nice, quick message: Hi, I’m [YOUR NAME], we spoke at today’s career fair about [SPECIFIC DETAIL]- I’m looking for [ROLE].

Industry Associations

Many industries have professional associations or publications, and they are a great way to get information about what is going on in your industry. You can find information on cutting-edge research and best practices, as well as listings for conferences and other professional events (more on these below). Often, they will also have a section for job listings. Find the important associations and publications in your field, and sign up for memberships, or at least to their e-newsletter. Some will have a fee, but you may be able to make this tax-deductible as part of a job search, and you can think about it as an investment in your future. And read whatever publications you subscribe to! Nothing impresses prospective employers like someone who keeps up-to-date of their own volition!

Placement Agencies

Agencies can be hit or miss, but I’ve found (at least in my experience) that they can be useful when an applicant has specialized skills, such as language ability. If a company is looking for a candidate with Japanese proficiency, they may reach out to one of these agencies, which will have a number of resumes on-hand to send as potential matches. Before you send your information to an agency, make sure you know how they charge (they should charge the hiring company, so this is a way to screen out any who want you to pay to list with them) and which companies they’ve hired for before. And let them know once you’ve found a job, so they’ll take you out of the pool.

Personal referral

Personal referrals come from networking, and networking takes many forms. I’ll break them down below:

Life networking

Your uncle has a job at his workshop. Your best buddy from college has a friend who is looking for a copy editor. These referrals come from your life, from people who you met without any intention of ever getting a job lead from them. These referrals are luck-based, and can stray into nepotism if you aren’t careful, but they can be a source of tips (just don’t blame me if your mom’s friend knows of an animator job that’s perfect for you when your background is in watercolor illustration…).

School networking

Alumni networks can be great—they tend to be stronger/more useful if you attended a school that has a specific focus, and are even more useful for graduate programs. Career centers and alumni relations groups tend to keep lists of industry-specific alums, and many provide that information so others can reach out for informational interviews (a great way of building your network!). You can also look up alumni on LinkedIn, and see if any work in the companies you’re interested in.

Digital networking

LinkedIn and other social media can be great tools for networking, but I find their best use comes from connecting with people you already know, or have met in person. I’ve only very rarely accepted people I haven’t actually met into my LinkedIn network, and most of the times I have, I’ve regretted it, or have seen no benefit. However, LinkedIn can be a great tool for keeping in touch with industry peers or friends and colleagues from schools or past jobs, who may know of opening positions, or of unlisted opportunities. When looking for a job, it’s certainly worth posting on LinkedIn that you’re looking, and what you’re looking for (as long as this isn’t a flag to your current employer that you’re about to jump ship…post with caution). Let your social networks work for you.

Industry networking

People love getting together. People love free beer. People love making connections, because connections mean new projects, new sales, new exchanges of information. Do a search for industry-related events in your area, including happy hours, MeetUps, conferences…even sales pitches disguised as networking events, if that’s somewhere you might be able to learn about your industry and meet others involved within. Again, bring your business cards and a few copies of your resume. Don’t be shy about giving your cards to those you meet, and if someone asks for your resume, give them one, too (I wouldn’t just go handing resumes out).

Also, this is actually not the chance for your elevator pitch. Spend networking events getting to know those there, and do a lot of listening. You can give your elevator pitch if asked why you’re there, but otherwise, use your time to ask a lot of questions. This is your opportunity to get the lay of the land, and people love talking about themselves. If you ask questions and listen intently to their answers (and ask follow-up questions!), people will remember you as being invested and inquisitive. Again, follow up the next day with any cards you get, in a similar format to the career fair: Hi, I’m [YOUR NAME], we met at [INDUSTRY EVENT] and had a great talk about [SPECIFIC DETAIL]. After that, you can follow up with a request for an informational interview, a note that you’d like to keep in touch, or an ask to let you know if they hear of any roles that might be right for you, depending on if you feel comfortable asking your new acquaintance about this. I would hesitate on the last one, only because you don’t want this new link in your network to feel used for a job search.


Recruiters often reach out on LinkedIn (remember to set your profile to “actively looking” if you’re job hunting!), and may or may not have qualified leads. Remember to do your due diligence on the recruiter, and ask them plenty of questions to determine if the leads they have are real so you aren’t wasting your time. Some industries rely on recruiters; in others, they’re totally useless/don’t have a place in the job search. Try to figure out early on if recruiters will help you in your industry. And it may not hurt to reach out to some yourself (politely!) if your skill set seems to match jobs they say they’re looking for—but only reach out if they say they are interested in that kind of contact.

I hope this gives you a number of jumping-off points on your job search. I’d like to dive a bit deeper into a few of these, and we’ll be covering more elements of the job search in this series, like creating and curating your personal brand. Until then, give these a try, and see what you come across! And let me know if I’ve left something off!

The Job Search: Where to Start?

Now that you’ve done some introspective, critical thinking about what your ideal future career might look like, it’s probably time for some of you to start looking for your next job (or even your first job!), which will lead you ever closer to the ideal. For those of you who enjoy the job you’re in but who want to pivot or advance, don’t worry! We’ll circle back to you in a bit.

However, dream jobs, or even great jobs, aren’t necessarily lying around on Craigslist (though it’s always worth a look!). It’s going to take a bit of searching (well, it wouldn’t be a job “search” if it didn’t, right?), and, like any explorer, you’ll need to arm yourself with the right tools.

With The Job Search series, I want to examine the job search in-depth, from structuring your search and creating and curating your online presence, all the way through your interview and hiring process to the signing of your contract. By examining both how the job search is “supposed” to look, and ways it works in real life, I hope to offer you tips and strategies to be able to capitalize on your effort and time. I’ll start by focusing on searching for part-time or full-time employment with a traditional employer, but I’ll also cover freelancing and contract work, too.

For now, take a moment to look back at the lists you’ve made throughout the last series. You’ve just spent a lot of time thinking about what’s most important to you in terms of what you enjoy doing, how you like to spend your time, and what you want your future to look like, and now it’s time to bring it all together. Pick out the top 5-10 most critical items for you across the list, and make a master list. This will be your map to check against when evaluating jobs, from looking at the job description, asking questions in the interview, evaluating company culture (in-person if possible, on Glassdoor or through other reviews (preferably peers or company staff/alumni) if not), and negotiating your contract.

Again, I’m going to stress that nothing will be perfect — not even a “dream” job. And job searching is where privilege will become extremely, and unfortunately, relevant. Those of you who can afford to live in or move to a big city where your industry is located will have a much easier time of it than those of you who live in smaller towns/have limited resources for relocation. However! By thinking of each job as a puzzle-piece of a larger career, and by creating different mixes of your master list of wants, you’ll be able to still develop skills and resources that will get you closer to your ideal.

There’s a lot of ground to cover, so next week, I’ll be starting with the basics: Structuring Your Search. Until then!