Your professional network is the foundation of your career. This chapter introduces professional brands and teaches you how to build one.
What is a professional brand?
Just as products and companies are branded and marketed, you need to brand your professional self. Market yourself to the clients or employers you seek by clarifying and promoting your strengths, skills, knowledge and experience.
Your professional brand includes your presence on all social media – even platforms you use in your personal life. Employers will look at your personal and professional posts, images and mentions, so make sure they’re all . And keep in mind that any post can affect your career, even if it’s not work-related.
Your professional brand will probably span several platforms, for example you might use LinkedIn, Twitter and Quora. The platforms you use is your choice, but they should be the popular ones in your industry, and your branding should be consistent.
Why do I need a LinkedIn profile?
One platform that’s almost mandatory in every industry is LinkedIn. A strong LinkedIn profile will help you:
- Develop the network you need to find fulltime work after graduation
- Find mentors, co-op work and part-time jobs while you’re in school
- Get informational interviews (The person you ask may review your LinkedIn profile before agreeing to give you their time)
Employers and recruiters use LinkedIn extensively. An HR executive says, “If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, it’s like you don’t exist.” When she sees a good resume, she looks at the candidate’s LinkedIn profile. If they don’t have one she deletes their resume and moves on to the next candidate.
- Employers look at your profile before interviewing you
- Recruiters search keywords and contact people whose profiles match
- Co-op employers will look at your profile before agreeing to an interview
Why should I build my LinkedIn profile before graduation?
Students often wonder why they should bother creating a LinkedIn profile before graduation, especially if you’re not yet sure what industry or job you’ll be pursuing.
Yes, you’re still in school, but start building your professional brand now. You wouldn’t expect to live in a house as you were building it, and you wouldn’t sew a wedding outfit as you’re walking up the aisle. It’s the same with your LinkedIn profile. Building a profile takes time, iteration, and a great deal of thought. It’s a keystone of your professional reputation, so don’t do it haphazardly or leave it to the last minute.
Even if you don’t know exactly what industry or job you’re seeking, you can begin building your profile. Sometimes building your profile helps you become aware of careers that match your strengths and interests.
Your profile is often your first impression, so it has to be good.
Your headline is one of the first things people see in your LinkedIn profile, and it’s how they will categorize you. Never label yourself a student in your LinkedIn headline – if you call yourself a student, people will always think of you as a student.
If you’re not sure what job or industry you’re heading for, focus on your strengths and interests. Are you a marketing enthusiast? A finance fanatic, or maybe a team leader?
Here’s how to start building your profile now:
- Learn what makes some profiles successful (LinkedIn offers extensive free resources)
- Create a strong headline and summary
- Make sure your photo and background image are professional (you should be the only person in your photo)
- Take the time to think deeply about what to include, and how to say it
- Spend time every week adding detailed descriptions of your education, paid work, volunteer work, skills and strengths
- Write and post articles to demonstrate your expertise
- Start adding connections and requesting endorsements
Connections are a key feature of LinkedIn.
You need lots of high-quality connections. A profile with few, or poor-quality connections looks weak to HR professionals. Building many high-quality professional connections can take years, so start now. You can ask your classmates, instructors, and professionals you meet at job fairs or networking events.
LinkedIn connections simplify networking. When you meet someone at an event, you can simply send them a connection request through LinkedIn. If they accept, they’re now part of your network.
20 minutes a week = better job prospects.
A strong LinkedIn profile and professional brand not only gives you presence and establishes your reputation, it also increases the likelihood of potential employers hearing about you. So start building your profile now. Spend 20 minutes a week on it, and by the time you graduate you’ll have an engaging, effective professional profile.
Your LinkedIn profile is a great place to share your professional portfolio (more on professional portfolios in Chapter 18). You can:
- Ask for and share recommendations from school colleagues and class project teammates
- Add strengths statements to your summary
- Post a self-introduction video in your summary
- Learn which keywords are specific to your industry and job, and then use them throughout your profile to help recruiters and potential employers find you
- Join groups and follow leaders in your industry
- Add your accomplishments, licenses & certifications, and volunteer experience
Canadian Workplace Quiz
- Private conversation with Vancouver HR executive, February 2017. ↵
Won't adversely affect your career or job. Supports your professional brand.