LinkedIn: DOs and DON'Ts

Over the years, LinkedIn has become one of my most commonly used apps on my iPhone. I use it more than Instagram. Maybe that means I'm getting boring...

Networking is important for a lot of reasons, but I think the most important reason is that it shows that you're taking initiative, like my reader did. If there's something you love to do and want to take it to the next step, you can't do it alone. You need as much help as you can get. Networking is a great way to get that help.

LinkedIn is such a great tool for networking. Through LinkedIn, I have met absolutely amazing people, and it's made networking so much easier for me. In my opinion, LinkedIn makes networking more personal, because you can actually see who you are talking to, you can look at their profiles which are basically online resumes, and you can occasionally post your own and/or see other people's status updates.

Having been a LinkedIn-er for about three years, I've learned some tips and tricks to get the most out of LinkedIn. This list is not comprehensive; I'll add more to the list as I come up with more things. But for now, here are my tips:

DO use a profile picture, but DON'T just use any picture.

Remember, this is a photo that anyone can see — recruiters, alumni, anyone. Don't use a selfie. Make sure the background is not too crowded. A professional headshot would be ideal. If you don't have one, use a photo where you look polished, clean, and professional. Make sure your attire in your photos are appropriate. No bikinis, tank tops, no cleavage, no belly button.

However, the type of photo to use for LinkedIn does depend on what industry you are in. If you are in the financial services industry, the type of photo you would use is a lot different for those in the arts industry. Headshots for businessmen are very different from headshots for actors, for example. Do more research on what type of headshot is most appropriate for your field.

If you are not sure what industry you're interested in yet, just upload a simple, clean picture. Your high school graduation or college graduation picture would be okay, too.

DO make sure that your biography is good. DON'T sound like a robot in your biography.

Your biography is the one spot on your LinkedIin profile where you can actually make yourself seem human. Make sure that your biography makes you seem approachable and friendly. Talk about what you're interested in, what you hope to achieve, and your interests. Always end your biography with "Feel free to connect with me" or "Feel free to contact me" or something along those lines.

DO explain your interests. DO be human.

If you're a finance guy, don't say your interests are "investment banking" and "private equity." What do you like to do in your free time? What do you like to do for fun? Some good examples are hiking, cycling, or hotels (I actually really am interested in hotels and hotel management).

DO update your profile.

While resumes are typically limited to one page, your LinkedIn profile is not. Did you work somewhere? Did you get certified for something? Are you multilingual? Did you get a scholarship? Has someone recommended you? If so, put it on your profile!

I know people who have had incredible, competitive internships but don't have anything about it on their profile! Why not? Showcase your talent and accomplishments. However, it is okay to not mention jobs or past experiences if they aren't pertinent to your career anymore.

DO be aware of your privacy settings.

Everyone on LinkedIn should be aware that LinkedIn notifies you about who looked at your profile and when they did. LinkedIn is not the best stalker-friendly social network, so DON'T look at someone's profile too often.

There have been times when I got notifications about the same people repeatedly looking at my profile every single day. I was glad that they were looking at my profile, but I could tell that they didn't know about the LinkedIn privacy settings. Although I didn't mind this too much, there are people who will find this creepy. Which brings me to my next point...

If you want to look at someone's profile a lot, DO edit your privacy settings.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of good reasons why you should look at people's profiles anonymously. At one of my past internships, we were hosting a huge event and needed the right journalists and press there to cover the event. We used LinkedIn to find out which journalists would be interested in our event. We first made sure that our profiles were anonymous, because otherwise, the journalists could find it suspicious that almost everyone at my firm was looking at their profiles.

Basically, if there is someone's profile that I want to look at, maybe more than once, I make sure that I am anonymous, just so it doesn't look creepy that I've been looking at it a lot.

This doesn't mean you should always keep it anonymous. It's not creepy to look at someone's profile non-anonymously every once in a while.

DON'T write obnoxiously long descriptions under your name.

You might have noticed that a lot of students' titles on LinkedIn are "Student at ABC University" or "Intern at XYZ Company" or something like that. You may have also noticed that some people's titles are something like "Student specializing in THIS and THAT. Feel free to connect with me!" Yeah, don't do that.

If you want to talk about your specialties or what you're looking for, utilize your biography for that.

DO be aware of your tone and speech on LinkedIn. DON'T be a Donald Trump.

Regardless of whether you support Donald Trump's political agenda or not, I think we can agree that he isn't exactly the most polite person ever. You can share your opinions on LinkedIn, but DO be aware of your tone and speech on LinkedIn. DON'T be rude. Be very cautious when you post anything about your opinions, especially if they are about sensitive topics. They might be more appropriate for Facebook than LinkedIn.

DO watch how you talk on LinkedIn.

This ties back to the previous point, but really be aware of how you talk on LinkedIn, because your connections can see what posts you liked and what you commented on them. Let's say your best friend just updated her LinkedIn profile saying that she is working at a new company. You probably shouldn't say, "OMG YAAAAS." Do that on Facebook instead. On LinkedIn, a simple "Congratulations!" or "I'm so proud of you!" will do. 

DO join groups.

This is a great way to meet people and it makes a good impression on the people who notice your groups when they view your profile. It also shows them what you're interested in.

DO describe your accomplishments. 

When you list your accomplishments on your profile, describe the important details. What did you do? You don't need to be too detailed, but put a general idea of what you've been doing.

DO quantify your achievements.

And more importantly, quantify your achievements. Let's say you worked at a business. Did your participation in a project have some sort of positive feedback? Did sales increase by 20%? How many people/customers/clients did you help? How many hours did you volunteer? You get the point.

DO endorse people for their skills. DO return the favor if they endorsed you, but DON'T be fake about it.

Endorse your connections' skills on LinkedIn. They will endorse you back (or they should). Some people think that endorsements don't matter on LinkedIn, but it does matter for some people. When I am looking at someone's profile and that person has 100 endorsements for Java, for example, I would think, "Wow, this person probably knows Java really well." If someone endorses you, endorse them back if you think they should be endorsed for a certain skill. However, DON'T feel obligated to endorse them if you don't think it's honest, though.

I hope you find these helpful. Obviously, there are lot more things to be aware of on LinkedIn. I will add more DOs and DONTs list for LinkedIn as I think of some more. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below!

With love,

Networking — Who Do You Know?

"It's all about who you know."
"Networking is so important."
"Connections are everything!"

We've all heard it. We get it. But how do you network? It's easier said than done. Lately, I have been getting a lot of questions on how I network and thought it would be a good idea to write a blog post about this!

I honestly cannot stress enough how important networking is, no matter what your field is — fashion, finance, marketing, journalism, etc.

I network a lot because my university is not a target school for most big employers. Does that mean non-target school students can't work for a big name employer one day? Definitely not — but you will have to work harder and network more than students from target schools.

I dedicate 80% of my career success to networking. I have met some of the nicest, most helpful people through networking and I am grateful to them everyday, because, honestly, I would not be where I am today if it weren't for them.

During my freshman year of college, I became very interested in investment banking. After a short internship at an investment bank, I realized that it wasn't for me. When my friends told me a lot about consulting, it intrigued me. I did a lot of research on consulting, but I had so many more questions about consulting that Google simply couldn't answer. That's when I knew I had to network.

Getting started on networking was hard. I had just come home from my freshman year at college. I had no internship. I didn't have a "how to network" guide. I stayed up late, googling everything I could find to help me learn how to network. I read a lot of how-to articles and other schools' career services guides. After reading more on how to network, I applied what I had learned on LinkedIn. Ever since then, I spent around 6-8 hours every week just on networking. And now I have over 100 connections, just for consulting.

At first, I felt like networking was selfish because it's essentially trying to get to know someone who can help you later on. But the thing is, it doesn't have to be a selfish thing. Don't think of networking as a one-way thing. Thinking that it's a one-way thing will not take you very far with networking.

In order to be successful with networking, I think the most important thing is your mindset. You need to be willing to contribute as much as you can to your alumnus, and always be grateful for their help, because, honestly, they don't have to help you. Your alumni are taking time out of their busy days to speak with you and help you with your career. Always be thankful.

Here's how I did it:

1. Take advantage of your school's alumni directory.

If you have access to your college alumni directory, definitely check that out. Every school's alumni directory is different, so you should visit your school's career service center if you need help navigating the database.

If your high school has an alumni directory, definitely take advantage of that too. Some of my most helpful connections are from my high school directory. Most people connect with their college alumni, not high school, so reaching out to someone from your high school could be more close to home.

I also highly recommend updating your profile on your high school alumni directory. You never know who is looking through it. It also lets a current student at your high school reach out to you if they need your help!

Honestly, I think finding the people is the hardest part about networking. Sometimes alumni directory aren't organized in the most efficient way and it can take some time to find people. It took me three hours just to find alumni from my high school that I wanted to speak with. Depending on how large the directories are, it can take you even longer.

2. Take advantage of LinkedIn.

If your high school and/or college has an alumni group on LinkedIn, it's a good idea to join them. You will find a lot of people on there. A good thing about using LinkedIn is that it's likely that the people on there have updated profiles (some people don't update their high school/college alumni directory). Join the groups, find people who work in industries that interest you.

3. Reach out to your family and friends, if necessary and/or applicable.

Do you have a family member or a close friend who has the connections you need? If so, ask them if they would be willing to introduce you to said person. It's okay if your family and friends don't know anyone — it's not the end of the world! My parents are both professors, so they don't know any consultants, and yet I'm still here!

4. Send an e-mail.

This is where I get the most questions. "What do I say?" My answer? Be honest. Ask yourself why you want to talk to that person. Does that person's career really interest you? Are you seeking advice?

Keep it brief. Introduce yourself. Tell them where you found their name and explain why you are reaching out to them. Ask them if they would be willing to chat with you for 15-30 minutes. Then send. Be genuine.

TIP 1: Whatever you do, do not ask for an internship and don't attach your resume to the email.

TIP 2: Don't ask something that you can find on Google. Don't email a consultant and ask them what consulting is. This will not give off a good impression, because if you truly are interested in a field, then you would've at least Googled it.

TIP 3: This is related to tip 2, but do your research. Know your stuff and have good questions to ask your alumnus. Your alumnus can tell whether you've done your research or not.

5. Wait.

Waiting is hard. It's normal (and expected) to get no response. Some of my friends sent emails to 100 people and only heard back from 8 of them. This is normal! It is extremely frustrating, but this low-reply-rate is precisely why you need to network a lot — not everyone will help you.

6. Networking is what you make of it.

If your alumnus replies to your email, great! Try to work out a time to chat with them. Where things go from your first email depends on you and the alumnus. Get to know your alumnus. Let the alumnus get to know you. Let it be a mutually beneficial relationship.

Honestly, networking isn't hard; it's just very time consuming. But the payoff is great.

If you have any questions or would like more tips and pointers on networking, leave a comment below.

Hope you found this post helpful!

With love,