Exercise Thursday

LinkedIn is a social network service specifically oriented toward employment and professional networking. It's similar to sites like Facebook, but user profiles feature professional accolades, work histories, resumes, and more employment-related content. 

Introduction to LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not just a platform to chat about careers. It's how many people actually find jobs! Most technical job applications request your LinkedIn URL right alongside the standard cover letter, resume, and contact information. One of LinkedIn's recent Workforce Reports and their ongoing Statistics Page even detail that:

  • Over 190 million American workers have LinkedIn profiles.
  • More than 30,000 U.S. companies specifically use it to recruit new hires.
  • 30 million total companies are represented on the platform.
  • An estimated 3,000,000 jobs are posted there every month.

Epicodus' own career services team report many graduates finding work on the platform. We've even seen a student's regular LinkedIn posts get noticed by a friend's manager, resulting in the manager reaching out, interviewing, and hiring that student!

Our internship companies also request to preview student LinkedIn profiles during the matchmaking process. Because this tool is so widely used, we consider it necessary for your upcoming job search. So we'll create our LinkedIn profiles early in class and begin regularly using them throughout the course. This will ensure we have active, well-rounded profiles by the time internship hosts and employers see them.

Creating a LinkedIn Profile

If you don't already have one, create a free LinkedIn account here. Then use the instructions below to complete your profile:

  • Include a recent, high-quality photo that emphasizes your face. It doesn't have to be a professional-quality headshot, but it should be easily recognizable (no sunglasses, make sure your face is clearly visible), professional, and friendly. If you don't have a photo handy, ask a classmate to take one.
  • Include a high-quality cover photo. This is a great place to show off your personality, accomplishments, and interests. 
  • Edit your tagline. Taglines carry a lot of weight when it comes to being found by recruiters; use them to sell your skills! Include keywords that recruiters will be looking for. For example, if you want to be found by a recruiter looking for a React developer, use the word "React" in your tagline: “Junior Web Developer | Software Engineer | React and JavaScript Wiz”
  • Create a custom easy-to-remember URL that includes your first and last name.
  • Write a summary. Think of this as a space to showcase who you are, while again incorporating relevant keywords to increase your chances of being found by recruiters. Start with a statement that summarizes your experience. Next, dive into what you're doing now (learning to code) and what relevant skills you bring from previous work, hobbies, and/or volunteer experience. Finally, write a closing statement that describes what you're excited about working on in the future -- if the perfect position fell into your lap tomorrow, what would it be? Your summary should be at least 5 sentences, but don’t limit this section; include what you think is most important for hiring managers to know about you, and don't be shy about getting lots of the relevant keywords in there. 
  • Add a link to your GitHub profile as a piece of media to your summary. The link will show up as a large box, which is absolutely okay. If you have a personal portfolio website or blog (whether now, or created later in the program) update this section to include links to those too.
  • Add 2-3 of your Epicodus projects to the Projects section. Include links to the GitHub repository or live site, if possible. Talk about what the projects do and what technologies and programming concepts were used. If you worked on the project with classmates, you can add each other as contributors. (Note: As you continue developing projects throughout the program, update this section regularly so it always displays the work you're most proud of!)
  • List your previous jobs under Experience, with a short description of what you did at each role.

    • Be specific and succinct - use concrete numbers and examples, like "Responsible for onboarding and training two dozen new employees in 3 months", rather than vague statements like "Fulfilled management duties beyond expectations."
    • Think about the “why” for your descriptions -- Why does a hiring manager care about this description and what does each point demonstrate about you, your skills, or achievements?
    • If you have more than 3 or 4 previous jobs, just include the most recent (unless earlier roles are relevant to the types of jobs you'll be applying for after graduation). For non-technical roles, try to focus on the specific responsibilities that could translate into a technical career. 
    • Break down past experience descriptions into bullet points. You can easily do this by using the Alt-8 shortcut.
  • Add Epicodus to your Education section (rather than the Experience section, to avoid confusion). Write a brief summary of what you're learning and doing at Epicodus. Don't write about what Epicodus is - write about your experience. For example, past students have written things like:

  • "I'm currently learning how to build web applications with JavaScript, Ruby/Rails, HTML, and CSS. More importantly, I'm learning how to think more like a programmer, write good code, and pick up new languages and technologies."

  • "At Epicodus I've learned how to learn programming languages more than learning any one language for the sake of itself. I've learned how to work towards a programming goal on my own and with others until success happens. I've also learned how quickly I can process a tremendous amount of information that is new and uncomfortable at first, and have it feel comfortable like a worn pair of jeans by the end of a week!"

But do not copy these examples - come up with your own that describes your unique experience.

  • In the Skills section, list skills and tools you've learned at Epicodus - especially those that are common keywords in job descriptions. Don't list only the names of the courses you've taken so far; but each major technology, skill, and concept you've practiced within them. For instance, at this point in the course, depending on your track, you've likely learned things like:

    • HTML
    • CSS
    • Sass
    • UI Design
    • JavaScript
    • jQuery
    • Object-Oriented Programming
    • C#
    • Ruby
    • Sinatra
    • .NET
    • SQL
    • Git
    • Test-Driven Development
    • Pair Programming
    • REST
    • Responsive Design
    • Mobile-First Design
    • And many more
  • Continue to update the Skills section as you learn more throughout the program. List non-Epicodus skills that may apply to your future work too, even non-technical skills.

  • Don't include months in any of the dates - just years.

  • After you finish updating your profile, check it out in an incognito window in Chrome to confirm your information is publicly visible and looks correct.

For examples, just search Epicodus on LinkedIn, and you'll find countless profiles of past graduates. Use their profiles, the way they described their Epicodus training, etc. as inspiration, but do not copy their content.

Making Connections

Recruiters often find candidates through connections and endorsements. Add connections with all of your Epicodus classmates and anybody else you know, even if they don't work in tech. The more connections you have, the more likely it is a recruiter will find you.

Once you're connected, ask your classmates and friends to endorse you for the skills you have listed on your profile. They can click the "+" button next to the skill. Having more endorsements for the skills recruiters are looking for will make it more likely they will find you.

Using LinkedIn Regularly

Creating your profile is a great first step. But it's important you also remain fairly active on the platform, especially before your eventual job search. Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:

  • Connect with classmates. Not only will it be helpful to see what co-students are posting, you'll also have a guaranteed way to stay in touch after graduation.
  • Have a great experience working with another student? Consider writing them a recommendation highlighting the technical and interpersonal skills that made them so great to work with. Preview recommendations left for others (again, you can search Epicodus to see all kinds of past students) to get an idea of what these typically look like.
  • Have you thought about who you'll use as references if an employer requests them during your future job search? Do they include managers from past jobs, or anyone you're not already in touch with? Check if they're on LinkedIn and connect with them now, that way you don't have to scramble to find them later, and they can see what you're up to!
  • Chat with someone at a meetup or industry event? Follow up by connecting with them on LinkedIn! Make sure to include a brief note with your connection request, mentioning how you know each other. For instance "Hey Amanda, it's Jimena, we chatted at the Donut.js meetup in Portland after your talk about asynchronous JavaScript..."
  • Regularly document your work. Next time you make a site you're proud of, or tackle an interesting challenge, write a LinkedIn post about it! And update that Projects section to include your latest and greatest work examples.
  • Consider blogging. Longer-form blog posts documenting your experience can communicate your enthusiasm, skills, interest, and personality to future employers. Don't have a fully-built blogging site yet? No worries, sites like Medium are great spots to publish longer pieces. Make sure to share them to your LinkedIn feed! You can even write articles directly on LinkedIn that will automatically be associated with your LinkedIn account and show up on your profile.
  • Find a helpful resource? Others will probably find it helpful too. So why not share it on your LinkedIn feed? Make sure to accredit the original author to the best of your ability, too.
  • Regardless of how you use LinkedIn, make sure to keep your posts, comments, and interactions positive and professional. Again, your LinkedIn profile acts as a resume and representation of yourself to future employers and coworkers. Put your best foot forward, while simultaneously showing off your investment in the industry, eagerness to learn, and interest in technical work.