Job Hakr

Blog from the Job Hakr: Student Affairs Job Search

Blog from the Job Hakr: Student Affairs Job Search


LinkedIn for Success

LinkedIn for Success in the Student Affairs Job Search

LinkedIn for Success in the Student Affairs Job Search

LinkedIn for Success

People use LinkedIn! But what is it? How can you set yourself up to use this powerful tool?

LinkedIn is a professional networking site that your future colleagues will review to learn more about you and your background.

How important is LinkedIn? With a properly created profile you are most likely to show up in the top results for any search with your name.

And with 62% of clicks going to your LinkedIn profile, you had better be prepared to show them the best side of yourself.

But how exactly do you do that? What is the best way to create a profile that accurately represents you as well as includes keywords for the jobs and positions that you are looking for.

What are those keywords? A gold mine for them are in the job descriptions for the positions that you are applying for.

Think about it. What words stand out in a Resident Director role? Coordinator for Student Activities? First Year Experience Director? Discover what are the words and phrases that appear most frequently and make sure that they make it onto your profile!

Your Audience

LinkedIn can be a double edge sword: you should be general enough with your profile so that you are accessible to your viewers.  But you also want to be specific enough to cater to the people in student affairs who are going to hire you.

That means that you must first work to determine your audience.

I’ve learned that creating a well rounded profile that addresses an industry as a whole (i.e. education) and then drills down to more specific niches (i.e. student affairs) does best.

That means that you should create a profile that has a funnel effect. One with a large enough hole at the top to attract individuals from your field but also provides the details about your work and experience to keep them interested in scrolling through your profile.


Your photo is one of the first elements of your profile viewed by your audience. So make sure that it’s a good one. It’s best not to use an old candid photo. Instead shoot for your best professional looking headshot. While that may not be achievable for everyone, you can always opt for something more formal.

Make sure that you’re dressed as you would for an interview in your photo.  Have great lighting (natural light works best), and show yourself from the shoulders up.

A photo like this is best taken by your friend, but you can also take a selfie given you have everything else in the photo.

Head’s Up

Your headline is the first sentence that follows your full name on your LinkedIn profile.

The site will automatically change this to your current position. But you don’t have to accept that. Instead, customize this for what you want to show your audience.

Do you have a specialty? A specific skill? A recent big accomplishment? Use this space as your “so what?” part of your profile. Yes, someone found you, but how are you different from everyone else on LinkedIn?

Just remember that the headline is NOT the spot to list everything that you’ve ever done. You only have 120 characters to work with. So make this your Tweet sized summary of your career and your future prospects. What you write will definitely help you stand out from the crowd!

Summarize Yourself

The headline might have been the spot for you to grab someone’s attention. But the summary is where you really sell yourself to the audience. Make this a location where you convey the most important information about who you are and what you want to do.

This is the part of the LinkedIn profile that is your “elevator pitch.” How are you going to use this space and your readers’ time to accurately convey what you want them to know?

Sometimes this means including your current position, whereas other times you should focus on your skills and aspirations. I recommend new student affairs job seekers list their functional area here (i.e. student activities, residential life, community service) followed by bullet points of their most used skills (i.e. conflict resolution, programming, training).

If you’re so inclined, you can even include some of your best statistics right here (i.e. I’ve served as the Orientation Director for over 3,000 incoming new students every year). Going even further, you can include links to video or other media that show off your talents and background. Have you been interviewed by the campus TV station? Did they post their video online? If so, then link it here!

The summary is your place to shine. Just don’t leave it blank. It would be a wasted opportunity to really demonstrate to others who you are and what you can do.

Customize that URL

One of the best things about LinkedIn is that you can customize your profile’s link. The default setting creates a string of letters and numbers. But that isn’t very meaningful. Take this as an opportunity to get a vanity URL that links directly to your profile.

Make sure that you put that URL to good use once you’ve created it! I advise student affairs job seekers to add it to their personalized business cards, in their email signature, their bios, or even their own websites.  I also recommend that you create a QR code and put this on your resume and business cards so that your readers can easily find your profile online.

Education – Don’t leave home without it

Make sure that you list your education on your LinkedIn profile. This may seem like a no brainer for many people, but this is important for a few reasons. First it makes it more likely that your profile will appear in a search. Second, alumni networking is a large part of LinkedIn. Making sure that other graduates can find you (and you can find other graduates) is significant. Lastly, you should take pride in where you graduated. Tell everyone!

Your Experience, Your Content

Make sure that you include thoughtful experiences for your LinkedIn profile. Even if you are currently unemployed or are still in graduate school, make sure that you list a current job entry, even if it’s just “student.”

If you are still looking for what to write in your position descriptions, then find someone more senior in the field and look at what they have written in their profile. What words stand out? If you see several words repeated throughout (i.e. leadership, collaboration, program development) then these are key ideas that you should include in your own profile.

Another good place is to look is at the job descriptions for the types of positions that you are looking for. These are definitely riddled with all sorts of great keywords that you should include in your profile and resume. You can take the information here and use a site like Wordle to determine the frequency of those key terms.

Lastly, make sure that your information sings. Include interesting statistics for projects that you’ve worked on in the past (especially if they involve large populations or budgets). Don’t forget to add any graduate school research projects, volunteer experiences, or languages you speak. These go a long way towards differentiating yourself from thousands of other job seekers.

Work to also include your values and passions. Are you an advocate for LGBTQI rights? Do you feel strongly about animal shelters? Make sure that those are included along with a healthy dash of your own personality.

Connect. Connect. Connect.

Once your profile is up, make sure that you begin connecting with other people in the field. You can do this though just searching for other individuals you know, or you can take a more active approach and request to connect with people after you’ve met them in person or at conferences.

Some argue to have at least 50 connections. However, I believe that quality is better than quantity. Therefore, I don’t usually connect with individuals if I’m not familiar with them or haven’t met them in person.

While it’s fine to connect with someone you’ve never met before, make sure that you reach out with a customized message. LinkedIn provides a pre-made one for you, but you’ll want to change that to reflect how you and the individual might know each other or any other  specific interests you share.

Keep Current. Keep Updated.

Make sure that you continue to utilize your LinkedIn profile continuously by posting regular updates and changes to your status. This isn’t a one and done platform. You’ll have to continually engage with your network in order to keep current.

This is especially true if you’re actively searching for a new job and you want to remain top of mind for others to seek you out. Having a constant stream of new content provided by you in their feeds is one of the best ways to do that.

I also make sure that I take an inventory of my resume and LinkedIn profile every 3-6 months to make changes and updates to any recent projects I’ve worked on as well as changes to my professional responsibilities. Making these changes as well as uploading rich content such as audio, video, or presentations is a good move.

Skill Up

LinkedIn allows you to add certain skills that you have in your repertoire. These are a little different as LinkedIn will tag these skills and then show them to other people in your network. Your network will then review them and either endorse or ignore them based on what they know about you. So you can write something like “project management” but if your network of contacts doesn’t agree that you have that skill then it won’t get endorsed.

For your best chance at success, list your skills and keywords in LinkedIn’s directory. Put the especially relevant ones at the top in order to garner more attention. In addition, you can also include your top skills in your headline and summary.

Recommend Me?

Recommendations are one of the best values for LinkedIn. Recommendations take the old “Letter of Recommendation” and digitize it to demonstrate its value and worth to your audience. Now, other LinkedIn users can see who recommended you, in what role, and what they said about you.

One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received on recommendations is to not let them sit. I make a habit of reviewing my network and my work every month and then reaching out to those I’ve connected with on LinkedIn in order to garner a recommendation.

One of the best places to look for recommendations are your own students. Convincing them to join LinkedIn is a good professional move; a move that has the added benefit of providing an additional positive recommendation for yourself. Just make sure that you return the favor!

Link Up and Link In

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for helping you throughout your career, job search, and professional development process. Don’t let your profile fester! Get out there, network, edit, update, and request recommendations for success!

Happy interviewing,

Dave Eng, EdD
Provost, The Job Hakr


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