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LinkedIn is a valuable part of your career tool kit in this digital era. Whether you’re a recent graduate, an experienced professional or a zealous freelancer, taking advantage of the site’s network of 260 million monthly active users is a no-brainer. According to U.S. News & World Report, about 95 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn as a primary resource to discover talent. To find out how creative professionals can get the most out of their profiles on the site, we spoke with three recruiters in the creative fields: Rod Berg, director of talent acquisition, and design at apparel company VF Corporation, which includes such brands such as Timberland, JanSport and The North Face; Tiffany Feeney, founder of Talent Outpost, which provides staffing services for studios seeking to fill animation, visual effects, and gaming roles; and Angela Yeh, founder of Thrive by Design, an executive career coaching program for design professionals, and Yeh IDeology, a firm connecting employers with design professionals. Read on for their advice.
First, having a profile avatar is a must. According to LinkedIn, your profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if it has a picture. When it comes to what your avatar should look like, recruiters have different opinions. Yeh recommends a photo that shows your face and a pleasant smile. As for attire, “Show your style, but err on the more professional side. Your expertise will show you’re a creative; the other question employers will have is, ‘Are you also professional and accountable?’”
However, for those who are concerned that a hiring manager may judge candidates based on appearance, Feeney says that a piece of art, or a self-portrait or caricature, in lieu of a headshot is fine. “I don’t care if it’s a picture of you,” she says. “That doesn’t concern me. I don’t want to introduce that bias and I really try to be blind to that.” Feeney adds that you can also use the banner space, which appears along the top of your profile, to showcase a sample of your best work and further distinguish your page.
When it comes to writing your profile headline and background summary and listing your work experiences, be sure to include keywords that recruiters are using in their searches to improve the chances of your page showing up in search results on LinkedIn and Google. These include position titles, responsibilities and relevant education and certifications, as well as skill sets relevant to your career path. “If I’m searching for a brand designer in New York City, I’m going to search ‘SVA,’ ‘Parsons,’ ‘Pratt’ and the keywords ‘branding,’ ‘packaging,’ ‘typography,’ et cetera,” Berg says.
When a recruiter lands on your profile after finding you in a search, they will next review your background summary—a short descriptions of your experience, skills and professional goals—to learn more about your interests and specializations. This is a must if you want to stand out from others who share your work title. “Reference where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished,” Yeh says, “but don’t forget to talk about where you’re going next.”
If you’ve had a LinkedIn profile for a while, check that any websites, email addresses and portfolio links are up to date. “Often people put their portfolio from when they finished school 10 years ago and it’s a dead link—and a missed opportunity for them,” Feeney says. When those in hiring positions ask her for potential candidates, she passes on LinkedIn profiles for review, so an up-to-date profile with working links and multiple forms of contact is critical for further consideration.
And though it may be a tedious task to list all of your job experiences, it’s worth it in the end. LinkedIn claims that those users who list more than one current or prior job are 12 times more likely to have their profiles viewed by potential employers. When describing your experience, don’t just offer general responsibilities you’ve held; specify projects you executed that helped businesses meet their goals, to show that you’re collaborative with non-creative coworkers. This is a big selling point, Yeh says.
“If you're designing a new platform and interaction, while it’s beautiful, are you being realistic about what it costs for the company to make it? Or how tight the deadlines are? Are you able to work within a group and keep track of what everybody else wants versus what you want to build? There is a balance you want to demonstrate here.”
Go for Extra Credits
Once you’ve filled out the core sections on your profile, you can spend time taking advantage of the site’s other features. LinkedIn recommends posting status updates and blogs to engage your connections; the latter isn’t a must, Yeh says, but it can be an effective way to keep your page looking active and share recent work highlights, such as sketches or designs. “You could also post updates of conversations that you think are important to your world and people similar to you or your clients,” she adds—namely, news and trends in your industry.
Perhaps more important, Berg says, is accruing testimonials—these can be either endorsements of specific skills or more general testaments to your professionalism and ability, and may be solicited from trusted people in your network. Berg likes to see what others in the industry says about candidates’ work, whether the endorsement be from a colleague, client or former instructor. “That’s something you can’t do independently,” he said. “It’s got to be written for you. So everything there is authentic.”
As much as LinkedIn is about showcasing your hard work, don’t forget that it is also a social network—your future boss, client or colleague could be a few messages away. Don’t be afraid to make the first move to connect with recruiters and senior staff at the companies you’re interested in working at, Feeney says. “If it’s a company where you want your first job or your next job, you can use LinkedIn to find the leads in those departments and send an invitation and a friendly, ‘Hi. My name is so-and-so. I do this. I’m really interested in your company and I wanted to share my work with you in case there are future openings at your company and in your department.’ Then you can go and share your portfolio. That is exchanging value for the connection.”
Basic or Premium?
A basic LinkedIn account is free, but for those looking to get more from the site there are four paid Premium plans. Of those, Premium Career is the one for people who are looking to expand their network or get a leg up on finding new opportunities—for around $30 per month, subscribers can see when a hiring manager or recruiter has viewed their profile and can message anyone outside of their connections up to three times monthly, using the InMail feature. Premium Career members are also promised more tailored job recommendations than basic-level account holders, and have exclusive access to salary data and LinkedIn for Learning, an online-learning service featuring 13,000 professional-development courses.
Is it worth it? It depends on how active you will be, Feeney says, who suggests taking advantage of the free monthly trial. She adds that making connections with recruiters on LinkedIn is a way to get around not having the InMail feature. “LinkedIn invitations with a brief note are a great way to connect with a recruiter and hiring managers without a subscription,” she says. “And often recruiters include their direct email address in their profile. If you’re connected with the person, you will not have to use your InMail credits.”
Natelegé Whaley is a Brooklyn-based culture journalist. She has written for NBC News, Pitchfork, Eater and other outlets.
A version of this article appears in the spring/summer 2020 Visual Arts Journal.