You might not be into fishing. So why start a post on how graphic designers exploit LinkedIn to land jobs with a fishing rod and reel? Because when people fish, they cast a line into the water, attract a fish, get that fish on the hook, and reel it in. And in job hunting for graphic designers, LinkedIn is critical in “reeling in” your objective (which in this case is a good job, not a fish!).
Let’s situate your LinkedIn profile in the process of landing a graphic design job. The pathway for landing that job generally follows this route:
- Job hunting begins with signing up and posting your resume to a job board (like Monster.com, Jobs.com, ZipRecruiter.com, or CareerBuilder.com). It doesn’t hurt to post your resume to all of these.
- In synch with that, you should engage in creative organic networking to find and connect with prospective employers.
- Once an employer is interested in you, they will look at your LinkedIn profile to see if they want to reach out for an interview. They may be inspired by your profile to examine your portfolio.
- You nail the interview and get the job.
In this post, you’ll learn what goes into an effective LinkedIn profile, and how to make your’s a tool to attract and get and nail interviews with prospective employers or clients.
But before diving into “how” to create an impactful LinkedIn profile, let’s take a quick look at why you need an effective LinkedIn presence.
How Does LinkedIn Fit into Your Graphic Design Career Path?
Here’s some relevant data: A 2020 study by Manifest found that 67% of companies look at job candidates' LinkedIn profiles, and 65% look at their Facebook profiles before extending a job offer.
The implications? For aspiring graphic designers, those two statistics mean two things:
- Make your Facebook profile private. Sharing a photo of being the last one out of the club on New Year’s Eve; an amazing trick your cat does; or a polarizing opinion post may be fine for selected “friends.” But not prospective employers. So, keep your Facebook page and any other social network you use for informal, social networking hidden from the image you convey to potential employers.
- Do a careful job of configuring your LinkedIn profile.
Before moving to the nuts and bolts of creating an effective LinkedIn Profile, let’s address a (good) question you might be asking yourself at this stage: “Where does that amazing portfolio of graphic design projects I worked so hard on in school fit into this picture?”
Answer: You will lead employers from your resume to your LinkedIn presence, and then to your portfolio. The LinkedIn profile is a gateway from your resume to your portfolio.
There’s a reason employers look at your LinkedIn profile first; it provides an overview of your work and a “compressed” version of your portfolio.
Creating a Effective Graphic Designer Profile
If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, the first step is to set one up. All you need to register at LinkedIn is a name and an email address. If you don’t yet have a professional address (that is, not email@example.com) get one. A good approach is your firstname.lastname@example.org, and if your name is taken, think about a way to add a simple and easy-to-remember number.
There are a lot of options when you set up your LinkedIn profile. You’ll be prompted to choose content for each. Let’s take a look at the key elements in your profile.
Select a Good Photo
According to LinkedIn’s data, profiles with a photo get 14 times more views than those without. And you’re a graphic designer, not a data analyst. Not saying that data analysts can get away with an unflattering photo… exactly… but the photo you post as an aspiring graphic designer should convey a graphic design sensibility.
What does that mean? Stage, and use a photo that projects you in a way that is both professional and unique, and hints at your strengths. To get inspiration, study images you find of other graphic designers, and think about elements in them that present the graphic designer in their best light.
Then think about how to best project yourself in your LinkedIn profile photo. Would it highlight your strengths to frame your photo in a location that captures the vibe of what you do best? Should you post an artful avatar that demonstrates your skill with Adobe Illustrator? Should you pose in an outfit that conveys your design aesthetic? Or with a tool of your trade like a laptop or a camera?
If a professional headshot is out of your budget range at this stage in your career, find a classmate or friend who does headshots. They can add your headshot to their portfolio and you can step out into the world of LinkedIn with an appropriate look.
Write an effective Summary
The About section of your LinkedIn profile provides a quick summary of yourself and your skills. LinkedIn provides advice on what to include in your summary in the article How Do I Create a Good LinkedIn Profile? Study the advice and, especially when you first venture into the job-hunting world, use the provided models as templates.
Spend some time checking out the article 10 LinkedIn Tips for Students & New Grads. This page includes specific “first time” advice for creating professional profile elements ranging from avoiding creepy photos to vetting your experiences.
Let’s contrast a good and bad example of an About section. We’ll start with a bad example:
I never did well in school, just couldn’t focus and always had something else going on in the back of the room. I wanted to be a musician but everyone told me the best thing about my music career was the posters I designed for other bands. After that, to be honest, I just took a year off and took a UX/UI class and coding classes. I liked UX/UI but mostly I liked creating graphics, and I’m no coder. I took some motion graphics courses but I could never get my head around AfterEffects. Finally, I ended up in a good graphic design program. I like being able to express myself through graphic design. My aesthetic is informed by my fantastic taste in music and I try to bring a little bit of Bjork into everything I do. I know PhotoShop, adobe illustrator, and other programs as well. And I’ve done all kinds of projects.
OK, that summary had some obvious and silly mistakes. But let’s see how the same basic journey might be better deployed to align with what employers are looking for by turning missteps and failures into positives.
The “bad” summary, in addition to other problems, is too general. Your summary be concise but specific about your skills and experience. There’s no need to include everything you’ve done or tried to do; the point is to present what you do well. And – very important – do a basic grammar and spell checking, paying particular attention to making sure apps (like Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator are properly spelled and capitalized.
So, here’s the same summary, but radically reframed:
My passion for graphic design goes back to grade and middle school. After high school, that passion led me to explore UI/UX design and motion graphics. I bring all that to bear as a designer, but my forte is graphic design. I completed a rigorous graphic design certificate program at Noble Desktop that immersed me in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and other apps in Creative Cloud. I worked in teams, and on my own, on multi-media marketing campaigns under real-world professional conditions. I emerged with a portfolio that includes brochures, newsletters, logos, posters, and business cards. I’ve always loved bringing the vision of others to life in dynamic graphics, and I bring that into every graphic design project I take on.
Post a detailed list of your work experience
This can include part-time and volunteer work! Here you list your skills, and education. How is this different than your resume? In short… it’s shorter! Much shorter. Key to include:
- Certificates or degrees
That’s it. Skip your high school experience and jobs unrelated to your career objectives. Unexplained or awkward gaps in your work history? Leave them out; your LinkedIn summary is a summary not a background check.
The article How Do I Create a Good LinkedIn Profile? walks you through the best way to compose your photo; make your headline stand out, add relevant skills, procure recommendations, and run your profile through LinkedIn’s tool for evaluating your profile.
Add Education and Certificates
Keep track of the courses you take on your learning path. Even a short online course or seminar “counts” as education. And if you have invested in and completed a substantial program, and achieve a Noble Desktop Certificate, feature it.
Did you notice how the Noble Graphic Design Certificate and the content of the program got woven into the “good” summary example earlier in this article? When you promote yourself– in your resume, portfolio, and in your LinkedIn Profile–include any degree program or certificate you achieved.
Connect & Follow
Search for contacts and, as you build your LinkedIn Profile, connect with as many people as possible. Having four connections tells potential employers … you’re not active or aggressive enough. Having 40 is better, and 500 even better.
Connect with as many people as possible. And study the profiles of people you connect with to learn about them and learn from their profiles. Introduce yourself to people with whom you apply to connect, explaining what it is about their profile that makes you interested in following them and learning from them, but don’t abuse connections by bombarding them with requests to hire you.
When you choose influencers to follow on LinkedIn, those influencers show up on your profile. And in so doing, your choice of influencers tells the world (or at least people on LinkedIn) something about yourself. And that’s half the point. Yes, you should choose influencers, creatives, and others whose posts you follow. But as an added benefit, displaying a variety of interests and people who you follow marks you as a designer with a wide range of interests.
How to: To follow someone, use the search bar at the top of your screen to find them and click to go to their profile page. Then click the Follow button. The company, person, or topic will now be listed in your Interests section.
You can ask peers and teachers for influencers and follow a couple. Need suggestions for that? Here are a few:
Tell the World You are Open to Work
When you define or edit your Profile (which you can do whenever you are logged in), you can use the “Let recruiters know you're open” option, to advertise that you are looking for work. You can select that option from the Open To button. If you choose Finding a new job from the list of options, an #opentowork message will display on your profile.
Once you’ve made yourself visible on LinkedIn, enhance your profile iteratively. As you gain new skills, add them. When you get new work experience, add it. When you add new portfolio pieces, add them. We’ll explore how to do that shortly.
After you set up your profile, make an ongoing practice of studying profiles from people in the field you aim to enter by searching for your job title. And, as you pick up ideas, enhance your profile.
Featured! Your Portfolio
The Featured section in your LinkedIn profile can be deployed as a “teaser” to drive potential employers to your portfolio. That can take the form of one of your best designs and an invitation to view your portfolio.
Or it can be an invitation to your portfolio plus a couple thumbnails to sample your portfolio.
Leverage LinkedIn Premium
The different versions of LinkedIn Premium offer very valuable features. They cost money (but we’ll get to a work-around on that shortly).
The version that is most useful to job hunters is Premium Career. Premium Career includes private browsing that lets you review other people’s profiles without being identified to them; reports on who viewed your profile; and allows for unlimited looks at other profiles.
The competitive analysis included in Premium Career is particularly valuable as it helps you size-up your skill set (and figure out how to improve it) compared to other applications to jobs you are interested in.
LinkedIn Premium Career costs hundreds of dollars a year, but the one-month free trial is a must. It reverts to a paid subscription if you don’t cancel it, so mark the reversion-to-pay date in your scheduling app. But if you use Premium Career intensely every day, you can get a good start in taking free classes, reaching out through messaging, and having your applications evaluated in the trial period.
Landing the Job with a Successful Interview
LinkedIn is the first place many employers look to find out about a potential employee. They will learn about you from your LinkedIn profile. But Glassdoor mostly works in the other direction. As its name implies, it provides a look into a company through reviews written by current or former employees. These candid and credible reviews can provide the kind of detailed job requirements that you can then integrate into your LinkedIn portfolio.
And Glassdoor includes reviews of companies’ interview processes, so when that all-important interview opportunity comes, you can show up prepared for the questions you will be asked.
To join Glassdoor, you have to review a company yourself. But that can be any company: a high school job at a fast-food joint, a short stint as an intern, or any other employment.
Once you join Glassdoor, you can search for a company and look at the experiences reported by other interviewees who came before you. Study them, and prepare to answer the questions you see listed.
- Your LinkedIn profile is one of the three essential tools in landing a graphic designer job, along with a resume and a portfolio.
- Potential employers who are attracted by your resume, or your creative networking, will very likely view your LinkedIn profile.
- Study the advice at LinkedIn on creating an effective profile, and apply it, first with a “starter” profile, and then, as you improve your portfolio and find the bandwidth, an enhanced one.
- Link your portfolio to your LinkedIn profile, and display highlights from your portfolio in your profile.
- Actively network on LinkedIn to develop job opportunity connections.
- Join Glassdoor for insights into potential employers’ pay, work environment, and hiring culture.
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