Every second, two more people join LinkedIn.

Forty percent of the 347 million members worldwide check in every day.

Students and emerging professionals are LinkedIn's fastest-growing demographic.

So if you're a student in one of Saint Leo's online programs and have yet to create a profile on the world's largest professional networking website, clearly the time is now.

LinkedIn fundamentals

How can you make your profile stand out and best leverage the opportunities through this platform? Saint Leo University's Nancy Cheek, career advisor in the Center for Online Learning, offers the following tips to get your profile up to speed, and improve the likelihood that hiring managers and recruiters will find you.

1. Use a professional photo.

Be sure to upload a photo to your profile—you'll be 11 times more likely to be noticed if you have a professional photo on LinkedIn. The photo should be a head and shoulders shot of just you, dressed in business attire appropriate for your industry, and with good lighting. Don't use a photo of you with a significant other or with your children, or a photo of you on vacation or at a party.

2. Tell what you have to offer in your headline.

Your profile headline should be informative and tell something about you. The default, however, is the most recent job title that you've input. Edit this section so it grabs the attention of prospective employers. Focus on the skills you offer. Use searchable, industry-specific keywords to describe to describe the work you do or want to do.

For example, if you're in marketing, your subject line may read: Marketing Agency | Content Marketing | Branding | Social Media | Digital Marketing.

3. Write a compelling summary.

Think of this as an advertisement for yourself. The summary can be a little less formal than a resume. Keep your summary short and sweet, and maximize the impact of the words you use. Use short paragraphs, as well as bulleted lists, to help make your profile easier to read (and scan) by people who view your profile.

To ensure your summary is error-free, prepare it in a Word document so you can take advantage of spelling and grammar check, and then copy and paste it to LinkedIn.

4. Include relevant jobs, courses, honors and awards.

Include the job title, company name, location, and duration for relevant work experience. Also write a short paragraph or bulleted list of the highlights of your responsibilities and/or achievements in that position. Include both paid and unpaid work, as well as internships or any other work you've done that's relevant to your career.

In addition, add other sections to your profile as needed such as Volunteer Experience, Volunteering Opportunities, Organizations, Test Scores, Courses, and Honors and Awards. When listing courses, don't list every course you've taken or foundational courses. Instead, list elective or unique courses that showcase your interests or area of specialization.

5. Include education information.

Always include your education information, including all colleges attended and degrees received. List your most recent education first. Spell out the full name of the school and confirm what your diploma or degree says so the information is accurate. List graduation (or anticipated graduation) dates only if the date is recent. If the graduation date is more than five years old, it's not necessary to list the year.

You also can list the high school you graduated from as it could help lead to more connections.

6. Create a public profile URL.

A generic URL is given to each person who signs up for LinkedIn, but you can enhance your personal brand by creating a custom URL for your LinkedIn public profile. You can provide this customized URL on your resume when you apply for jobs.

7. Make effective use of the "Skills & Expertise" section.

You can add up to 50 skills to your profile, so don't be shy! Start by listing at least five skills. In edit mode, you can drag and drop the skills to place them in priority order, based on how you want to brand yourself.

In addition, you can support colleagues by endorsing their skills and expertise or writing a recommendation for them. When you write a recommendation or endorse skills for someone, often that person will do the same for you. If not, ask others to write recommendations that will appear on your LinkedIn profile.

8. Make personal connections.

Use the advanced search button near the top of the screen to search for individuals to connect with. Aim for at least 50 connections. Possible people to connect with include your professors, career or academic advisors, admission counselor, family, friends, internship supervisors, co-workers, former bosses and more. When you find a person you want to connect with, always personalize your request by including a note when you select an option for how you know the person.

9. Join groups.

Joining groups will help you gain exposure to industry professionals, which can lead to more connections. Search for groups by industry and/or location. Joining a group gives you access to all members of the group, and you can send connection requests to those members.

Joining a group for your educational institutions attended is a great networking opportunity. Saint Leo has LinkedIn groups for:

10. Find jobs.

LinkedIn has a searchable job board (click on the Jobs link at the top of your profile page). You can search for job by program, job title, company, and/or location. You could search for people in your industry using industry-specific keywords, and then contact those individuals to arrange an informational interview. You also can set up job alerts for opportunities relevant to your experience.

Additional resources

Remember, a well-crafted and complete profile will impact your ranking on search engines and within LinkedIn, and it will improve the chance that employers and recruiters will find you. In addition, in most cases, you can move the sections on your profile around so the sections that are most relevant to you and your experience are displayed first.

For more advice on using LinkedIn, check out: LinkedIn in 30 Minutes by Melanie Pinola; LinkedIn's guide to how students can use LinkedIn; and Nancy Cheek's LinkedIn Basics webinar.

Are there any other Linked groups you would suggest joining?

Other posts you may be interested in reading:

Using Social Media To Get Hired

Stand Out In The Job Market: Build Your Personal Brand

How To Get Great Letters Of Recommendation

Why Developing A Good Work Ethic Is Essential To Career Success

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