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From Drab to Fab: The Essential LinkedIn Makeover for College Grads

Posted by Sarah Davis on October 6, 2015

Why is LinkedIn so important? Because it allows you to showcase your professional history.  Not only can you demonstrate your skills and experience, you can make connections, grow your network and even find a job. By focusing on results you can use your LinkedIn profile to establish expertise in your niche.

Welcome to my LinkedIn profile makeover!

I studied how to optimize my profile and brainstorming all the accomplishments I could highlight. After overhauling my almost static LinkedIn account, I now have a solid profile for a soon-to-be college graduate looking for a digital marketing job.

You’ll see some before and after screenshots with details on how my profile went from ‘drab’ to ‘fab’.

The first thing people see

  • Use your full name and keep it consistent with all other online platforms/resumes
  • Make your headline your current position or simply “Student at Cool University” if your current job might not be relevant
  • Choose the industry option from the drop down menu most closely related to your desired field
  • Your profile picture doesn’t have to be a fancy headshot - add a little personality but keep it professional
  • Upload a background photo (cover photo) that tells something about yourself - I use the view of the San Antonio skyline as seen from my school
  • Create a customized URL for your LI page to put on your resume or in the signature of your email
  • Include a link to your website or online portfolio if you have one

The summary

It’s a little daunting trying to summarize what you’re looking for and what you have to offer. Don’t try to fit everything in this summary. Be clear, concise, and list the main ways you can provide value. (Tweet this) This is a great place to highlight your passions and key strengths. Feel free to also list courses (outside of college) or projects that you’re currently working on.

Transferable skills

Before I had some “real jobs” I did a lot of work on our student-run TV station on campus and built up a variety of skills. Even though this wasn’t a “job” per se, I was able to enhance my experience by highlighting the transferable skills I developed.

  • Make everything easy to read with bullet points and spacing. I added the best video I made and provided a link to my YouTube channel with all my other videos in a project section.
  • Try and utilize the ‘add media’ option (shown below) to further highlight your accomplishments - remember your LinkedIn profile is a more detailed and dynamic version of your resume. (Tweet this)


Don’t have work experience? Try listing involvement in student organizations as a way of showcasing skill development. 

Big difference? Yes - the format is much improved by highlighting the skills I learned. Quantifying accomplishments trumps listing job descriptions. (Tweet this) If you were super involved and held multiple leadership positions like I did, list the main one in the job title section then list other positions held in the body.


List certifications to emphasize your areas of expertise. Right now I’m Inbound certified, but later on I hope to add more certifications by becoming Google AdWords and Google Analytics certified (both great for a digital marketer). Search around to see what certifications professionals in your industry have and aim to get those.

Honors & Awards

Before I didn’t even think about this section because I thought I had nothing special to show. I added my scholarship and high grade achievements as a testament to work ethic. Other ideas? Add awards given by student organizations or academic departments. Make sure you give context for any award listed so anyone reading your profile can quickly determine its significance.

Volunteer experience

Instead of simply listing causes you are passionate about or how you’d like to volunteer, list actual experiences. It’s a great way to show you value giving more than you get - and many employers hire because of volunteer experience.

Bonus pointers

  • Speak another language? Add a language and your level of proficiency.
  • If you have class research or presentations that might be relevant to your industry, list it under the “Projects” section, add visuals and list your collaborators.
  • Add “Skills & Endorsements” that are relevant and not obvious. Everyone can use Microsoft Office whereas SEO or Video Production are more unique skills.
  • Ask for recommendations from classmates, colleagues, professors and whoever else you’ve worked with. These serve as references - a testament to your character and work ethic.
  • As you may know, LinkedIn allows you to move around each section (either up or down the screen). So how do you choose what goes where? Highlight your strongest areas first. For example, if you have relevant work experience, put that at the top. If your volunteering experience is lacking, move that section toward the bottom. List your publications and projects near the top in lieu of work history and place certifications near the top as well if you have any. Put Skills & Endorsements near the bottom is you’re just starting out and have very few endorsements by connections. 

“Do projects around your interests, passions and talents to showcase your skills while seeking a job. Employers understand everyone has to start somewhere and that recent graduates don’t have other jobs to showcase their talents and that is OK.” -Matt Wier, San Antonio marketing leader

My advice: craft an killer summary and keep it at the top so an employer can immediately tell if they should keep reading your profile.

Let’s sum this up:

  • Highlight all activities that demonstrate your transferable skills
  • Focus on the results you achieved and be specific
  • Utilize the ‘add media’ option to add visual references to your work
  • Arrange the sections according to your strengths (lacking work experience? move up your certifications, volunteer experience, and education)
  • Don’t forget about honors and awards
  • Fill out all the sections as completely as possible

Above all, be clear, concise, and professional!

Want some more tips for LinkedIn? Check out the LinkedIn Growth Hacks from a San Antonio marketing leader.

LinkedIn tips

Topics: For Recent Grads