Stranger: Desiree, it would be really wonderful if you could refer me to your network.
Desiree: Would you be so kind to let me know to whom you would like to be introduced and why?
Stranger: I’d like you to refer me to those in your network who can point me in the direction of opportunities. I really need a job, my visa is about to expire, and then I have to leave the country.
That is a real LinkedIn thread from some months ago. I regularly receive such awkward requests. Some are less obnoxious but still induce little enthusiasm. This particular stranger is one of the many people who claim they are networking and that networking does not work.
Should every LL.M. student and graduate have a LinkedIn account? Yes! It is outright negligent not to have one. If we have no or a weak online persona, we damage our real-life persona more than we may think.
Here are the top five mistakes LL.M. students and graduates make in creating their LinkedIn profile.
1. Poor English
It should seem too obvious to mention: you must write a LinkedIn profile in perfect English. I am puzzled by the fact that the most obvious advice is also the most neglected. For the most part, we are not native speakers. Even though I consider myself fluent, I always have a native speaker look over my written English. We should write our LinkedIn profile offline, edit and proofread it, send to another proofreader, and only after that, copy and paste the text to the appropriate profile sections.
2. Weak Headline
“LL.M. Candidate at XXX School of Law” is the number one LL.M. headline, closely followed by Attorney and Lawyer. These examples are not the best use of the headline feature.
LinkedIn headlines are an opportunity to draw attention. I was very proud when I was pursuing my LL.M. but so were thousands of others. We should be proud to pursue an LL.M. — it is an important feature of our professional identity — but we should not fall into the trap of thinking that it is an attention-drawing feature.
I have an LL.M. degree, but you would not know that until you reach the education section of my LinkedIn profile. Why? Because an LL.M. degree is a credential, not a distinguishing feature. LinkedIn has about 450 million members. Thousands pursue an LL.M. each year. And we have hundreds of thousands who gained an LL.M. degree in the past. Be proud to be an LL.M. candidate or holder, but use the headline wisely to feature something more distinctive about you. We must give our profile an individual touch and translate our unique professional persona into words. We want to draw positive attention.
My headline reads “Desiree Jaeger-Fine, Helping Foreign Lawyers Seek Employment in the U.S.” Are you not at least somewhat curious who I am and what I do? That is the purpose of a headline. I want international attorneys to look at my profile. Who do you want to look at yours?
3. No or Boring Summary
Should you have a summary? Yes! Do not skip this part. I know how unpleasant it is to write about yourself and put it out there for others to judge. Many users only see the headline and skim the summary. If we cannot hook the reader at this point, they will not bother reading the rest of our profile.
Notice for yourself how much time you spend on someone else’s profile. We judge quickly. A crucial question we must ask ourselves when we draft our summary is Who exactly do we want to read our profile? And most importantly, what is that person likely searching for? Understanding search behavior is important in drafting an excellent summary. It is not rocket science. Simply observe yourself for a few days when you do Google and LinkedIn searches. What language are you using to find your result? If we understand how users search for information, we will know what to write to be found.
4. No Professionalism or Taste in a Profile Picture
Your profile picture must be professional in every sense of the word. It is not about whether you are beautiful, but whether you show the characteristics of a trustworthy and competent legal professional. How does that look? I can tell you that it is impossible to communicate via selfie or with a picture showing you casually on a cruise ship.
Make it simple, make it professional. Be alone — do not crop yourself out of a group photo. Have someone take a couple of pictures of you and ask colleagues which they like best. There is no magic to it. Just make it professional.
5. No All-Star Profile
The profile strength bar at the right-hand side of the screen shows the strength of your profile. There are five levels, from least complete to highest completion: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert, and All-Star. LinkedIn reports that users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities including job offers, new clients, new markets, new connections to centers of influence and more. A 2014 Jobvite survey found that 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to source and vet candidates.
For your profile to be considered complete, these are the criteria you should aim to meet: professional profile picture, experience, skills, summary, industry and location, education, and at least 50 connections. It is not enough to have merely some information in each section; we must complete the sections in a professional manner.
Set aside a few hours to dedicate to your LinkedIn profile. It is worth it.
Desiree Jaeger-Fine is principal of The Jaeger-Fine Group, a career management firm for international attorneys in New York, and author of the "A Short & Happy Guide to Networking" (West Academic Publishing).