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Top 3 must-haves for your LinkedIn profile

Registration has opened for the spring semester at my school. This often leads to late but inevitable questions from a handful of students about finding internships for the new term.

They’re late because most employers have already identified new hires.

They’re inevitable because most students know they need this practical experience before graduation.

To be fair, most students who want internships already have secured positions or they intend to wait until next summer when internships reach peak availability.

Either way, the advice I give students — the planners and procrastinators — is the same: Get on LinkedIn and clean up your profile.

Polished LinkedIn profiles are a must for anyone on the job market. Whether you’re a wannabe intern, newly-minted graduate, mid-career professional or simply looking for a side gig in retirement, LinkedIn is the”professional” social media platform for everyone.

Here are three top tips we give students when perfecting their profiles:

1. Say Cheese!

A picture is worth a thousand words, and an extra look from most social media users, regardless of platform.

Be honest. How many times have you skipped over friend requests and posts if they’re missing a profile image? I do all the time, and I’m absolutely more skeptical of requests from people without pictures.

So get on your best professional attire and a winning smile.

Ask a friend to take a series of pictures and select the best one. It’s OK to crop and edit before posting, but avoid the special “Kardashian-esqe” filters unless absolutely necessary.

2. Use A Pithy Headline.

We do this every day in the newspaper biz, or at least we try to. We write headlines to grab your attention using powerful but simple key terms, words and numbers that capture the essence of a story.

It (we hope) makes you want to read more.

Give your connections and future employers some concrete information about your professional experience, a particular skill or interest that makes them want to know more about you.

One of my social media students used this last year: “I built a social media profile for a small-business, and our campaign grew customer engagement by 330 percent.”

She believes that headline helped lead to interest from seven potential employers and a full-time job with a PR firm after graduation.

3. Connections Are Gold.

This isn’t Facebook. You can feel a greater sense of ease in accepting connection requests from just about anyone. Likewise, you should be sending requests to as many like-minded professionals as possible.

My friend and Huntington Bank entrepreneur-in-residence at the Youngstown Business Incubator, Jim Cossler, is a LinkedIn expert. He often skips over applicants without the magic “500+” connections marker in their profile.

Cossler once told me, “I want access to that network.”

Why? In a nutshell, that large network benefits the employer almost as much as it benefits you. So, when you meet a new professional, don’t just exchange business cards.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.