A Professional Platform

Our expert says that maintaining a LinkedIn profile benefits both active and passive users.

Mike Caldwell, executive director of TCU’s Center for Career & Professional Development, answers questions in each issue of TCU Magazine. Send your career questions to For more information about careers, visit

A Professional Platform

Our expert says that maintaining a LinkedIn profile benefits both active and passive users.

LinkedIn offers high-quality content related to an individual’s professional interests, relevant job openings, networking and no drama. Yet the social media platform is “100 percent underappreciated,” according to Mike Caldwell, executive director of TCU’s Center for Career & Professional Development. He shared insights into how to make the most of LinkedIn, taking online networking to the next level. 


What is important to remember about LinkedIn versus other social media platforms?  

It’s definitely a professional place — professional photo, professional content — it is not necessarily a place you’re going to post fun-related things, though some people will kind of veer into that territory. It’s basically like your online résumé, and you can include your portfolio if you’ve got content.  

Just remember that it’s the place that future employers are looking. Every recruiter that I have ever met is always actively using LinkedIn to source candidates. So if you’re that passive candidate who maybe is not in the middle of a job search, it’s a great place for people to find you. And it’s a great place for you to always stay connected professionally to colleagues and others. 

Why do you think LinkedIn is undervalued as a tool?  

Sometimes what we see for students or recent grads is that they might not yet have friends or peers who are using LinkedIn or talking about LinkedIn. They’re seeing social media as more of a place that has other values rather than the professional piece. But LinkedIn is undervalued and underutilized. Once you get into your first job two to three years, you realize that everyone is using this tool, and you can find so many connections there. If you need to research — find a sales lead, a connection, a trend in the company — it really gives you the broadest set of knowledge.  

What are some of the basics of LinkedIn? 

Complete your profile; fill it out in as much detail as possible. Also, add your professional photo. We do professional headshots at our career expos for students. And then begin connecting with your professional network of people that you know. LinkedIn works by degrees of separation: The more people you’re connected with, the easier it is going to be for you to find people — and the easier it is for people to find you if they are recruiting.

Should you use the “open to work” setting if you are searching for a job?  

It’s controversial. Some people believe that you should not necessarily put “open to work” — that you want to be that passive candidate, that person that someone’s finding and recruiting away. But there are a lot of recruiters who like knowing that a person is open to messaging from them. You can put “open to work” and make it visible only to people outside of your organization. 

I’ve heard some success stories of people who’ve been “open to work.” If I see an alum who puts that on, sometimes I’ll reach out to them and say, “Hey, if we can assist you with your search, let us know.” Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known. Sometimes I’ll tell alumni to do both — put “open to work” for a couple of weeks and see how it goes. If you feel like it’s not really getting anywhere, then you can turn it off. 

How can you access TCU’s alumni network in LinkedIn? 

Go to TCU on LinkedIn, click “alumni” and then search by employers. You can see the alumni who are at Lockheed, Alcon or BNSF, and then you can see how you’re connected to them. If you’re applying to any company, that’s a great way to look and see if you’re connected to someone or to see if there are any TCU alumni there. You can see what they majored in, you can see what year they graduated. Start with a peer — those people who might be closer to you professionally.  

You can also see where they live. So if you’re wanting to relocate to Detroit, you can see any alumni in Detroit, where they work, what types of jobs they have. A lot of our alumni go to grad school; if you’ve got two alumni networks, use both.  

How should people use LinkedIn when they’re not looking for a job? 

If you’re not looking for a job, be that passive candidate and update your profile. I was just reading an article talking about when you do your performance review at work, that’s a great time to go in your LinkedIn profile and highlight accomplishments. Updating your profile and keeping it updated is going to make it much simpler if you are searching in the future, and it’s going to make you open and accessible to potential employers or recruiters who are looking for passive candidates. I also encourage people to be a mentor to others. Make your profile active so that current students can find you, reach out to you and ask you for advice.

How important is it to interact with posts or post your own content? 

It depends on what you want to get out of LinkedIn. If you want LinkedIn to be that place where you’re really a social connector, you’re generating interest and you’re trying to rise to the top, interacting with posts can be helpful. If you’re a person who’s passively looking, it’s not necessary.  

Give visibility to what you’re creating. If you’re someone who does graphic design or someone who does music, having some of that content posted is very helpful. Follow people in the industry that you’re in, and find people who are doing things that you want to do.

What are some of the more advanced features for maximizing what you can get out of LinkedIn?  

Change your URL; it’s this long, unwieldy series of letters and numbers. You can customize that to make it shorter and make it much easier to share. It’s free and easy to do. (Go to your profile; on the YUS | ADOBE STOCK right, click the pencil icon by “Public profile & URL.”)

If you find yourself between jobs, LinkedIn has resources and tools that you can pay for, but they also have trial options that are free. One of the biggest advantages of the premium version is you can search and find almost anyone, even people you’re not connected with. If you’re looking at a company, you can see more detail about that company.

LinkedIn has great creator tools that are free and available to almost anyone once you get established on the platform — you just have to be connected to enough people. I have several colleagues who have weekly or monthly newsletters that they publish through LinkedIn. You can also see and follow co-worker content from the employee page of your company.

Is there anything to avoid as a LinkedIn user? 

Like anything, watch out for spam. But I think that LinkedIn is one of the better resources because it’s very easy to block, report and ignore people.  

If you start trying to connect with everyone, some people might say “I don’t know this person,” and that can basically get you blocked. But I think that’s a feature, not a bug, because it keeps people from going a little bit haywire. That’s why it’s a good option to start early while you’re at TCU. Then by the time you graduate, or one or two years out, you’ve got this established profile and you don’t have to worry about that at all.