Once a month, rbb puts together “learning sessions” for their interns, each one is briefly reminiscent of our classroom days. One speaker or “teacher” who is a proven expert on the subject gives a brief lecture and then assigns us homework with real life scenarios.

Each learning session so far had been about improving our writing skills in terms of press releases and pitching, all very useful topics for the PR world. So when we received the calendar invite for a session on LinkedIn, we were doubtful there was much we could learn.

We come from the era of social media gurus. We grew up with Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. What could someone teach us about social networking that we didn’t already know when we practically live and breathe it every day? Little did we know, we would soon be in for  a wakeup call.

To begin the session, Digital Park Director Jeremy Lettiere Googled each of our names and the first result to appear at the top of the search were our sad, lifeless LinkedIn profiles. After pointing out a few major errors each of us made, we soon learned no one was using Linkedin to its full potential. LinkedIn could be our portal to getting our dream job, if we only knew what we were doing.

Before the session, we all assumed LinkedIn was a site where you posted your resume and people could see it if they were in your network. We quickly learned that recruiters from different companies can easily view your profile, so it’s worth completing your profile to 100 percent.

Another crucial element of LinkedIn is that, much like Facebook and Twitter, it is a platform for expressing ourselves. While LinkedIn is more business-focused, it allows users to tailor their profiles to appeal to the sort of job they want. Filling out the summary, skills and expertise sections takes creative thought. Why? This is your story. Tell it the way you want it to sound.

Here are the top 5 key takeaways to quickly improve a lacking profile:

1. LinkedIn isn’t your online resume. People who use LinkedIn as an online resume for employers are not seeing the whole picture. To better explain, LinkedIn is like the Facebook of the business world. On Facebook, you keep up with friends and what goes on in their worlds. On LinkedIn, you keep up with colleagues and what is going on in the business realm.

2. Be careful using the “import your resume” option. It is acceptable to use this option to a degree. However, it’s best to use your resume as a guide and type in your information manually. Be aware that LinkedIn should be more of an overview. Importing your resume through the automated system can cause an over whelming amount of detail to be pulled from your resume. During the learning session, I discovered that my phone number was pulled from my resume and posted online for all the world to see, something I was obviously not happy with.

3. Don’t forget your customized URL. Having a customized URL is easier to remember, thus easier to share with future network connections. It is also amazing to note that, despite all the users that are prevalent on LinkedIn, very few have personal URLs. In order to change this for your profile, click on edit next to your URL in the information box on your profile screen. A new screen will pop up, on the right hand side scroll down and there is another box titled Your Public Profile URL, here you have the option to customize.

4. Be creative with the title that appears next to your name. Giving yourself a creative title (instead of settling for “Account Coordinator”) casts a much wider net when employers search for a new candidate. Doesn’t the title “Experienced PR Professional” sound much more appealing? Include key words and phrases that would help an employer find you. Think of it this way: If someone was searching for you online, your LinkedIn profile should reflect the way you would like to be perceived. Currently, LinkedIn is the number one recruiting tool in the world.

5. Be aware of your privacy settings. On Facebook, it’s best to have strong privacy settings because there is a lot of personal information displayed between friends. On LinkedIn, the purpose is to share more with your colleagues. In that way, LinkedIn operates on a more public sphere than Facebook. Case in point: LinkedIn members can see when you have viewed their profiles. All of this can be a positive or negative aspect, but something to be wary of.

This was the first learning session that taught us interns something we definitely did not learn in school, and the knowledge was invaluable, especially given the state of the job market.

I want to hear your thoughts! Do you believe LinkedIn is a useful tool while job searching?