I didn’t say much about LinkedIn in my recent blog about personal social media. That’s because LinkedIn is a professional social media platform. If you’re on the job market now or expect to be at some point, the approach to using LinkedIn is very different from that of other online platforms. Your goal with this networking tool is the opposite.
With personal social media, the goal is to curate public-facing information and posts to keep your private life mostly private. A recruiter or hiring manager only sees what you want them to see about your personal brand. LinkedIn, however, is about building the kind of presence you do want professional contacts and potential employers to see.
There are many ways to use LinkedIn to expand and engage with a professional network and create new opportunities. As a starting point here, we’ll focus on making sure your profile is as rich and compelling as possible, growing your professional connections, and using some of the engagement tools provided by the site.
Optimizing Your Profile
In a way, your LinkedIn profile page is like an online resume. It should be current with your professional experience and other activities kept up to date. Also, as revealed in a resume, your work experience should focus more on achievements – your work’s impact on your company – rather than on tasks and duties.
Your LinkedIn profile is much more potent than a traditional resume, though, because it lives on a searchable, real-time, online platform. Think about your profile in the same way an SEO specialist thinks about optimizing a web page, to significantly increase the odds that search engines and LinkedIn users will find it.
- Using the right keywords helps you show up: While recruiters and hiring managers scan resumes for keywords to find ideal job candidates, LinkedIn allows them to search the entire database in the same way Google scans for relevant information on websites. As you write your profile, think about the terms a recruiter might search if they were looking for you. Ensure these keywords and phrases are incorporated throughout your profile.
- A good preview generates clicks: When something is googled, the brief summaries of web pages that appear in search engine results determine whether people will click through to specific sites. Similarly, on LinkedIn, your photo, headline, and summary section are the first things someone sees on a search results page. They’ll decide to click on your profile or not based on what they see there. A good quality, professional profile picture and a headline and summary that capture your experience – and, more importantly, what you offer a prospective employer – are so important.
- A strong profile attracts interest: The top half of a resume’s first page is the most important ‘real estate’ in the piece. Similarly, in your LinkedIn profile, focus particular attention on the information ‘above the scroll’ – the content that is visible without scrolling down the page. Your profile photo, headline, and summary are there, as are your skills and perhaps your most recent job or two. Of all the content within your profile, make sure these segments are top-notch.
Growing Your Network
Once your profile is in great shape, it’s time to start making connections. Some people measure their professional worth by their number of LinkedIn connections. Effectively growing a network, though, should be more about quality than quantity. Be thoughtful about the people to whom you send connection requests. Current and former colleagues and fellow alumni are a good start. Close industry contacts – especially those with numerous connections in common – are also fair game. Random connection requests with no evident correlation to your goals won’t do much good. Some could damage your credibility.
When you connect, be thoughtful about how you engage those new connections. It’s okay to send a quick, direct message to thank them for accepting your request. But it’s off-putting to most people to have a new contact immediately ask for something – jumping in with a sales pitch, for example, or requesting an introduction to a mutual connection.
Like networking offline, think more about what you can offer your growing community rather than what you can get from it.
Using the Platform
The first rule for using LinkedIn is to be active. As mentioned, your profile should always be current and accurate. Updates are great ways to stay top-of-mind with your contacts because they’ll see those updates in their feeds. Each week, find time to interact with your newsfeed by liking and commenting on posts others have made and by posting to your own profile.
A quick aside: More and more people are using LinkedIn to post things that would be more at home on Facebook. When you post and share on LinkedIn, keep it professional. If it’s not something you’d talk about at a professional networking event, it doesn’t belong here.
As your network grows, offer recommendations and endorsements to others you know professionally, and ask your close working contacts for recommendations and endorsements as well. In addition to drawing attention to your skills and abilities, these accolades boost your profile’s SEO. LinkedIn displays profiles with these features higher up in search results.
Finally, use interests and LinkedIn groups wisely. Following and joining those that are relevant to your professional field will populate your feed with current developments and news that are valuable to share with your network. Discussions in relevant groups will do the same, and groups can also be a rich source of job opportunities and future connections – people with whom you share interests and goals and who might just be your link to that new job or big career move.
LinkedIn can be one of the most valuable tools in a professional’s toolbox if used effectively. How are you using this networking site, and how strong is your profile? I’d be happy to look at your page, give you an objective viewpoint, and maybe suggest a few things you could do to make it even better. Feel free to get in touch.