Are you using LinkedIn?
I think you should be!
When I first joined, I thought, “Wow! This is so cool!”
You could potentially update your “resume” in real time and share it with potential employers. But after the initial excitement wore off, LinkedIn started to feel a little bit… spammy. I received weird connection requests from total strangers and starting seeing totally irrelevant ads.
But in the last year or so I’ve been spending even more time on LinkedIn and doing some research on how I could make it work for me, as a business owner, and, of course, for my clients.
I’m happy to say that I have found more than a few ways that this professional networking site can help you in job search and career development.
If you don’t know, LinkedIn is a professional networking site with over 350 million users. In addition to connecting with former colleagues, classmates and friends, you can use it to search for jobs, follow companies, join groups, post updates and more.
So whether you’re on the job market or thinking about what your career might look like down the road, here are 11 ways to make LinkedIn work for you and help you to meet your professional goals.
1. Use a photo
LinkedIn profiles without pictures aren’t taken seriously. Period. In fact, LI profiles with profile pictures are viewed 11 times as frequently as profiles without pictures.
This year, I invested in professional headshots for the first time and that’s the photo that I use on LinkedIn. If you’re applying for executive level positions or are a business owner, you might consider investing in these kinds of photos but I don’t think that’s necessary for everyone. If you’re in the Boston area, I highly recommend Boston Creative Headshots. Darren was great, I was thrilled with the images and the turnaround was super quick!
If you opt to take your own picture, use a picture where you look as professional as possible. Make sure that your face is visible and the picture is decent quality.
2. Keep a tally
If you’ve worked with me or read my blog, you’ve likely heard me say that resumes should not be a running tally of everything that you’ve ever done and that you need to customize your application materials for each job.
Your LinkedIn profile, however, is a great place to share the breadth of your experience! This doesn’t need to be the place where you pigeon hole your experience! Plus, listing former employers is how you can stay connected to those co-workers and organizations. (Not sure how to customize your resume? I highly recommend this free training right here.)
3. Use the professional headline
I’m a big fan of the “professional headline” which is the text located right under your name, on your profile:
Here’s why it’s a pretty cool feature: Your professional headline doesn’t need to be your job title. Now, mine happens to be fairly straight forward, because, well, that’s just how I roll. But you’ll notice, if you poke around and check out other people’s headlines, that they aren’t really job titles per se.
For example, I don’t say “Lab Manager/Research Associate” or “Business Owner.” Instead, I share with folks what I do. I’ve seen some creative and compelling professional headlines that include things like “Recent graduate with interest in non-profits,” “New to Boston,” or even a headline that says, “Seeking transition to x field.”
If you’re not sure how to use the professional headline, think about the following: a) What would you like people to know that you do? b) What would you like people to know that you can do? c) What would you like to find on LinkedIn? d) What other “work” or hobbies are a significant part of your life that you could add here?
In my experience, to really make the most of social networking, it makes sense to show up as yourself or not at all. I love it when people include their “day” job plus some other skill or interest, whether that’s a hobby like writing or art, social justice or a side business. Looking for a job in a new industry? Let people know! Take a look at what other people in your network are doing. You might find some great inspiration!
4. Be generous with your connections
Make use of the “People you may know,” feature and add people generously. You never who you might be able to help or who may be able to support you. If you send a request to someone that you haven’t spoken to recently or don’t know that well, consider sending along a brief message. You don’t necessarily have to do this, but since the point of LI connections is networking, you might as well start the relationship off on the right foot! If you need help with networking, I’ve totally got you covered right over here.
5. Give recommendations
I’m going to be honest, this is one area where I could learn to take my own advice because it can be a serious game changer: give friends and colleagues recommendations (not to be confused with endorsements!).
Here’s why this is such a great idea: People are often resistant to networking because they feel like they’re asking for something and that makes them uncomfortable. Giving recommendations is the perfect solution to this problem! Imagine how your colleagues or former colleagues would feel, logging in and finding an unsolicited but glowing recommendation of their abilities? Pretty great, right?
You can give recommendations to friends, colleagues, former classmates, professors and more. Some industries use feature this more than others. My friends and colleagues in the corporate world have way more recommendations than my friends in academia! I know I have a lengthy list of impressive people I should be recommending. This is a great feature with the potential to pay off in spades! You have nothing to lose and you’re colleagues will be very grateful.
6. Networking follow up
First of all, please tell me you’re following up with the folks that you meet at networking events! “Yes, Jenn, I always follow up and keep in touch with people I meet while networking!” Excellent. That’s what I wanted to hear.
LinkedIn makes is super easy to do that: Instead of sending follow up emails after events and introductions, I now use LinkedIn. It’s easier to actually develop a relationship with new people by staying connected on LI rather than back and forth via email.
This way, you can “like” their content, post content and tag them if it feels relevant, and send a message if you need to be in direct contact. Let’s be honest, it’s a little too easy to email someone, “Hey, nice to meet you!” and then forget all about them. Use LI to create and nurture these new relationships and potential collaborations as easily as you do with your friends on Facebook.
7. Show off your work
Are you a graphic designer, marketer, researcher, artist or blogger?! You add papers, writing samples, syllabi, and other material to your LI profile. If you’re in a field where you ought to have a portfolio or any sort of supplemental material, consider uploading them directly to your LI profile where potential employers and others can see your work.
8. Follow companies you might like to work for
“What do you know about us?” is a fairly common question at job interviews. By “following” companies that you’re interested in working for, you’re setting yourself up to get a sense of the culture, history and future of a place you may well interview one day.
Companies often share things like job postings, “day in the life” of their employees, and other institutional highlights. It’s like getting an informational interview for free and right at your desk.
Start following who major employers are in your geographic area and/or your areas of interest and you won’t have to struggle with that job interview question ever again!
9. Join relevant groups
LinkedIn has a groups function with forums and they function much like a Facebook group. They can be organized around location or industry or both. You should consider looking for groups that meet your interest and joining them. I will be the first to admit that LinkedIn groups can be hit or miss.
I like to look for groups that require permission from a moderator to join. These groups tend to stay focused on the topic at hand and there are usually rules about promotional posts. These groups can be useful for industry veterans and career changers alike.
If you’re experienced in your field, consider starting your own group to establish your expertise and leadership. Are you looking to change industries?
One question that I get *all of the time* from people who want to change industries is how to get started. Joining industry specific groups is a great way to get access to professionals who are doing what you want to be doing.
You can ask questions, get feedback on your experience and learn how other people got into that line of work!
10. Join the conversation
There are a lot of ways to engage other people on LinkedIn and I suggest that you find a way that works for you and start doing it regularly. When you log into LinkedIn you’ll see these options:
Here are some easy things you might share to initiate or join a conversation on LinkedIn:
a) Share an update: This is a great place to announce a job change or to share some someone else’s content. It’s safe to assume that people on LinkedIn take their careers and work seriously so any content that’s related to these things would surely be valuable content to share with your connections. You can also share industry specific content and tag people who might be interested.
b) Upload a photo: This seems like a really under-utilized feature! Why not post a “behind the scenes” photo from your office or event?
c) Publish a post: You can even write your own content with “Publish a Post.” I’ve seen people use this feature to share jobs at their company and share blog posts or other work. This would be a great way to initiate a conversation that you’d like to see happen in your industry.
11. Set up your custom LinkedIn URL
I love this feature because it’s a nice, clean URL that allows people to easily see the breath of your experience and journey. It can easily fit underneath your address on a resume, which is where I often suggest my clients add it.
You can view my LinkedIn profile by visiting: www.linkedin.com/in/jennwalkerwall.
Want to set up your own LinkedIn URL like this? It’s super easy.
Just log in and go to Profile —> Edit profile. You should see your profile, which will, in part, look like this (but, you know, with your face, instead of mine…):
See where my URL appears in the bottom left hand corner? Hover your mouse to the right of that link on your profile and a “settings” icon should appear. Click on that.
You’ll then be taken to your public profile page.
In the upper right hand corner, you should see this:
Click on the little pencil icon and edit away to create your own custom URL!
While these are some strategies that have worked for me and others, success on LinkedIn, like many other things, is about setting reasonable expectations and being consistent.
If you’re not on LinkedIn, you really could be missing out on learning more about career opportunities and developing relationships with new people.
If you’re on LinkedIn, but don’t have a strategy or a goal, I’d love to hear how you might use it now!
Do you have any LinkedIn tips or strategies? Or questions? Let me know in the comments below!