LinkedIn is one of the most blogged-about topics for job seekers and career futurists, and rightly so. It is high-value and low barrier to entry. More than 80 million members strong, this social networking site links job seekers, companies and service providers.
Getting the most out of your LinkedIn profile, however, is not just a one-two punch.
A dynamic environment, the value of LinkedIn’s many tools is in managing and expanding your contact relationships and research capabilities to achieve career propulsion. For example, LinkedIn’s JobsInsider application allows you to open job board postings from one of the major job boards and find the people in your network that work at the hiring company. The theory is that you will then be able to tap those network contacts to introduce yourself as a potential candidate for the position, giving you a leg-up.
Though LinkedIn memberships abound, the challenge is to create a robust profile and leverage it effectively to net the most you can from your initial time investment – as well, to differentiate yourself. Many LinkedIn profiles remain incomplete or inactive (or both), essentially abandoned career real estate that, with only a few initial hours and a few minutes per day thereafter could be refurbished and revived to play a critical, ongoing role in your career advancement.
To get the most out of LinkedIn, you must:
1. Create a pithy, targeted and original profile. LinkedIn profiles are NOT mini-me resumes, so cutting and pasting your Word resume into LinkedIn will fall short. Instead, pluck, reframe, edit, add to and subtract from your resume particular content that showcases your high-value, with a twist. For example, though many resumes are written in the implied first person style, a more narrative, first-person approach may be a best practice option for your LinkedIn profile, and can ensure you stand apart from other, more starchy profiles – selling your value to solve the pain of your target audience. For example (snipped from my LinkedIn profile):
“As a professional resume writer and marketing communications specialist, I am an intuitive researcher who uncovers compelling story details and originates unique marketing documents. My clients are generally either in the throes of career transition, wish to take the reins of their career to move up or out of their current role or desire to break through to a new challenge. Together, we collaborate on career positioning strategies that stir hiring decision-makers, recruiters, human resource professionals, board members and executives to respond.”
2. Target and research companies, then target and research the employees at those companies: Harry Urschel, professional technology recruiter at e-Executives Search Professionals, advises, “LinkedIn is a great resource for finding target companies for your job search. Search your skills and potential titles to find others with similar backgrounds to your own. The companies those people work at are each potential companies for you to target in your own search. Then, search for other employees at those companies to find contacts that may be in hiring roles. Where else can you find that kind of information that easily?”
3. Selectively join and participate in groups where you can give/receive value: According to Hannah Morgan, career consultant and strategist at Career Sherpa, your LinkedIn profile and group affiliations should positively and strongly represent your professional reputation.
“One of the most important, lesser addressed parts of your LinkedIn profile is the listing of groups with which you are affiliated. The groups you belong to should reflect your professional interests first and foremost. It is fine to belong to some job seeking groups; you may even choose to keep them hidden from your profile,” advises Hannah.
Though you may belong to as many as 50 groups, is that a wise move? As attractive as exposure through a large number of groups may initially seem, consider your actual ability to participate in dozens of conversations before clicking on EVERY interesting group. Dormant memberships detract from value.
To kick-start your participation in groups, view the Group Manager’s feature discussion and most popular discussions; then engage with your ears. When ready, contribute positively, demonstrating your desire to add value – giving versus getting.
4. Add the twitter application. By weaving your Twitter account into your LinkedIn profile homepage, you may cross-pollinate communications; you can view those LinkedIn contacts who also are active Tweeters and begin observing them in the Twitter venue, as well.
In the LinkedIn Twitter settings, I would suggest checking the “Share only tweets that contain #in” versus checking the option to share all tweets; this will devise a more selective display of Twitter messaging and not overwhelm the reader with 140-character sentiments.
5. Aspire to receive target-specific recommendations. While an empty recommendations section on your LinkedIn profile may impede your value message, recommendations loaded with generic or unfocused messages water down your impression. Instead, seek out accolades from individuals who are intimate with your unique talents and skills that would resonate with your target company.
When requesting recommendations, it is okay (and advisable) to elicit responses to specific questions, such as, “What strategic sales, project, operational initiative did I help move forward; what were the results in revenue, profit, team performance, productivity, etc.; and what skills did you see me employ (i.e., negotiation, process improvement, market place analysis, etc.) to achieve the goals?”
6. Stay ahead of the curve. “It’s important to be ‘in the know’ to stay ahead of the curve,” says Miriam Salpeter, job search and social media strategist – career coach – resume writer.
“Keep up-to-date with opportunities to optimize your LinkedIn profile by following their blog, which alerts readers about new ways to share information and highlight their expertise on LinkedIn,” adds Salpeter. “For example, they recently added sections allowing users to list publications, languages, skills, certifications and patents. Don’t miss opportunities to leverage all of your resources; stay on top of things by following LinkedIn’s blog.”
LinkedIn has built a sustainable foundation as well as a large company, hiring manager and recruiter following who tout its value. If you are serious about your career today, and for the future, you must take actionable steps to maintain a vibrant LinkedIn membership. Its critical value-add may be the difference between landing that next great gig – or not!