Having a profile isn’t enough — to get ahead, consider implementing some of these useful strategies.
LinkedIn has become critical to building a network and crafting a personal brand that can open doors to job opportunities at select employers.
As social networks go, LinkedIn is the social media site of choice for professionals and is the world’s largest professional network with more than 120 million registered users. Of the big three social networks — LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter — it is not only the oldest, but also the only one with a business orientation.
LinkedIn gives you the tools to control your online identity. Have you Googled yourself lately? If you have a completed LinkedIn profile, chances are it will appear in the top five search results. This allows you to control the first impression people get when searching for you online, an important aspect of any job search.
LinkedIn helps job seekers connect with employers and recruiters. Even if you aren’t actively seeking employment, LinkedIn is the one social network you can continually use to enhance your job search and boost your career prospects. The best way to do that is to make sure you are using the full power of LinkedIn to maximize your employment potential.
Here are 10 ways to optimize your brand and find new prospects on LinkedIn:
1. Complete your profile. Your profile is how you get found on LinkedIn and might just be the first thing prospective employers read about you. The more detailed and up to date your profile is, the better your chances of being found and contacted.
Complete your profile as carefully as you would your resume, providing detailed information on your skills, experience, and accomplishments. Be sure to add a photo (a head shot is best) to your profile. Make sure your photo is professional in nature and representative of your industry. (Tip: Users with complete and up-to-date profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn.)
2. Basic information and summary. In the “basic information” section, be sure to select an industry, because recruiters often use that field when searching for candidates. Create a “headline” that properly brands you. The headline is the single most important piece of real estate on your profile and appears at the top of the page when someone views your profile; it also shows up in Google searches, so it’s your first chance to make a good impression. The “summary” section of your profile is where you can highlight your skills, experience, and accomplishments. Grab the reader’s attention and get them thinking by letting your creativity and passion come through.
3. Contact settings. These let your connections, hiring managers, and recruiters know what types of opportunities you are open to. Options include: career opportunities, consulting offers, new ventures, job inquiries, business deals, expertise requests, and reference requests.
Even if you’re not actively seeking a new job, it’s important to be flexible, because you never know when an opportunity too good to pass up might come along.
4. Website and Twitter links. The “links” section of your profile is a good way to provide even more information to potential employers and your contacts. If you have a blog, Twitter account, or a website, include those links in the Links section of your profile. Be sure to name the websites accordingly (i.e. “Social Media Strategy Blog”) rather than using the default “company website.” This small detail will help you stand out from the majority of LinkedIn users.
5. LinkedIn Applications. LinkedIn Applications are an excellent way to stand out from the crowd and share even more information in your profile. The blog application enables you to feed your blog directly to your profile, so other LinkedIn users can see the most recent posts.
Other useful applications include embedding your Slideshare presentations and Twitter feed. You can choose from many applications, so think carefully about which apps make the most sense for you — and don’t overdo it.
6. Your public profile and URL. Don’t forget to make your profile public — that’s how the world can find it. You can customize which portions of your profile are displayed to the public. You can also customize your URL to give you a link that’s easy to share and shows up well in searches.
7. Grow your network. For more experienced LinkedIn users, don’t forget that the more connections you have, the more opportunities you open yourself up to — but don’t connect with people you don’t know. Connect with colleagues from current and previous employers, clients, as well as people with whom you’ve done business or gone to school. (Tip: Use the e-mail contacts importer tool to import your address book directly from web-based e-mail clients like Gmail or Yahoo Mail, or use the desktop e-mail tool to import contacts from programs such as Outlook and Apple Mail.)
8. Recommendations and endorsements. Recruiters and potential employers view LinkedIn recommendations as references. Strong recommendations can be a big advantage in securing a job interview.
One of the best ways to get them is to give them: write recommendations for select contacts and they will often reciprocate. Be careful not to give and receive too many at the same time — it’s a sign you’re looking to move on.
9. Jobs. View thousands of job listings in every category. You can search by keyword, title, company, and location. A new LinkedIn feature displays a selection of targeted jobs you may be interested in based on information in your profile. You can even set up alerts to have new job opportunities sent directly to your e-mail inbox. (Tip: LinkedIn is also a great way to research recruiters or interviewers. Get an edge on the other candidates by learning more about the company or hiring manager with whom you are interviewing.)
10. Answers. LinkedIn Answers is one of the best places to get answers to business questions and share knowledge. You can ask and answer questions on specific subjects or scan existing questions for answers to everything from “where do you go to find the best networking opportunities” to “what are the most difficult job-search questions from recruiters.”
By answering questions and demonstrating your expertise on LinkedIn, you earn recognition that helps build your personal brand and credibility. (Tip: Stay top of mind with contacts, potential employers, and recruiters by being active with LinkedIn status updates. Keep the content relevant and always add value.)
In conclusion, a LinkedIn success story:
Robyn Quinn, who works in corporate communications for the Alberta Electric Systems Operator (AESO), was introduced to Nancy Arab via LinkedIn’s suggestions feature, as both are members of the Canadian Public Relations Society. Quinn occasionally checks the job board on LinkedIn for opportunities in her network, and about six months ago she noticed a position at AESO that Arab had posted. She contacted Arab via LinkedIn to inquire, and then followed up by phone — made possible by her connection and rapport with Arab developed via Linkedin. She ended up getting the job at AESO.
“Like any social media, it’s what you make of it,” Quinn says. “I have strategically built my LinkedIn network over the years, and in this case it paid off. Other potential candidates would not have been able to get through to [the decision maker] by phone. That’s one of the advantages of a solid network.”
Chris Burdge is the president of bWEST Communications, a Victoria-based social media consulting firm.
Written by Chris Burdge for Douglas Magazine.