I get a LOT of questions from jobseekers about LinkedIn.
The most common one is:
“I’m not sure what to do with my LinkedIn profile.”
So here's a short guide with some practical tips!
It starts with "Profile Completeness" -- you want to make sure you have a fully populated LinkedIn profile. Profiles that are considered "complete" by LinkedIn's standards receive 40 times more "opportunities" (contacts from prospective hiring managers and recruiters) than incomplete profiles, according to LinkedIn's own research.
• At least three skills
• A profile photo
• At least 50 connections
To maximize your success in using LinkedIn in your job search, you should also complete these activities:
• Customize your LinkedIn profile URL (www.linkedin.com/in/yourname).
• Create an attention-getting LinkedIn Headline
• Use the LinkedIn Summary section to tell your STORY! Who are you, what do you want to do, what sets you apart?
• If you’re including a link to your website or blog, customize the text link (rename it so it doesn’t just say “Personal Website” or “Company Website”).
• Include your contact information. LinkedIn allows you to add your phone number (designated as home, work, or mobile), Instant Messenger contact information (AIM, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, GTalk, QQ, and WeChat), and multiple email addresses (in addition to your primary/sign-in email). You can also provide your Twitter handle.
• Add languages that you speak.
• Fill in key projects you’ve worked on (this is a separate section within the profile). Showcase your work!
• Add a list of courses you’ve taken. (This helps with keyword searches.)
• In the “Settings,” change the “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile” to “Your name and headline (recommended).”
• Proofread your profile carefully. Check grammar and spelling!
• Update your profile regularly! Not only will your connections be notified when you update information on your profile (bringing your profile additional visibility), but you’ll also be confident that someone searching for you will have access to the most current information!
Okay, now that you've completed those steps, what's next?
1. Grow Your Connections. There are two schools of thought when it comes to LinkedIn connections. You can choose to connect selectively, accepting invitations only from those you know and trust, or you can use LinkedIn to grow the network of people you know. You can connect with people you meet through Groups and get introduced to people you don’t yet know offline.
POWER TIP: The power of networking lies in “friends of friends,” so the larger your network, the easier it will be to connect with someone you don’t know (yet). Remember the principal of “six degrees of separation.”
2. Give To Get. Authentic, genuine Recommendations can make or break a LinkedIn profile (just like references can for a job candidate). Instead of sending out those presumptuous LinkedIn “Can You Endorse Me?” emails, select a handful of people in your network and write Recommendations for them, without asking for one in return. You will be surprised at how many people will reciprocate.
POWER TIP: Make sure your Recommendations are specific and detailed. When reading the Recommendation, you should be able to tell exactly who it was written about. Quantify accomplishments (with percentages, numbers, and dollar amounts) as much as possible.
3. Get Involved. Join some LinkedIn Groups. Groups are the “water cooler” of the social site. You can find Groups for school and university alumni, your former and current employers, trade groups, industry associations, and more.
POWER TIP: One way to establish yourself as an expert on LinkedIn is to start your own Group. For example, you might consider starting an online job club centered around your industry or geographic proximity.
Finally, don't make these mistakes on LinkedIn:
- Don’t Dismiss LinkedIn as Something Only for People Who Are Looking For a New Job. The best time to build your LinkedIn profile, connect with people, and participate on LinkedIn is now, before you need it. If you find yourself suddenly unemployed and decide that now is the time to start using LinkedIn, you’re going to be playing catch up. Instead, take time to “dig your well before you’re thirsty,” as author Harvey Mackay says.
- Don’t “Set it and Forget It.” Your LinkedIn profile is an evolving snapshot of you. You should be updating it regularly with new connections, status updates, and activity (especially within LinkedIn Groups)
- Don’t Ignore It. Check in on LinkedIn regularly; at least every other day if you are in active job search mode; at least once a week for passive jobseekers. Plan on adding one new status update each time you log in.
- Don’t Be A Wallflower. LinkedIn is most effective when you engage with it. Seek out opportunities to connect with thought leaders in your industry. Join 3-5 Groups and participate in conversations.
- Don’t Be Selfish. You will get more out of LinkedIn if you focus on how you can help others, not how they can help you. The phrase “give to get” is very powerful on LinkedIn. You can earn the respect of your peers and people of influence if you “help enough other people get what they want,” in the words of Zig Ziglar.
- Don’t Wait For Others To Find You. Use the LinkedIn People Search function to look for people you know and invite them to connect with you. You should aim to add 2-5 new connections each week if you are a passive job seeker, and 6-10 connections a week if you are actively searching for a new job.
- Don’t Forget to Explore the People Your Connections Know. One of the most powerful functions of LinkedIn is the ability to connect you with people who are connections of the people you know. Follow LinkedIn’s guidelines on connecting with these folks, however (using InMail or requesting connections through your mutual friend), so that your account is not flagged for spam.
- Don’t Indiscriminately Try to Connect With People. One of the strengths of LinkedIn is the connections you make, but it’s not a race to get to 500 connections. Have a reason for each of the people you connect with — either it’s someone you already know or are related to, or someone it would be beneficial to connect with. If you don’t know someone, get to know them a bit before sending a personalized connection request. (You can do so by seeing who you have in common — or who they are connected to, checking out their LinkedIn summary and work history, visiting their website or blog, and seeing what Groups they belong to).
If you're just getting started on LinkedIn, check out my 8-part course, "Leveraging LinkedIn For Your Job Search." Each day, you'll get a new lesson that will help you develop and enhance your LinkedIn profile. It's just $15. Order it here: http://www.leveraginglinkedinforyourjobsearch.com