I am willing to bet that I can describe your relationship with LinkedIn.
So, you once heard that LinkedIn was a great place to connect with other professionals. You may have even heard that you could job search on LinkedIn. You then told yourself to create a LinkedIn account so you could see what this platform was all about. You created that account, your hurriedly put together your profile, you connected with a few folks, maybe checked out a few companies or did a quick job search, and then, voila, you were done.
But wait, have you since gone back to update your profile?
Have you continuously added contacts on a daily or weekly basis?
Have you reached out to network with your connections?
Has LinkedIn become part of your normal social media routine?
Do you spend as much time scrolling through LinkedIn as you do your other social media channels like Instagram or Facebook, or Twitter, or Snapchat…whatever your social media du jour may be?
If you are nodding your head as your reading this, well done! If not, you might be stuck in a LinkedIn rut. Or perhaps you feel overwhelmed by LinkedIn so you just haven’t gotten around to learning more about it. Guess what? You’re not alone and it is OK! LinkedIn can be used in a variety of unique ways and I want to show you how you can optimize your account and experience. And if you are a job seeker, these tips are sure to help you land that job you have been looking for (or at least an interview)!
So, first of all, it’s important to know why you might consider adding LinkedIn to your daily or weekly routine. What’s all the hype about anyway?
- Welp, more than 106 million people access LinkedIn on a monthly basis, in June of 2016 LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft,
- as of July 2018 there were 24.5 million company pages on the platform,
- the site hosts 10 million active job postings,
- and 75% of people who have recently changed jobs used LinkedIn to help them decide (https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/linkedin-statistics/).
Whoa! These statistics speak for themselves. I am fairly certain that Snapchat cannot compete with these statistics in terms of job searching, although those filters can certainly make the job search process a little more fun. Amirite?! Let’s get you back in the LinkedIn game and land you that job or interview, shall we? Here are a few ways to optimize your LinkedIn account and utilize the platform to its fullest.
Use LinkedIn to get noticed.
- Be sure that your profile is completed and up to date. Did you get halfway through creating your profile and promised yourself you’d go back and finish it later? You never went back, did you? Remember, LinkedIn is your virtual resume, so you should avoid any gaps or inconsistencies. Carve out some time to complete that profile!
- Use keywords in your headline that speak to the industry you are in or want to be in. LinkedIn is an extension of your personal brand. Your profile should represent you accurately and should be consistent with your resume, cover letter, other application materials, and your social media outlets. If a recruiter looks at your resume and then your LinkedIn account are they going to be confused or will these items be consistent?
- Always remember to include a summary. Ah yes, the dreaded summary! The summary section is an extension of your headline. It also represents your personal brand. As painful as this writing process may be, it can either entice someone to look at the rest of your LinkedIn profile or move on to the next. Be sure to include 3-5 brief paragraphs that help the reader learn more about you. Don’t be afraid to show your personality here, but always keep it professional. Need some inspiration? Check out these summary examples or view profiles of individuals in your industry/position/company of interest.
- Your profile photo should be professional and recent. No party pics or photos from 15 years ago! Don’t have a professional photo? Not to worry, your smartphone can do the trick. Find a friend or family member, head outdoors, and snap a few photos in good lighting. Choose backdrops that are simple, such as a solid-colored wall or a tree.
- Consider including a background photo that represents your field or the field you are targeting. Are you interested in fashion merchandising? You might include photos of textiles, a sewing machine, or a mannequin. Are you an Engineer? You might include a photo of construction plans, a ruler, a level, or a compass. You get the idea!
- Create a customized LinkedIn URL. This should be a combination of your first and last name. As cute as it may be, please don’t use something like linkedin.com/in/surferchick. Keep it simple and profesh! Psst, this goes for your email address too. This URL can be used in the heading section of your resume to direct hiring managers to your LinkedIn account.
- If applicable, add media to your profile. Because LinkedIn is your virtual resume, you have an opportunity to add some of your projects and work. Items to include might be publications, PowerPoint presentations, blog posts, a link to a personal website, etc. This is your chance to shine. Go for it!
- Don’t forget to adjust your privacy settings. Depending on your employment needs or comfort with sharing your profile, you may want to adjust your privacy settings. You can control how much the public can see of your profile, whether others can see if you have looked at their profile, manage your email notifications, and more.
Use LinkedIn to target fields or companies.
- Job searches are most effective when you have a target. What type of position are you looking for? What companies are you interested in? Is there a certain location that is a priority?
- Use the LinkedIn search filters to your advantage. For example, maybe you are interested in Product Management positions in the Santa Barbara, CA area. Simply type “Product Management” into the LinkedIn search bar. Then, select “all filters”. Here you can filter out “Product Management” by people, locations, and industries. These filters will help you locate individuals who are in Product Management positions in the Santa Barbara area. You can then begin following companies who meet your search criteria, make connections with individuals, and even narrow down your job search target. Take a look at this video that demonstrates how to use the search filter, including how to utilize a Boolean Search.
- Once you begin identifying companies and individuals that are of interest and meet your search criteria, be sure to start a list. Begin jotting down those companies and individuals as you will want this list for your networking purposes. Check out this downloadable job tracking worksheet from Glassdoor. Hold this thought as we will come back to this list in just a bit.
Use LinkedIn to Search for Jobs.
- Click on the Jobs icon on the top of your LinkedIn page (Hint: it looks like a little briefcase…or maybe a toolbox…I’ll let you decide). Here you will find the LinkedIn job board, including suggested jobs, for you (yes, you!), based on the keywords used in your profile. Remember earlier in this article when we discussed incorporating keywords into your profile? Are you beginning to notice why this is so important?
- Be sure to adjust your job preferences so that the suggested positions will be tailored to your needs and priorities. These preferences can include industry, location, experience level, etc. It just takes a few minutes to ensure that LinkedIn is finding positions that meet your criteria. Believe me, it will be well worth your time.
- Consider opening your profile to recruiters. By sharing your profile, recruiters can find and reach out to you regarding open positions. This will double your job search efforts. Um, yes, please! Be sure to watch this video for more information regarding this feature.
- If you find a company you are interested in, be sure to follow them. If you have time to follow that cute puppy account on Instagram, I am sure you can find it within yourself to follow a few key companies too. It’s all about your priorities! By following companies, you will receive updates in your news feed. This is important so you don’t miss out on job announcements or crucial company information that can help you shine in an interview.
Some companies offer a feature that allows you to apply for an open position by using your LinkedIn account in lieu of a resume. This is another reason to be sure that your profile is updated and accurate. Have I already mentioned this?
Use LinkedIn to Network.
- The point of LinkedIn is to network and interact with others. You just rolled your eyes, didn’t you? I know you are well aware of this little (well known) factoid, but I think it is an important reminder. What are your networking goals? Will you reach out to 5 new people a week? Will you follow 10 new companies a week? Will you send direct messages to 3 of your current connections per week? Will you begin posting on your news feed? Create your own networking goals, write them down, and stick to them! Just having a profile on LinkedIn doesn’t count. Nice try though.
- Did you know that your current connections can help you connect with people you don’t know yet, but want to know? Yep, it’s true. So, let’s say you are dying to work for Patagonia (the outdoor apparel company), but you don’t know a soul who works there. Type in “Patagonia” into the search filter. Then select “People”, then select “2nd” within the Connections drop-down menu. This will show you any individuals that you are already connected with who are connected with someone who works for Patagonia. Then, send a customized message to this person asking if they would be willing to introduce you to that person that works for Patagonia. View this video to learn more about this process. Please note that LinkedIn has made changes to their introduction features, so this may take a little creativity and legwork, but is well worth the effort. The person you connect with may not be in a hiring position, but they might be able to offer you insight into the company, ideas on how to stand out from the competition, and even be willing to refer you to a hiring manager. Hello, dream job!
- Another key way to make connections on LinkedIn is through Groups. Let’s say that you are interested in finding a job in the Biotechnology sector. Type in “Biotechnology” in the search filter. Then select the drop-down menu labeled More. Here, you will find Groups. Once selected, you can find all of the LinkedIn Groups that pertain to “Biotechnology”. Find a few groups that you want to join and begin engaging! Again, it is not enough to just join the group. Get in there and start chatting with the group members, connect with people, and direct message any of the members that you would like to engage with further. I know this seems scary, but it’s not! Remember, you already have a common interest since you are in the same group. Click here to learn more about this process.
- Speaking of common interest, did you know that your college or university has a search filter for alumni? Why is this important? Well, having a commonality with someone you want to network with helps facilitate the connection. Let’s, just for kicks, say that you attended Louisiana State University (Geaux Tigers!) and you are hoping to transition into the field of Journalism. What better way to gain insight into that field than by connecting with some of your fellow Tigers who are already in this field. Again, the folks you reach out to initially may not be in a place to hire you directly, but could certainly lead you in the right direction. This tool even allows you to search based on location, companies, major, and more!
- Are you ready to begin connecting? I hope you are nodding your head in excitement. You are, right?!! It’s not as scary or time-consuming as it may seem. Remember that Job Tracking Worksheet, where you wrote down individuals and companies in which you wanted to create connections? Use this list to actually begin engaging. Click the Connect button next to that individual’s name. You will then be prompted to customize the invitation with a note. I highly suggest that you take a minute or two to add a customized note so that the person has some context to why you are reaching out. You have 300 characters, so make short, sweet, and to the point. Here are some examples:
- Hi, Sam! I am a fellow Tiger alum and I am looking to transition into the field of Journalism. Your profile stood out to me because it looks like you too have transitioned into this field. I’d love to learn more about your career journey. Looking forward to connecting, Sam. Thanks in advance.
- Hi Bailey, I was referred to you by your former colleague, Jane Doe. Jane and I are neighbors and she speaks very highly of you. I am intrigued by your career path within the Finance field and would love to hear about your experience at ABC Bank. Looking forward to connecting. Thanks, Bailey.
I know this may all seem like a lot of work, but once you get the hang of LinkedIn, you’ll be utilizing it like a pro. You mastered Facebook, didn’t you? As a job searcher, if you feel stuck on the metaphorical hamster wheel of looking for jobs online, applying, waiting, never hearing back, rinse and repeat, you have got to get out of that cycle, my friend. That is a just huge waste of your precious time. Networking is key! Use LinkedIn to help you do just that. Take a little time to incorporate the above tips to optimize your LinkedIn routine. I promise in no time you will be headed into that interview and accepting that job offer.
Now, go and be a LinkedIn master. You’ve got this!