When I first heard of LinkedIn some years ago, someone explained it to me as the “Big kids’ Facebook”. That made me think of it as a social networking site for older people who have “adult” things to talk about. I promise that I don’t mean that in the XXX-rated sense. It did not take long for me to join the site before I realized that this was a simplistic view of a powerful platform that helps connect professionals all over the world.
Unlike Facebook, your ability to lurk on LinkedIn are limited to connections at the 2nd or 3rd levels. The controls in place also limit who you can contact and connect with, which is an attempt at curbing those who might want to artificially boost their network by sending out random connection requests. The website has matured tremendously since I first joined. You can now search and apply for jobs directly using the information on your profile, the recommendation feature has been enhanced, as well as users ability to build their portfolio through articles, posting media and publishing prior writings.
However, despite all the positive changes, many have not found LinkedIn to be as useful as it proclaims. Although I do not have any complaints about the site, I don’t think it’s fair for me to dismiss their claims. After all, I am not looking for a job, so if no one contacts me, I don’t see a flaw in the system. And even though I am not looking for work, I still receive “InMail” approximately every 3 months from recruiters with offers that I kindly turn down every time.
So for those who are looking, how can you position yourself to be noticed by all the right people?
Have a professional picture. Unlike a resume that does not require a picture, your LinkedIn profile is not complete without one. To someone who has never met you, this is their first impression of you. Your picture should portray you as you would look in a job interview. Your attire should not be too casual, your hair should be neat, your posture should be appropriate, and your face should be groomed adequately (no heavy night-life make up for women, no edgy facial hair on men).
A headline is defined as: “denoting a particularly notable or important piece of news“. Your headline is not your life story. It should tell the reader the first and most important thing you want them to know about you. Don’t make jokes (unless you’re a stand-up comic), don’t leave it blank, don’t write about your childhood. Keep it short and to the point. Anything more or less shows that you can’t follow instructions. For example: “Oncology Nurse Practitioner with more than 15 years of experience.” is a much better headline than “Every day for the past 15 years, I’ve looked at death in the face through the eyes of my cancer patients. I have wanted to do this since my best friend died when I was 13.”
The name says it all. You are supposed to write a summary of your background and what makes you a valuable asset. Recruiters have a lot of prospects to consider. They will not look at every section of your profile unless they are very interested in you. You should write your summary with that fact in mind. Your goal should be that you say as much as possible to catch the reader’s eye and entice them to keep reading, but doing so in as few words as you can get away with.
For example, “I am an attorney in Massachusetts at a full service business law firm, located in Boston. Areas of expertise include real estate financing and development, including affordable housing development and financing. Projects include those with public funding sources and multi-tiered financing and tax credits.” is short enough for us to scan through it very quickly, however, we know a few key things about this person: s/he is a lawyer admitted to the Massachusetts Bar, with experience in business law and a focus on real estate, including affordable housing. If s/he started by telling us why they attended law school, we would have been bored and might have moved on before getting to the most relevant parts.
Your most recent job should have the most detail. While your past experience is relevant, they don’t care as much about the job you did 5 years ago unless it was a stepping stone that helped you transition to a higher position. If you used to be a teller and now you’re a lawyer, your reader will not put as much weight on your customer service skills as they will put on your litigation skills.
Don’t be afraid to connect with people. If you’ve met someone and you had a meaningful professional conversation with them, chances are they will remember you, as long as you do it shortly after you had the opportunity to talk to them and they still remember you. For example, my 3 most recent connections are with people who I talked to at length about things we were passionate about, then within a week I received request from all of them. LinkedIn is the 21st century business card. It is the best way to stay in touch. I happily take someone’s card, however, eventually it starts to pile up and create clutter and I am tempted to recycle them. However, I can have 500+ connections and never have to worry about having to find a way to maintain tiny rectangular cards in a drawer or folder. This will help you build your network and will make it much easier for you to reach out to people if you need to.
Include your skills in your profile. Updating your skills not only allows users to see who else shares their skills, but it gives your connections the ability to endorse your abilities.
LinkedIn is not Facebook. Your ability to restrict what others see is limited. In fact, the website controls it as part of their marketing to get others to sign up. However, your profile and activity are relatively wide-open to thousands of people you don’t know. Do not post anything that you would not want your boss or potential boss to see. Stay away from political conversations, don’t discuss religion and do not complain or vent. It is important to understand your audience when you interact on a professional networking platform. Your reader is looking to learn more about your skills and network, either because they want to hire you or they want to connect with you. If you appear to be unstable, controversial, or vengeful, you will not get a lot of positive attention.
These are just some of the things that I can think of that will help improve traffic as well as the quality of the mail you reach. Take the time to review your profile and see what changes you can make today to get the right call tomorrow.