In the last few months, I have either been offered a job or extended an invitation to interview at a couple dozen or so companies. It’s a relatively common practice among recruiters to utilize LinkedIn when searching for employees – so common, in fact, that some will spend more time on this platform than any other social media channel.
In 2013 I was recruited by Google for a position in their AdWords department. Being the curious mind that I am, I discovered through tedious searching that my profile was one of the top three (at that time) to show in search results for the popular advertising platform. Today, I am an AdWords certified college instructor teaching digital media in Oxford, MS with the new plan of requiring every single student taught by me to be certified as well. My students have an array of responsibilities in my class, most notably crafting their LinkedIn profiles and posting roughly 8-10 articles that are specific to their field of interest. They learn analytics, big data targeting, SEO, content marketing, technology, SEM, social media advertising, and more. In turn, most get recruited via their steady LinkedIn updates and carefully constructed articles.
But this is not about them…it’s about you.
If you spend your time on social media and don’t use it to leverage your career, you should rethink how you allocate that time. Every platform has potential to advance your career.
Facebook is interpersonal – make connections with people who you wouldn’t mind sharing more personal details about yourself. Think of this as the office, where you have friends and associates, but you don’t tell everyone everything.
Twitter is informational. Come prepared with something to add – whether it be links, well-researched opinion, or simply retweeting others who can add to the conversation. This is the medium to meet people fast. Be mindful of what you post, because it is also the medium to sink your reputation the fastest if you are reckless with tweets (i.e. offensive/derogatory language).
Google is collaborative. Google+ is primarily for those interested in technology, although anyone can benefit from an account. Almost all of Google’s professional tools are based in collaboration – so if you plan on meeting people via Google+, be sure to familiarize yourself and be open to jumping on a hangout/chat, sharing ideas/plans via docs and participating in one of many efforts to bring Google products to classrooms everywhere.
But this is not about those networks…it’s about LinkedIn.
Here are two things you can focus on to leverage LinkedIn’s vast network:
optimization and credibility
LinkedIn gives a pretty detailed tutorial when you first join on what you need to add to your profile to make it complete. You need a photo, work history, skills and a summary (among other things). Those assets will get you setup, but they won’t initially get you noticed by a recruiter.
To optimize your profile, try these:
Anyone can use LinkedIn’s search function to type in a keyword and sift between people, jobs, companies and more. If they wanted to find someone well-versed in AdWords in 2013, for example, they could have searched for ‘Adwords’ and noticed my profile towards the top. This is because that term was embedded in different areas of my work history. If you are a digital strategist, why does your current title read as ‘marketing professional’? Think about who might be searching for someone like you. Go through your profile and add in the types of keywords you want to be known for.
Take A Professional Headshot
Let’s face it, that photo of you with your best friend at last year’s office party is not the first thing you would want a potential new employer to see….
Neither is the fuzzy, blurry, out of focus photo you took on your smartphone.
Invest in a professional headshot to use as your profile picture. Employers want to know that you take time and effort in presenting yourself.
Share Meaningful Content
If you’re going to have a profile on LinkedIn, you might as well use the platform too. Browse through the home screen and share articles and stories that are meaningful for your industry. Because some are beginning to treat LinkedIn as Facebook (don’t do that), you may see status updates about a colleague’s personal life or content that is more suited for other social platforms. As you grow your connections, you’ll see others writing articles (much like this one) that have a very professional focus. Keep in mind that recruiters not only see what you post but also what you share.
Next, you will need to build your credibility, a task I take my students through every single semester. You may not be the expert in your field – yet – but you need to be well-read and able to share insights with your professional community as you grow.
To gain credibility, try these:
Make Meaningful Connections
The target is 501. After you get past 500 connections you get the stamp of influence by having a ‘+’ added (as in, 500+ connections). Whether we want to admit it or not, we find those with more than 500 connections to be more influential. LinkedIn will limit you from randomly adding 500 people, but over time your connections will grow. Look for people within your same field/industry (thus making the third point of optimization that much easier). Connect with those whom you admire, want to learn from, and would like to share ideas with. LinkedIn is a larger version of your face-to-face professional circle, so choose wisely but also be open to having a diverse circle.
Side note: LinkedIn is NOT a dating service. Find professional colleagues, not your next relationship.
Every once in a while, someone who you may or may not know may endorse you for a given skill you’ve listed (and please…list your skills) or share your content. While they may not look for you to do the same, it builds more meaningful connections when you also return the gesture. Recommendations and endorsements on LinkedIn give recruiters tangible evidence that others trust in your skill sets.
Write Meaningful Content
LinkedIn does not equal lurking. Besides sharing content, be open to joining the conversation by producing content that would add value to your readers. Are you proficient in IT and notice a common issue people are having that you could address and direct steps to fix? Are you a seasoned venture capitalist who can give wise advice to emerging entrepreneurs? Are you a college instructor who wants everyone – not just your students – to gain the lessons you share in the classroom? That’s what this medium is for. What can you add to your community that will be beneficial, helpful, insightful…meaningful. Remember, Facebook is for interpersonal posts. On LinkedIn, your written content (i.e. articles), should come from a professional tone with the goal of educating/informing. A good note to add here is that opinions are usually served best with years of experience but even better with facts from reliable sources.
Given that this was written with the intent to inform, it is my hope that those who read it will increase their visibility and advance their careers!