On November 8th 2014, I hosted a workshop at the 2014 Leadership Summit for Women at McMaster University. I received some great feedback at the workshop and now I’m delighted to share what I presented with you.
I have a lot of experience using LinkedIn as both the hiring manager and the job seeker. I was recruited into my current job via LinkedIn and I get job offers through the site once every few months without fail. I am confident that you can too if you follow the steps below.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a social networking site. Just like Facebook, it is a tool and platform that can be used to connect with people you already know or don’t know, but with a more professional look and feel. LinkedIn is your public portfolio, an opportunity to post your professional experience and skills online to get noticed by the right eyes. It is also an important tool in personal branding. Your brand is a combination of what you’re good at, what you stand for, what you love, and what impression you leave with people. All of those elements should be included in your LinkedIn profile. Your brand should come from a place of honesty and integrity. If you fake it, it will show… besides that’s not as fun.
Wy Use LinkedIn?
Recruiters use LinkedIn as one of their primary resources for finding talent. If you’re not on LinkedIn, if you don’t have a strong profile, or if your profile is out of date, you could be missing out on countless opportunities.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization. Like it or not, employers will Google stalk you. And like it or not, you will show up in Google search results. It is important to take control of your online image so that you’re not leaving the wrong impression with a potential employer if they look you up online.
Build Confidence: By presenting yourself online, you’re forced to get to know yourself as a professional in a way that you otherwise wouldn’t. It’s amazing what can be uncovered when you talk or write about yourself. Seeing all of your accomplishments in one place, on one screen, is also a great feeling. Getting to know yourself and building confidence will help you build your personal brand.
What steps can I take to make a great impression on LinkedIn?
The first step is to set up a profile. If you go to LinkedIn.com and sign up it’s a fairly straight forward process. Also LinkedIn has one of the best help centres I’ve ever seen. And, if you get stuck while setting up your profile you’re more than welcome to email me.
Once you’ve set up an account, start filling out the fields with your job experience. You can simply copy and paste what’s already written on your resume. If you want you can leave your experience in point form, or write it out in full sentences to really tell a story about yourself. I don’t think it really matters for finding work, but the option is there.
Next add a photo. While your photo does not have to be a professional headshot (in fact if you look like a real estate agent and you’re not a real estate agent that can actually look really contrived), your photo should clearly show a picture of your face and should be relatively high quality (aka in focus). Selfies are fine as long as they’re not duck-face selfies.
OK so you’ve set up your profile. Now onto the fun stuff.
1. Create a Custom URL
Your default public URL for your LinkedIn profile will be a lot of random numbers and letters. It is important to create a ‘vanity URL’ for your profile. Instructions on how to do this can be found in the LinkedIn help centre. Choose your name or your name with initials, or your Twitter handle… whatever works for you. If you have a popular name this might take a few tries because each vanity URL must be unique.
Your vanity URL will help with SEO and also shows that you’re ‘with it’ in terms of how to present yourself online. If you can present yourself well then you’re showing that you can represent a potential employer well. All of these little bits count.
2. Change Your Headline
Be sure to change your headline to make yourself really standout. You are more than your current position, which will be the default headline. I like to use a template of three or four punchy statements about myself separated by vertical lines. Feel free to get creative with your headline and peek at what other dynamic profiles are doing.
3. Write Your Summary
It is important to write a summary. It is your chance to tell a potential employer about yourself in an honest and professional way. A lot of people feel awkward when writing a summary because they feel like they’re bragging. Everyone else is bragging about themselves online so if you don’t join that conversation you’ll be left behind. I don’t think it matters if your summary is written in the first person or third person perspective; as long as it is honest, direct, and professional.
4. Add Skills
It is important to add skills to your profile. Again specific instructions on how to do this can be found in the LinkedIn help centre. Be sure to choose skills that relate directly to your experience. If you’ve worked in retail for example, then ‘customer service’, ‘retail sales’, and ‘task management’ will all be excellent skills to add.
5. Add Extra Features
There are also extra goodies you can add to your profile to strengthen it if they are applicable to you.
Portfolio – your blog, vlog, website, presentation
Projects – anything you’ve accomplished at work, school or independently. Events, presentations etc.
Publications – anything published on a notable website (e.g. Huffington Post), academic papers, or books
Test Scores – GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, GRE or other major test
Awards – academic or other
6. Find Connections
Now that you’ve established a beautiful and dynamic profile it’s time to get the word out about it. You can import your email contacts to LinkedIn to get connection suggestions, and you can search for your current and former colleagues to connect with them. Also think of friends and acquaintances to connect with. Getting the word out about your professional experience can only benefit you.
You’ll also want to find connections who you don’t know in order to get their attention. Use advanced search to filter by location and industry so you can connect with people who might be your future employer or colleague.
7. Endorse Connections
Your connections can endorse you for the skills that you’ve listed through a feature on the site. The best way to get endorsements is to give them. If you view someone’s profile you will be prompted to endorse them. Do so. It is very likely that they will endorse you back. Keep doing this until you have a lot of endorsements which will strengthen your profile.
8. Ask for Recommendations
Recommendations are different from endorsements in that they are text-based blurbs about your accomplishments from former or current colleagues, clients, bosses, etc. Ask for recommendations strategically, don’t ask just anyone. For example, it might not be a great idea to ask your current boss for a recommendation if you don’t want him or her to know that you might be considering moving on from your current role. However you can ask past and current colleagues to recommend you, along with professors, teaching assistants, and classmates who you’ve worked on projects with. You can reach out using a version of the template below. Keep the tone light and conversational, but direct and professional.
Hi [name] how’s it going?
I’m reaching out to you because I was wondering if you would be able to help me out by giving me a recommendation for my LinkedIn profile. I thought of you because we always worked so well together, we miss having you in the office! But I bet you’re loving your new role. I’m also happy to recommend you as well if you like. Let me know.
Thanks so much and take care!
9. Search for Jobs
So you’ve got a great profile now. Complete with skills, endorsements, recommendations, and maybe some other goodies like the portfolio feature. Now it’s time to get hired.
If you click on the ‘jobs’ section on the LinkedIn website you will see jobs that are recommended for you based on your expertise, location and industry. LinkedIn is the only site that I’m aware of where the jobs literally come to you. If you choose to apply for a job through LinkedIn you will also see an option to message the person who posted the job. I highly recommend that you do this.
If you want to work for a particular company, start by following it on LinkedIn. You can then see who works there and connect with employees and ask them if they are hiring.
You can use the advanced search function to filter job postings by location and industry. Be sure to follow all of the instructions on the job posting when applying. While you can apply to any jobs posted on LinkedIn directly through the site, many job ads ask that you email your resume and cover letter as well.
10. Reach Out
Add a personal connection to your job applications in order to get noticed. Use the InMail feature to contact your connections. Again be polite, direct, and professional. Remember that companies have a really hard time attracting excellent talent. If you show them you’re what they’re looking for, they will respond.
11. Build Your Personal Brand
Anytime you feel like editing your LinkedIn profile, do so. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rebranded mine. It has greatly helped me figure out my own personal brand and how to present myself online.
If you don’t feel confident, pretend that you do. Being shy and sheepish won’t get you anywhere. Be honest, polite, direct and as confident as you can be in all of your professional settings, both in person and online.
Please take a moment to connect with me at linkedin.com/in/rachelgbk. Also do share your own LinkedIn success stories, tips and tricks in comments!
If you would like me to present this interactive workshop – complete with activities and Q&A – at your workplace, conference, symposium, or other event, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.