Now that year-end crunch time is over, you may be cashing in your holiday bonus check and checking out new employment opportunities. Many employers use social media to recruit new employees, mostly through LinkedIn. Translation: create a great Linkedin profile, and fast! An effective LinkedIn profile allows you to present yourself in a multi-dimensional way beyond the chronological account of your job history in a resume. How can you stand out in a sea of millions of LinkedIn profiles?
Make it easy to find and contact you. Remember that potential employers and recruiters review thousands of profiles and can only spend a minute or two on each one, so you want yours to be engaging and memorable. Keep your name plain, simple, and professional. For instance, don’t use an anonymous or generic name on your profile and resist the temptation to exaggerate or characterize yourself as a “killer saleswoman.” Adding a photo is not debatable, it makes you far more likely to get noticed. You should include a photo of yourself that would allow people to recognize you at trade shows or conferences (in other words, be real and honest about your profile picture). As much as you love your family, it might not serve your goals to include them in your profile photo unless working with children relates to your desired career path. You will be prompted to create a LinkedIn URL, which can be customized to suit your needs and should be used in all of your outgoing email, on business cards, and in all sales materials. You can make it easy for potential employers and others in your network to reach out to you by displaying your preferred contact information in your profile.
Creative tricks make your headline effective. Remember, potential employers may only have time to read your headline, so make it eyecatching and maximize the 120 character space limitation. For example, stating only your professional title, like “Marketing Director” doesn’t really help sell yourself; “Marketing Director, exceeded year over year revenue targets, created new multiple sales channels for global pharmaceutical company” is far more effective. Include your industry so that potential connections or employers can find you more easily, too.
Use keywords and multi-media to highlight your experience. The next step is to enter a summary and experience about your employment history and job responsibilities. If you’re just returning to the job market, volunteer experience counts just as much as paid positions. This area is where LinkedIn searches will look for key words, so use this space to include a high level summary of what you do, but enhance it with terminology that applies to your target audience. If you don’t know the most relevant keywords, get help from Google’s keyword toolbox, which identifies words and phrases most often used in LinkedIn groups and profiles. You can also run a Google search (make sure to sign out first) with terms you think are relevant and Google will autopopulate your search query with suggested words that come from searches others have done. Use those words throughout your profile. Also, think about what skills, industry awards, trade shows, conferences, or characteristics are important to potential employers or their customers. You can gain credibility by citing statistics about your job performance, but do so without disclosing confidential, personal, or proprietary information about your current employer, clients, or co-workers. You can also add videos, powerpoint presentations, publications, or photos to highlight your expertise.
Consider seeking testimonials. Back up your experience with recommendations or endorsements. Choose wisely because you may be judged by the company you keep. Ask well-regarded colleagues or acquaintances who are influential in your industry to write your recommendation. You can avoid getting vague recommendations like “she’s good at what she does” by approaching mentors with your own bullet points to make it easier for them to corroborate your achievements about a specific project or your overall character. Be selective about who you ask and how many recommendations you post because too many can be overkill and it can signal a sense of desperation. Once you create your profile and start networking on LinkedIn, other members might endorse you. You can delete endorsements about skills you don’t have and reorder them to put the skills most important to your industry at the top of your list.
Make connections and build your network. After creating your profile, you should start networking immediately. You can run searches to find your functional equivalents at companies where you may want to work and reach out by inviting them to connect. LinkedIn will also suggest other members to you based on your profile. I don’t know anyone who has been snubbed on LinkedIn and reaching out online can be less intimidating than doing so at live networking events. Ideally, strive for 500 first degree connections because that will help you network effectively to get your next position and first degree connections get priority in search results. Also, once you have that many connections, LinkedIn will display “500+ connections” on your profile, which brings added prestige and credibility. You can also join LinkedIn groups, whose names will also be displayed on your profile, and start engaging with those members to network strategically.
Don’t let your profile get stale and follow up with your network. Keep your profile current and send updates about new job responsibilities or success stories at work to your network. If you will be attending a conference, tell your network because one of your connections or one of their connections may be attending the same event and you can then build a face-to-face relationship. Depending on what membership type you purchase, you can also see at least a few members who looked at your profile. Don’t be afraid to follow up with anyone who might be able to help in your job search. Even if their companies aren’t looking for new hires, they may know of opportunities and the more leads you have, the better.
Putting your best foot forward on LinkedIn is important. It’s the best place to make a first impression by showing off your skills and accomplishments. You’ll be ahead of the job hunting game by becoming a LinkedIn member and building a profile and network that can help you land your next position. One size does not fit all, so use the features and keywords that are most important to your industry. A few simple and creative approaches to the traditional profile can make you stand out.