Using LinkedIn Effectively
LinkedIn is, for many professionals, the essential professional networking tool.
There is no question that potential employers and new contacts are likely to look at your LinkedIn profile before they meet you. LinkedIn is also a really good way of keeping up to date with colleagues who you wouldn’t describe as friends exactly, but who you would like to stay in touch with professionally.
It enables you to build up a professional reputation through its groups and publishing platform. These forums can be used to showcase your professional interests and expertise both among your network and beyond.
There are, therefore, two elements to using LinkedIn effectively. The first is having a really good LinkedIn profile, and the second is using it in the right way to publish and share content.
LinkedIn is a professional networking tool. It’s not Facebook.
You don’t have to update your status every five minutes.
You do, however, have to share content regularly if you want people to read your views. You also have to present yourself in a professional way, and that means providing a complete profile without spelling and grammatical mistakes.
Developing a Good LinkedIn Profile
It is a good idea to use a photograph on your LinkedIn profile.
If LinkedIn was primarily a recruitment tool, then nobody would include photographs. After all, nobody in the UK or US includes a photograph with their CV as it’s too easy to discriminate unconsciously on the basis of a picture.
However, well over half of LinkedIn profiles have a photograph. This is because LinkedIn is, in fact, not primarily a recruitment tool, but a way of reaching out to people. A photograph makes you seem much more human and real, and helps you to connect with others. It also helps your former colleagues to remember you.
Use a recent head-and-shoulders shot of you looking professional and smiling. Unless you are a cartoonist, don’t use an avatar or logo, because that won’t have the same impact, and may make you look less confident.
Bottom line: A photograph makes a connection and helps people to remember you. Include a recent professional-looking one.
This should be your personal ‘elevator pitch’: how you describe yourself in 120 characters or less. It should not necessarily be your job title, especially if you’re looking for a different job.
Bottom line: The headline is the first thing people see, so make sure that they get the right first impression.
The summary section is your chance to show yourself off.
After the headline, the summary is the one part of your profile that everyone will read and it needs to say who you are, and what you can do.
You’ve got 2,000 characters, so there’s plenty of space to be creative.
Keep your summary cliché and jargon-free. Start with how you’d describe yourself to a chance-met acquaintance at a party. If you’d say ‘I’m an architect’, then your LinkedIn profile shouldn’t say ‘A construction industry new-build consultant with a passion for clean lines and modern design’.
Focus on what you’ve achieved, and present your personal ‘unique selling point’ in simple, easy-to-understand language: ‘I’m an architect, whose belief is that buildings are meant to be lived in and used. I try to create beautiful buildings which are also practical and examples of my work include x and y, which earned me a commendation in industry award z.’
Make sure that you include keywords that people are searching for on Google so that, when someone searches for candidates for your ideal job, they are more likely to find you.
Bottom line: Everyone reads your summary so make sure you include all the information you want them to see, including keywords, but without clichés.
Experience and Education
Like your CV, your LinkedIn profile needs to include all your relevant employment and education.
However, you don’t need to include every last detail. Use keywords in both title and description so that potential employers will find you easily.
You don’t need to include all the holiday or Saturday jobs that you’ve ever had, but avoid huge gaps in your career history.
Your education is chiefly important when you start your career, but like employment, it can provide common ground. Once you’ve been working for a few years, it’s not absolutely essential to include a description of your degree and how it’s relevant to what you do, but do include at least the subject and the type of degree, and any professional qualifications.
There are practical implications: when you want to connect with people, LinkedIn will ask you how you know them. If you’re former colleagues, you’ll need to be able to say where, from a drop-down list of all the places you’ve ever worked. Miss one out, and you’ve wiped out a chunk of your network.
Bottom line: Include all the places you’ve worked or studied, even if you only have a summary of your jobs and qualifications.
Skills and Endorsements
The key here is whether you are using LinkedIn as a recruitment or networking tool.
If you’re trying to find a job, think about your ideal job and what skills it requires. If you have them, then include them in your profile. Try to use commonly-used terms in case anyone is searching for them, but be as specific as possible.
Don’t worry about endorsements. They are becoming increasingly irrelevant, because nobody is very careful about who they endorse for what. If you have been endorsed for some odd things that are not relevant to your job, you can manage your endorsements and control the order in which they are shown. You can also ask your contacts to endorse you for particular skills if you want to move them up the list.
Bottom line: Think of skills as search keywords for potential recruiters.
As a general rule, don’t include hobbies.
Hobbies and pastimes can either look desperate or boring. Let your friends on Facebook know that you love your family, but not your LinkedIn network.
Do include any professional interests, such as particular areas of expertise or where you’ve done a course, or voluntary work.
Bottom line: Keep it professional.
There are several ways to build your network on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn will automatically invite your contacts to connect with you, if you allow that. However, you may have quite a lot of friends among your contacts with whom you do not wish to connect professionally. It’s therefore probably better to tell LinkedIn not to connect with your contacts, but to do it manually instead.
Use the search function and, once you’ve made a few connections, LinkedIn will suggest other people that you may know, based on shared connections.
When connecting, always send a personal message and not just the standard ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’. Your friends won’t mind, but former colleagues will probably appreciate a more personal approach, even if all you add is ‘It’s been a long time since we met at [wherever]. I saw your profile and thought it would be good to connect’.
Connecting with people you don’t know
Some people suggest that you should never connect with anyone you don’t know on LinkedIn.
This is because LinkedIn is your professional network and you stand or fall by your contacts. You may be asked to endorse or recommend people by others in your network and, if you don’t know them, you can’t.
However, you can only contact people on LinkedIn if they are in your network, unless you have access to paid-for functions. It is therefore possible that potential recruiters may approach you via an invitation to connect. You could be missing out on an opportunity if you don’t connect.
A useful rule of thumb is only to connect with people you don’t know if they send you a personal message explaining why they want to connect—and you feel that you want to connect with them on that basis.
Bottom line: Connect with former and current colleagues, classmates, and friends with whom you’re happy to be associated professionally. Consider carefully before connecting with people you don’t know, but don’t absolutely rule it out.
Recommendations are interesting. Some employers swear that they’re essential, but plenty of people don’t have any.
If you’re seriously job-hunting, it’s probably a good idea to ask people who have worked with you and expressed confidence in your work if they would mind giving you a recommendation. However, the best recommendations are always going to be spontaneous.
Bottom line: Try to get one or two recommendations if you’re job-hunting, to show that others rate you too.
If you want people to contact you, you have to give them the chance!
If you’re bothered about spam or privacy, then control your privacy settings and make sure that you can only be contacted via LinkedIn, or use a dedicated email address.
Bottom line: People can’t contact you if you don’t include this information.
You can change your profile URL to personalise it
LinkedIn will provide you with a profile URL. It will have lots of numbers at the end.
You can change this, so that it shows your name instead (provided that nobody else is using the same url). In your Profile, click on ‘See contact info’. This will open up a dialogue box in which you can edit your contact information, including profile URL, your email address and your Twitter handle.
Other LinkedIn Features
Several additional features of LinkedIn are useful for professional networking. These include groups and the publishing platform.
Groups are a good way for professionals with similar interest or expertise to connect, share information, and generally network.
You can search for LinkedIn Groups using the search tool on your home page. There are likely to be a number of groups for your subject area, so it is worth having a quick look at the information about each group to see if it looks like one for you before you apply to join it. You can only apply to a certain number of groups at a time, so take your time to think about which ones you actually want to join. LinkedIn will also recommend groups based on your profile.
Groups are a good way to gently start to contribute to discussions and raise your professional profile a bit, but without having to publish full-length articles.
Bottom line: Joining groups in your subject area, and contributing to discussions, will help build your professional reputation.
LinkedIn’s publishing platform allows both members and influencers to share content publicly.
Any articles that you publish become part of your profile, and can be seen on the Articles section of your profile. Your articles are shared with your network in newsfeeds, and sometimes via notifications. If you set your profile settings right, any LinkedIn member can see your articles, and can choose to follow you from within one of your articles. They will then see your content in future. If your profile is set to ‘public’, your articles will be visible via search engines.
The benefit of this platform is that publishing is free and, with the right settings, anyone can see your articles. You can therefore build a reputation as an expert in your chosen area without having any publishing costs, or the cost of maintaining a blog. The added advantage is that you don’t have to share your articles further, because LinkedIn does that for you. You can, of course, always share via other social media platforms if you wish.
Bottom line: Publishing articles via LinkedIn can help to boost your professional reputation without any infrastructure costs to you.
The Next Step
Developing your LinkedIn profile is just the first step in marketing yourself. You now need to use it: get out there and ask your contacts for introductions, and join groups with people you want to get to know. You should also use the platform to publish content in your subject area.
All these are important ways to build your professional reputation—and that is what will ensure that you can develop an interesting and rewarding career.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Develop the skills you need to get that job.
This eBook is essential reading for potential job-seekers. Not only does it cover identifying your skills but also the mechanics of applying for a job, writing a CV or resume and attending interviews.