LinkedIn Best Practices: 22 Tips To Start Your Career Right
LinkedIn is the place you need to be if you already aren’t on there. While superfluous social media sites like Facebook, SnapChat, and Twitter may have functions for selfie and TMI posting, LinkedIn has an actual purpose, and it’s one that could set you on the path to a profitable career as well as valuable networking relationships.
But if you are going to do LinkedIn right, there are some basic rules that you need to follow. Let’s crack into them, shall we?
1. Post relevant content.
Many people make the mistake of treating their LinkedIn profile like it is a static web page and not a social network. The word network implies that you should be putting yourself out there and staying relevant for the connections that you develop along the way.
There is no better way to pull this off than to post content, and by that, we mean relevant content. Remember that LinkedIn is no place for outrageous political opinions or rants. It is a place where you go to be professional, so post about your profession (or at least the profession you desire to have if you are just starting out).
We recommend a mix of curated content from other websites and your own stuff. We’ll dig more into the latter a bit later in this piece. For now, let’s move to No. 2.
2. Post on the right days.
LinkedIn being what it is — a results-driven social network — there has been ample research into when the best times to post are. That research points to Tuesdays through Thursdays as the busiest times.
Set a reminder in your phone to post something on at least one of these days, and maybe try to go all three. On Tuesday and Wednesday, you could post curated content from a site or article you found interesting. On Thursday, shoot for something more original, even if it’s just a blog post on a topic near and dear to your heart (within your professional sphere, of course).
3. Keep it fresh.
We’ve covered the relevant part. A subset of it that needs to be addressed, however, is timeliness. You want what you are posting to be timely. An article on how to use Windows Millennial Edition is not going to hold as much sway as something on, say, blockchain.
If you get in the habit of posting about things that are influencing your network members’ lives now, they will be much more likely to take notice. Why is that important, you may be asking? Because, in short, one of those people could be your next potential employer.
4. Treat your profile page like more than a resume.
Some writers will tell you to turn your LinkedIn profile into your resume, but that only works so long as you understand the new rules of the CV. The modern employers are less impressed by your knowledge and more impressed by what you have done.
That does not mean your credentials are useless. To the contrary. You will want all your educational achievements and work history front and center. But you also will want your page to be dynamic — something that spotlights the best of who you are and why you would be a terrific candidate for any position the companies looking are hiring for.
5. Choose your best photo.
Selfies, no. Random avatars from your favorite movies, forget about it! Think of your LinkedIn profile page as the dust jacket of your book. The profile photo on it is your author picture at the back or on the inside (wherever they go nowadays).
You want potential employers to know that you take every last detail of your career seriously (even if you don’t yet have one).
6. Don’t write a headline, craft it.
Headlines are a dime a dozen on LinkedIn and most of them are terrible because they cut off before getting to anything substantive, and they do not tell employers what they need to know about you as a potential candidate.
Instead of writing a headline with words-and-stuff, you need to carefully craft the words that go into the headline. Each one needs to be highly relevant to what companies in your area are searching for. They also must be honest. They need not be full sentences; just descriptions of what you do work fine.
Mine reads, “Freelance Journalist, Content Writer, SEO Strategist.” It is not an accident that I chose those words. I chose them because many companies posting on LinkedIn have used those exact words to describe the type of candidate they are looking for. As a result, I don’t have to apply to every little job because several companies come to my page on their own.
7. Use a word cloud to harness the power of job postings.
Make your own word cloud by dumping job descriptions in and seeing what stands out. Latch onto the power keywords that will most likely get your profile noticed from a simple search.
Where can you go to make good word clouds? eLearning Industry has a list of eight sources that can take care of this function for your right now.
8. Make great use of your summary.
Your summary offers a good chance to fit in all the detail you initially wanted to put into your headline, but be careful. Brevity always is a virtue to weary HR professionals looking for the best candidates. Get straight to the point. This isn’t a college admission essay. It’s a just-the-facts approach with a dash of personality.
9. Don’t be shy about your successes.
You should take every opportunity when using LinkedIn to broadcast your successes. Now is not the time for modesty. Just let the work speak for itself. Whatever your accomplishments have been in school, lay them out there for all to see. If it’s a really substantive accomplishment, it will require no further embellishment.
10. Turn buzzwords into something substantive.
A lot of poorly written summaries and pages utilize vacuous words like responsible, creative, effective, analytical, strategic, patient, expert, organizational, driven, and innovative. LinkedIn specifically has called out each of these words in their study of the most overused words on the site.
Instead of saying you are strategic, describe in clear step-by-step language how you enacted a strategy that worked. Instead of saying you are analytical, break down the process for how you have analyzed something to a specific benefit. Instead of saying you are creative, describe the creative process. You get the point.
While your LinkedIn profile should have the traditional elements of a resume, it should stray in a couple of key ways. The first, we have already discussed and will more in a moment (being dynamic, not static).
The second, it should be personalized. Don’t try to fake out the employer by acting like you hired a consulting firm to write your bio for you. Just write from the first-person point of view. Yes, you can limit use of the I’s and my’s and mine’s, but save that part for the final proofread and edit.
When getting going, just let loose and write in a conversational language that lets the recruiter know who you are and why they should care.
12. Mind the employment gaps.
Yes, we all experience an employment gap in our lives at some point. (Some of us longer than others.) It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it also is something you won’t want “out there” if you are actively pursuing jobs.
Take advantage of the fact that people can understand a) gaps, and b) slowness to update one’s LinkedIn profile. It likely won’t come up until the later stages of the process anyway, and at that point, a simple explanation of why your work history shows a current job will be perfectly understandable. Leaving long gaps of unemployment is a red flag to recruiters that you may not be the best fit for the position.
13. Go multimedia.
You know all those annoying SlideShare/PowerPoint presentations and multimedia whatevers that your professors and instructors had you do during your education? Hold on to them, because they can make for some pretty great content to your LinkedIn profile while demonstrating competency in the field you are hoping to pursue.
Thankfully, LinkedIn makes it super-easy to upload a link or an infographic or a video/image saved on your computer.
14. Projects, volunteer work, and languages, can make up for a lean work history.
If you are just starting out and have little to no work experience, don’t fret. Everyone starts somewhere, and just because you haven’t had a job per se, that doesn’t mean you fail to bring value. Take, for example, volunteer work or past projects you have worked on.
Maybe you know a second or even a third language. Depending on what you bring to the table in this department, you could end up earning a good salary straightaway. Luckily, LinkedIn has a place where you can provide that information.
15. Request recommendations, but don’t go overboard.
Requesting recommendations from others should always be a priority, but don’t allow it to consume you and don’t let it turn you into a spammer, or you will end up running off valuable connections.
A good rule of thumb is to set aside time once every three to four weeks to ask one of your connections if they would care to offer a recommendation. If they accepted your connection request to begin with, or if you have a personal history with them, they will likely not hesitate.
Make sure you have a right to that recommendation in some way, though. You don’t want to ask people to lie and give recommendations that might compromise their sense of personal ethics. That’s why you should limit the requests — because by going slow, you will be more likely to put thought into the ask.
16. Be exclusionary.
Some people will offer you recommendations or endorsements that may not be relevant to what you are shooting for. No worries. Thank them for doing it and quietly delete. It’s likely they will never notice you did it.
17. Skills maintenance — too many can make you seem outdated.
You may have been super-excited the first time you posted something with a free blogging platform like blogspot, but that doesn’t mean a heck of a lot anymore. Everyone is using WordPress, and they don’t much care for outdated tech.
As certain skills become irrelevant, ditch them. You’re not going to be a more attractive hire just because you decided to throw in everything and the kitchen sink.
18. Got a blog? Add it.
If your blog is a place you can be proud of professionally, then by all means link it to your profile.
19. Join a LinkedIn group.
Fantastic way to make relevant connections and maybe even form your own mastermind group. LinkedIn Groups generate immensely helpful discussion, post relevant content to your career goals, and serve as a breeding ground for references, startups, and other valuable connections.
Find one and jump right in as soon as you join, and always be on the lookout for more.
20. Get as many connections as you can, but each one should make sense.
When you reach out to someone you do not know on LinkedIn (but would like to), be clear and transparent with who you are. Send a personalized note explaining why you want to connect. Then, wait for their acceptance or rejection.
I’ve got over 240 connections now, many of whom I’ve never met, and I have never had someone turn me down using this technique — but then, I knew they would not turn me down because I only asked to connect when I had a relevant reason.
21. Learn about privacy settings.
When you don’t have a job, privacy can be the last thing on your mind. But after you do have a job, some employers will not take kindly to your LinkedIn profile broadcasting how you are looking for work. So go into your settings and make public what you want to make public, make private what you want to make private, and don’t forget to adjust it whenever your fortunes (good or bad) call for it.
22. Be discoverable.
You will get much more value out of your LinkedIn profile if you make it public. While you won’t want to put all your job search eggs into a single basket, anything to help potential employers know you are out there will take you further than locking down privacy.
What say you, students? Do you use LinkedIn? Have you seen the value? If not, put one of these tips to work and watch your options explode.
[Featured Image by SproutSocial]