As most professionals know, LinkedIn is the equivalent of Facebook in the professional world. There are lots of articles, blogs and even some webinars on how to use LinkedIn more effectively. However, I still find that many professionals do not have a proper profile on LinkedIn, tend to ignore requests for connections and don’t bother with the finer aspects of LinkedIn like joining Groups, responding to Questions or creating Recommendations. It is only when one is in a job search mode that one then thinks of updating one’s LinkedIn profile, creating connections, etc. And since job moves are often like stock market cycles – impossible to time perfectly – you may have missed out on several opportunities before you went into job search mode just because you were not on the LinkedIn radar of headhunters
Yes, LinkedIn is probably the most popular hunting ground for executive search firms and therefore, it is vital to have a detailed LinkedIn profile with lots of connections when you are looking for a new role. However, I feel that networking on LinkedIn can yield lots of professional benefits as well and therefore, it is good to maintain an effective presence on an ongoing basis. Plus you have the added benefit of receiving a call from a headhunter offering you a dream role when you were not in active job search mode, which I mentioned earlier.
So here are some pointers on what I feel needs to be done to have an effective profile on LinkedIn:
- Profile Data: Your profile should be like a mini resume with the Summary section highlighting your executive bio and the Experience section listing all your roles (with Designations, Dates and a couple of lines on that role). If you have over 20 years of experience, you could list the role for the latest 15 years and ignore the earlier ones. But there is no harm listing all your roles because you could reconnect with someone who was your colleague a few decades back because he/she could find you through your listing of that job role. Also, list all your education details since you could also connect with classmates through this site. An important point to make your profile stand out is to create a Professional Headline that summarizes who you are as a professional in just a few words and is also catchy. Also, pick the Industry that best describes your job role. Remember that searches are often conducted using Keywords and therefore the more information you put in your profile, the more often it will show up when searches are conducted using relevant keywords
- Profile Photo: Your photo is like your calling card or logo and needs to reflect your professional personality and not you on a vacation or at a social event. It needs to be attractive to your potential clients or audience and not detract or distract them. Moreover, it needs to be a recent photo and not one from your archives, so that when you meet one of your connections they are not grappling with a disconnect between the face they were expecting to see and your present one.
- Profile Visibility: You can decide who can view your profile information in your Account Settings – whether it is visible to your connections only or to a wider network. I recommend that your profile should be visible to everyone, even those not on LinkedIn, so that you create more visibility for yourself. Of course, you also need to be careful about the information you list on your profile and therefore I would avoid putting any personal info or listing my mobile number and personal email ID (unless I am desperately looking for a job). I also recommend listing your blog-site, web-site and Twitter ID on your profile and also providing a link to your LinkedIn profile in your email signature. You can also connect LinkedIn with Twitter so that your updates on LinkedIn are tweeted and vice versa. You can also customise the URL to your public profile so that it reflects your name and looks more personalized. Review your Contact Settings from time to time since LinkedIn may have new features and settings and you need to stay upto date so that your Contact Settings are set at what is most appropriate for you.
- Connections: Your LinkedIn network consists of your connections, their connections and the connections at the 3rd degree of separation. On an average, each person has approx 100 connections. Therefore, if you create just one connection, your LinkedIn network is approximately 10,000 (100 X 100). Which seems quite a lot of people with little effort. However, I recommend that you should aim to have at least 100 connections within the first month of getting active on LinkedIn (which will give you access to around 1 million out of the over 100 million (and growing) users on LinkedIn as on date). I also recommend that it is better to have a very diverse set of connections so that the overlap in connections at the 2nd and 3rd degree is minimal and your network becomes larger. Therefore, look for school & university classmates, friends in different professions, colleagues in different countries, etc. Be responsive to all LinkedIn requests and constantly look for people to add to your network. LinkedIn recommends that you should not accept invites from people you don’t know and you certainly shouldn’t send out invites indiscriminately, since they could be reported as Spam by the person receiving the invite. LinkedIn has also become user-friendly to expand your network by recommending people you may know on the right side of the home page. I have been a LinkedIn user for just over 5 years now and have built a network of almost 800 connections and that is after having rejected a few thousand requests from people I don’t know. My network gives me access to almost 9 million professionals in the LinkedIn network, in my view pretty much anyone I may need to reach out to for my professional work.
- Recommendations: LinkedIn allows you to post recommendations for colleagues, service providers and business partners. Similarly, you can receive recommendations from people you have interacted in the workplace or in other professional settings. It’s OK to request for recommendations as well, but ensure that you ask the right people. Recommendations are an excellent way to bolster your credentials since they will be viewed by headhunters, potential employers, your clients, business partners, etc. My recommendation is to focus on quality rather than quantity – have a few really strong recommendations, perhaps just one or two for each job role, and avoid what I have seen in a few profiles where the person has tried to bolster his/her weak credentials by having recommendations from what seems like everyone the person has interacted with for that role. It is natural to just skip something when one sees a really long list of items and that’s what probably happens if one has 10 plus recommendations listed for every job role. An interesting viewpoint I came across recently is that you must look up the recommendations for your future boss before being hired. None of us have the audacity to ask a potential boss for references and LinkedIn has given us an easy way of getting this information.
- Groups: LinkedIn now has professional networking groups in almost every field and geography. Each user is allowed to join upto 50 networking Groups and therefore, I recommend looking for Groups which are relevant for your work and have a large number of members since all the members of that group get added to your tally of connections. Most large organisations have Alumni Groups and I suggest that you join them to stay in touch with former colleagues. I also recommend getting active in your groups by participating in the discussion topics posted by members of the group. That way you become visible to LinkedIn members who may not encounter you otherwise. Also, you can start your own professional networking group, if you find an area that is not covered already. However, by now almost all the popular areas are already covered and you may only find a niche area where you will end up with very few members in your group.
- Answers: Not many people know that LinkedIn has a section called “Answers” – where you can post questions under a range of listed categories and anyone can reply to those questions. I suggest that providing answers to some of the questions posted in this section is a great way to improve your visibility (provided you have made a meaningful comment, of course). Somewhat similar to Twitter, people can start following you or you can follow someone who has given excellent answers.
- LinkedIn Applications: Another aspect that is not well-known is the useful apps that LinkedIn has on its website. Both Answers and Applications are found under the “More” tab on the Home Page. Browse through the list of apps and choose a few you could find useful. I personally like SlideShare to publish presentations on my firm and BlogLink & WordPress to publicize my blogs. I have seen some of my connections use Tripit to plan travels and Polls to get feedback from your connections and others.
- Visit the site regularly: One final viewpoint – visit the site regularly and glance through the updates posted by your connections. It’s always nice to congratulate a contact on his/her recent job move or to compliment them on a useful blog. Some people post interesting news articles and you could find some of these very useful reading. Check out if your phone has a LinkedIn app that can be downloaded on it – it makes the browsing through the updates so much easier. You can take a few seconds doing this while travelling in an elevator. Also, make it a habit to look for someone’s profile on LinkedIn before you meet them for the first time – especially if it is a job interview. It always impresses the person you are meeting, that you have taken the trouble to know about them in preparation for the meeting.
As always, would love to receive your feedback and comments on my blog. Also feel free to share this on your LinkedIn or Facebook profile or pass it on to anyone who may find this blog useful
Categories: Career Advice
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