Advice: How to make LinkedIn work for you
I would like to argue that LinkedIn is the most important social media platform for us, millennials, to be using. Why? Because LinkedIn gets you jobs. Jobs get you money. Money is dope.
Now, this is not to discredit your passion for photography, or gif creation, or tweeting. Do those things. Love those things! But as a generation that’s paying $100,000+ just to get educated…
You need a job.
“But I have a job!” you say.
That is wonderful! Seriously. Being employed these days sometimes feels like an accomplishment in and of itself. But my dad always told me that the best time to look for a job is when you already have one, and I agree. What’s the harm in setting yourself up to be approached by other companies and recruiters and HR departments in the midst of already being comfortably employed?
Literally not a single thing. And this, my friends, is why I have pretty much conclusively determined that LinkedIn is magical.
On average, I’m getting 1-2 messages from interested companies on LinkedIn a week. A WEEK. And I’m not doing anything but living my life.
I’ve been a LinkedIn junkie since I first started working in 2011, so I’ve had some time to figure out what works for me on the platform. I’ve had a lot of friends ask me for help with their own INstrategy (not sure that’s a thing, but I’m making it one), so I thought I’d write a post to share the love.
Here’s the deal:
You need to invest the upfront time in getting your profile right. It’s going to be way less fun than uploading your latest pictures to Instagram, but please see my point above re: jobs. This is a time investment that could reap major, sustained benefits for you. And once you get your profile right, the updates you’ll be making to it as your career progresses will be way less time-consuming.
Speaking of updates – keep your profile up to date. LinkedIn should reflect the latest and most accurate career-related information you have to offer at all times. Remember: you’re interesting! And you deserve to have companies be interested in talking to you.
Now that you promise to invest the time necessary to get your profile right AND keep it updated forever and ever and always, it’s time to get a picture. You need a professional LinkedIn picture. It really shouldn’t be a picture from a wedding (unless maybe you’re a wedding planner). It really shouldn’t be a picture where you cropped out everyone else around you (unless you’re in middle school and this is MySpace again). It also shouldn’t be blurry, dull, or weirdly lit – regardless of who you are. Every industry has its own vibe and some are more artistic and some are more lax and others are way more uptight. Whatever picture you choose, it should be the right kind of “professional” for the profession you’re in.
Include your full resume – company, title, length of time in role and what you did – under the Experience section. Make sure you’ve typed your company correctly and linked it to the actual company page on LinkedIn (LinkedIn will give you a drop down of company pages to link to when you fill out this section of your profile). When you do it right, you get a fun little icon representing your company’s logo next to each of your roles! When you do it wrong, you get a horrendous gray box that basically declares that attention to detail is not your thing. **Note: in the instance that you work for a really small company, it might not have a page on LinkedIn. In this case, the gray box situation is totally cool. **Another note: once you’ve gone through everyone’s least-favorite-process of writing your resume on LinkedIn, LinkedIn can export it into an ACTUAL resume for you. OR, you can upload your own resume to begin with, and avoid the pain of typing everything all over again.
Include a Headline. A Headline is the line or two of text that goes directly under your profile picture. The default on LinkedIn is to have that line be your current title. I don’t use my current title as my headline because I use my current title in my current title section under Experience. And I think profile real estate is precious so I want to use every square inch of mine to convey a different piece of information about how badly you should want to work with me. My current LinkedIn headline is (generally) this: Marketer | Creative Writer | MBA
Make sure your Location and Education are correct. For location, I like to use where I actually live as opposed to the city where I work (for some of us, those are different) because – once again – I don’t like to duplicate information anywhere on my profile. And, as far as Education goes, make sure you’re tagging to your college’s page and including the right dates of attendance.
Those other areas:Volunteer Experience: If you have it, fill it in! And, again, tag to the organization’s page, if they have one.
Skills and Endorsements: I’ve pretty much added every skill listed that I actually have. I probably have something like 20+ skills included in this section. Sometimes, when your contacts log onto LinkedIn, this box will pop up that gives them the option to endorse you for a certain skill (basically, they click a box that says you aren’t lying) and as your endorsements grow, that skill floats to the top of that section. I’m a marketer by day (book-writing old lady by night), and my endorsements have caused ‘marketing’ to bubble to the top of my skills. This, by LinkedIn’s standards, makes me legit.
Accomplishments: You undoubtedly have some! Write about them here.
Interests: Same rules as what applies for ‘Accomplishments.’
Recommendations: Harass your friends at work and make them write you one. It doesn’t have to be crazy long. But have them do it. That’s what friends are for. And ideally get a boss or two to write you one as well.
Lastly, TURN OFF notifications to your network about the changes you’re making. Except for when you should keep them on. As a general rule, make sure notifications to your network are turned off when you’re working on your profile (there’s a button you can click as you’re making edits to say whether or not you want your network to be notified that you’re making changes). The one time you probably should notify your network of changes is when you’ve started a new job and are adding that to your experience. I think of “notifying my network” as the LinkedIn equivalent of standing and shouting something from the mountaintops. Should everyone hear me bellowing about changing that old summer internship end date from July to August? Probably not. Should everyone hear me cheering about a new job/promotion? YES! And when you elect to notify your network of major accomplishments like that, they’ll get the chance to congratulate you and leave comments and share in your celebration.
SO, CONGRATS! Now your profile is all setup and you’re ready to start using it to make some INmagic. Here’s what made the difference, for me, between being someone with a kick ass profile to being someone with a kick ass profile who gets companies’ attention.
Connections. You have to have 500. You just do. I don’t know why, but it’s a thing and all these alarm bells go off in people’s heads if you don’t. It’s like the digital equivalent of not having enough friends to sit at the cool lunch table. Back in 2011 when I first started going INsane for LinkedIn, I would scroll through my recommended connections every day until I found ten people I could send an invite to. I did that until I reached 500. Now I’m somehow at 1,400+ without even trying to get there.
Engage. ‘Like’ stuff. LinkedIn, like all social platforms these days, has a ‘like’ button. Comment on posts you find interesting. Make a post of your own every now and then. LinkedIn makes it super easy for you to find ways of engaging because they have this Notifications section that pretty much outlines every interesting thing that happened in your network while you were gone. You can literally scroll through that list, ‘like’ a couple updates, send a nice “Congrats!” to your colleague who got promoted and call it a day within 30 seconds.
STAY OUT OF PRIVATE MODE. Seriously. If you want to stalk someone, do it on a different platform. LinkedIn is NOT about anonymity. It’s about parading around your plumage like the metaphorical peacock that you are. One of my strategies is to purposely look at an interesting recruiter’s profile, knowing she’ll get an alert that I did, because human nature will practically require her to look at my profile in return. A handful of times, that one gesture leads to the recruiter actually sending me a message to chat! This is why private mode is NOT your friend. You wouldn’t flirt with someone with a bag over your head, would you?
Follow companies that inspire you/people you admire. LinkedIn lets you follow people and companies so you get alerted to their posts directly on your news feed. It’s a cool way to keep tabs on what some of the biggest names in business are talking about, AND you’ll be the first to know when a company posts about a new job opening.
Update your career settings. Go to the ‘Jobs’ tab, and then edit your Career INterests (sorry, I can’t stop). You can get SUPER particular here about what you’re looking for in a job. Then, turn ‘on’ the notice that lets recruiters know you’re open. And leave it on. Forever. This will make you more of a priority when they’re looking for talent because they’ll know you’re down to talk. There is nothing wrong with talking! Not to mention the fact that LinkedIn has some kind of magical algorithm that protects you from worrying about people from your current company seeing your candidate status. So, talk away!
That being said, I take the time to talk to EVERYONE. Look, they very well might be selling something you’re not buying. And that’s fine. But in two years, they might be a recruiter somewhere else and you might have a terrible new manager and you never know when that relationship might be valuable. So, if recruiters take the time to message me, I do them the solid of having a conversation (via phone or messenger). It’s cool to say that you aren’t interested in that role but want to get on their radar for future opportunities. A fair number of the recruiters who reach out to me are the ones I’ve already spoken to before. Just be honest about what you’re looking for and start the relationship! (And then send them an invite to connect so you can keep tabs on one another in the future.)
LinkedIn Learning. LinkedIn has this new offering called LinkedIn Learning, which lets experts use online video to train you on literally every semi-professional topic you could want to know about. Seriously. You get a month free trial, so you might as well check it out and see what you can learn.
But also just click around. LinkedIn has so many cool ways of giving you insights on your network, highlighting opportunities for you to be referred to a position by one of your connections, letting you know how your salary stacks up to others with your same title…I love that stuff. Let LinkedIn tell you something you might not have known about yourself!
Use it every day. Log into LinkedIn every day, at least once. Engage and peek at profiles and see if there are any new recommended connections you should send an invite to. Put a little bit of work into it constantly – not just when you need it for something – and it will do a lot of work for you.
Good luck out there! And, remember, you are INstoppable. (You know what I mean.)