Do you see LinkedIn as mainly a place to keep your online resume, or maybe to connect with some professional colleagues and acquaintances you already know from time to time, because you think, There’s such a buzz on LinkedIn, and everyone else I know is on there, so I guess I should be, too?
Or perhaps you feel, It’s too confusing and overwhelming! Where the heck do I start? — causing you to steer clear of it or limit your usage to the bare minimum.
If you do, you’re not alone. In fact, many of LinkedIn’s approximate 300 million users also view LinkedIn from this same perspective. So, is this “good” or “bad”?
Intrinsically, neither. But if your intention is to proactively and strategically steer the career of your dreams, then this viewpoint is extremely limiting to your professional potential and career path as a whole.
- Is the world’s largest professional network in existence, with over 300 million members and growing.
- Is the major method of sourcing talent in global recruitment and staffing today.
- Is used by 94% of recruiters.
- Is the most trusted central technological resource globally for connecting you to your current business contacts, as well as to an almost limitless network of professionals.
I could go on, but you get the picture. In other words, in this day and age, LinkedIn is the one piece of your multidimensional career strategy that absolutely can no longer be ignored. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
And interestingly, while LinkedIn has grown organically into an unthinkably mammoth and far-reaching phenomenon familiar by name, it still remains a barely-to-modestly understood mystery by the majority of people who use it, most of whom have no idea how to unlock the portal’s huge potential for their career or how to use it to their advantage. And, since you’re here reading this, chances are you are one of them.
And That’s Okay
You see, unless you were personally mentored by a LinkedIn “expert” or you took a formal course or training, it’s a resource one typically learns on their own as they go. And frankly, we’re all busy, so successfully carving out enough time in your busy schedule to sit down and really “master” this technological titan isn’t very realistic.
Having personally worked as a recruiter and headhunter using LinkedIn extensively (i.e. living and breathing it 9+ hours a day, 5 days a week), I learned pretty quickly the inside and out of it, “from soup to nuts,” and this helped me not only as a recruiter, but also as a job seeker. So I get where you are right now, and how you feel, as you try to decode and figure it all out.
Professionally speaking, LinkedIn is a a limitless goldmine of career potential to you. Yep, you heard me right: 1000%, untapped g-o-l-d-m-i-n-e.
Why? Because, as mentioned above, recruiters and potential employers are looking for candidates like you. And almost all of them (94%) are using LinkedIn to find you.
The list of LinkedIn’s potential capabilities, uses and benefits as a powerful resource and ally to your career runs (very) far and wide. There simply isn’t enough time (or space) to list them all here. So, what follows is my special compilation of the five fastest and most powerful ways you can start taking advantage of LinkedIn starting today.
Get ready, in 5-4-3-2-1…
1. Look for Jobs
Under the “Jobs” tab, you can search for jobs, save your searches and set up job alerts (allowing LinkedIn to do the work for you). You can also search for jobs in LinkedIn Groups, an additional secret source of jobs on LinkedIn.
An alternate way to get wind of information pertaining to potential employment trends, shifts or job openings in your industry before they happen — or before they’re announced formally in Jobs or Groups — is to follow universally recognized thought leaders, industry-specific movers and shakers and companies directly. Just click on the “Follow” button on their public profile page.
2. Get Found By Recruiters and Employers
In order to be found by recruiters and employers, you need to first be visible to them. In turn, ensuring the completeness of your name, profile, contact/security settings, and using the right the right keywords makes all the difference for potential employers being able to successfully notice you and, most importantly, be able to easily reach you.
Profile: Set your public profile so it is visible (I recommend “to everyone”). You can do this under “Settings,” “Edit Your Public Profile” and then “Profile Content.” Why? If recruiters can’t find you, trust me, they will move on quickly to the next candidate they can find. Time is money to them.
Contact/Security Settings: “Contact Info” is where you can input your website(s), Twitter address, email, phone, and address. If you have a website, blog, Twitter account, Pinterest, etc., be sure to add them in here. You want people to view as vast a representation of you and your specialized knowledge/expertise as possible.
Keywords: The right keywords can make or break your profile effectiveness, visibility and irresistibility to potential employers. Keywords are those words and phrases that are relevant to your role, your industry and your desired role or industry. That’s why you absolutely must use and scatter them throughout your profile as a whole; the more relevant keywords throughout your profile, the more apt employers will be find you via the LinkedIn search engines.
3. Use It As a Research Tool
Preparing for Interviews: Once you’ve asked for your interview agenda ahead of time (hint!), use LinkedIn to look up your interviewers (and their current colleagues) to learn about them personally as well as professionally.
What career paths have they all taken to date (are there similarities or trends). What schools did they go to (do you have an alma mater in common)? What are their interests and hobbies? All of these give you a better sense of your interviewers as people and allow you to more easily and confidently build a friendly, dynamic rapport and connection as soon as you walk in the door — and first impressions are everything.
As an added bonus, post-interview, you can send connection requests to your interviewers to stay connected and build your network further, even if you don’t get the job.
Asking for a Promotion: If you have your eye on a better job or promotion, search for your desired job title on LinkedIn to view the profiles of people who currently have that position. This gives you a good idea what qualifications, skills and experience you need to reach that level, either at your current company or at another company you’re targeting.
4. Expand Your Network and Connections
Look at your existing Linked connections to find new people who would be valuable to add to your network, for either your current or future career endeavors. Perhaps one of them knows that recruiter who can help you get your foot in the door with a job application or interview, or they can make an introduction to someone else in your industry on your behalf (adding instant credibility).
Like mentioned above, don’t forget to continue to build your connections after any interview; send connection requests to your interviewers to stay in touch and build out your network further. You never know: you might not get that job, but if you made a positive impression on an interviewer and you make the effort to stay in touch afterwards, you’ll already be on their radar when it comes time for them to staff a similar role again.
5. Build Your Credibility and Personal Brand
Join and Post in Groups: LinkedIn is full of groups for almost every profession and skill set. LinkedIn groups (over 1.8 million and counting) are an excellent way to meet others in your industry/niche, get expert advice, stay up to date with industry news and share your own knowledge and experience, building your professional credibility and image as an expert in your specialty field.
You can search groups (use the search box in the upper right-hand corner of your screen) or browse the directory to find groups that are a good fit for your field, expertise and/or location. You can be a member of up to 50 groups at any one time.
Get Recommendations: Ask current and former colleagues to write a personal recommendation on your behalf of their experience working with you — your unique skills and qualifications, abilities, accomplishments, etc. — which in turn appears on your profile. This is a powerful and effective way to instantly build your credibility and reputation; written recommendations in black and white are true indications of another professional “going to bat” for you and backing up the claims you make in your profile.
It’s the combination of the quantity and quality of your activity in groups — coupled with the completeness and attractiveness of your profile, recommendations, connections and more — which together create the personal brand you impart upon the professional world at large.
That Wasn’t So Bad, Was It?
In fact, it was pretty fast, furious and functional!
I encourage you to go forth in applying the five strategies above to build your familiarity with and confidence in using LinkedIn to its full potential to your career development, one step at a time.
What steps can you take today to make LinkedIn work harder for your career? Share in the comments!