LinkedIn is the main social media website for job seeking, making connections and growing a professional career. 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find job candidates, yet Millennials are behind other generations when it comes to utilizing its services. According to a Pew Research Center study last year, 61% of LinkedIn users are aged 30-64. 18-29 year-olds account for just 23% of LinkedIn traffic.
Emily Wagner, who I interviewed for my article on underemployment, uses LinkedIn regularly for her position as Partner and Managing Director at Webber Kerr Associates, an executive search and management consulting firm. Ms. Wagner gave my neglected LinkedIn profile a makeover and shared her advice for how to use the platform to attract professional opportunities.
1. Use LinkedIn To Take Charge Of Your Professional Image
“LinkedIn is important because it allows young professionals to take charge of their personal branding online,” says Wagner. “As we live in such a technologically savvy time, if someone—a hiring company, a client, a recruiter—wants to find information about a person they could potentially hire, they will find it.”
According to Career Glider, 55% of hiring managers have reconsidered a candidate based on their social media postings. Search your name on Google to make sure that no inappropriate posts or images surface, and if there are any drunken college photos visible on Facebook, remove them pronto.
2. Craft A Thoughtful Profile
The first piece of advice Wagner had for me was to remove my café server job from my profile. She clarified that I should never lie to a potential employer about my work history, but when it came to my profile, I should focus on “showcasing the skills [you] want to highlight.”
“It is OK in my eyes to leave off college or interim jobs that do not speak to your career path,” she says. “So many people waited tables while in school or as extra income, but it isn’t always necessary to list every single employer.”
In my case, this meant emphasizing the freelance writing, editing and marketing work that I do part time. Wagner suggested I list a few of my articles under the “Publications” heading, but to keep the fluff to a minimum and only share what I considered to be my best work.
3. Choose A Good Photo
“I recommend having a photo because it shows you put effort into making and maintaining your profile and take it seriously as a professional tool,” says Wagner.
Just how important is your photo? According to Forbes, you are seven times more likely to have your profile viewed if your face is visible to users. Wagner advised me to keep my photo up-to-date and polished, and to get a headshot done professionally if possible. For now, I’m using one which I took myself, but I made sure to have styled hair, neat makeup and a plain background. Remember that this isn’t Facebook, so you don’t want to look too glamorous, nor too casual.
4. Write An Intriguing Summary
Wagner explains that the main objective of the summary is to, “tie your education and experience together to tell the viewers what your personal and professional goals are from a broader view.”
Wagner wrote me a template emphasizing my professional and academic background, as well offering “a little bit of personality”—in my case, the fact that I moved from the U.K. to the U.S. I tweaked it to fit my own voice and writing style, but kept the professional tone. Writing the summary actually helped me to identify my successes so far, as well as my hopes for the future.
5. Grow Your Network
I had 40 LinkedIn connections when I first met with Wagner, so I was horrified when she told me my goal was to get to at least 500.
“The more relevant 1st level connections you have, the more 2nd and 3rd level connections this will open you up to, increasing the chances of your profile and content being seen by the right people,” she says.
My impression was that LinkedIn was strictly for connecting with people I had already met, but Wagner told me not to worry about this. LinkedIn is not as random as Twitter but not as personal as Facebook—rather, it is a place to share professional content and connect to those who have common goals. To find new connections, do an Advanced search and restrict the criteria by job title, location, industry and more.
6. But Make Sure Your Connections Are Relevant
As of today, I have 215 connections. It really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to get started. The more I interacted and connected with people, the more requests I had from others.
Wagner advised me to, “put effort into making them quality, relevant connections.” My efforts were put to the test when a couple of people emailed me to ask why I wanted to connect, because they didn’t like their connections to be random. I was a little fearful at first, but I wrote back and explained what my goals were, and the fact that I was interested in their career path and expertise.
Despite the fact that so many of my connections are not my friends or colleagues, I have been discerning about who I asked to connect with, and this means my LinkedIn feed is a rich source of industry news and opportunities.
7. Join Groups
Finally, I had been doing something right: I was already a member of a number of groups for my schools, hobbies and interests.
“When you join a group, it gives you 2nd level access to the other group members,” says Wagner. “If you are looking to further your career, it will never hurt to join several groups of like-minded professionals who exchange thoughts and ideas.”
I use the groups to learn more about industries that interest me. They’re an inside look at different career paths and a way to make connections at the same time. If you join a few groups and find your inbox is flooded, never fear—you can adjust your email settings for each group if you don’t want tons of notifications.
8. Check In Often
Once you’ve given your profile a makeover, don’t just log out and be done for six months. Keep updating your profile with new photos, work experience and volunteer activities. Make more connections, and get to know your existing connections better. Participate in the groups. Write and share posts. Make sure to stay relevant and don’t let your profile stagnate, even if you’re not currently job searching.
9. Share Relevant Content
“Log in several times a week and share posts if you have something interesting to contribute to your network,” says Wagner. “But don’t force content you are lukewarm about just because. Everything you share is a reflection of your professional brand.”
Since I personally read and share a lot of articles on Facebook, I try to do the same on LinkedIn. I also make it a habit to share all of my own articles. LinkedIn shows you how many views your posts are getting, which is how I know that my Harry Potter article was extremely popular with my connections (I told you I chose them wisely).
10. Keep It Professional
“LinkedIn is not Facebook,” says Wagner. “That pertains to your photos and both content in your profile and content being shared by you.”
So, maybe don’t post clips of Disney movies on LinkedIn. And be very careful if you have Facebook and LinkedIn open at the same time. (This is how my connections very nearly got a YouTube link to “Just Around The Riverbend” from “Pocahontas.”)
“Be articulate and polished in your words and remember that everything you put online is a part of your personal and professional brand,” says Wagner. “Take ownership of your brand with your goals in mind.”
Have any questions about LinkedIn? Tweet us @LitDarling!