LinkedIn is one of the most valuable tools for job seekers wanting to expand their professional networks and obtaining employment. It’s important to be strategic on LinkedIn, by identifying the “right” people who can assist in landing a desired position. Of course, you will be applying to the many jobs advertised on the LinkedIn job board, but remember you’re one of many candidates doing so. How will you stand out from the crowd?
Read these five tips for building your personal brand and growing your LinkedIn professional network:
1) First Impression Counts
First impressions are important which requires a professional looking photograph (head and shoulder shot is recommended) along with a captivating headline. This isn’t Facebook and a photo should depict a person in a manner appropriate for the workplace.
Don’t go with the default setting of LinkedIn for headlines which uses the last position and place of work as the standard representation. Always think of a LinkedIn headline from a search or keyword standpoint and what job recruiters may be searching for related to your desired job position. What is the value that you can provide to a company as their next hire?
Put in your location and industry below the headline when in the editing mode. Chances are you may not see a perfect match for your industry in the drop down menu, but it’s okay to experiment with different selections. Try an industry and see what kind of response you receive.
Tip: While you’re trying out any changes to your profile, turn off the LinkedIn broadcast feature (under privacy settings – see the drop down menu in top right of website page below your username and photograph) or else every change made is sent to your connections – that’s real annoying! Turn it back on, once you have a completed profile.
You can also increase the chances of showing up in LinkedIn searches by using the same industry relevant keywords found in your headline, and placing them in the summary and job experience sections. But don’t go overboard in this usage, because it can potentially detract from your profile’s key messaging.
Not sure of which keywords to use for your profile? You can pull out a number of job descriptions being advertised and place them into a free tool called Wordle.net which creates a visual representation called a word cloud. You can also look up one or two “model” profiles of people on LinkedIn who have the same job title you are seeking in an organization.
You should also complete the Skills section of LinkedIn and incorporate the same word descriptors (tags) throughout your profile where appropriate. You want to increase the chances of being found during a LinkedIn search.
2) Update your Status Frequently
It’s important to remain visible. Update your status 3 x per week to stay top of mind. Post relevant industry articles; let people know if you’ re attending interesting events; and comment on the updates of others in your network. Make sure you don’t post too frequently or you will clog up the status update feed of your connections.
When looking for appropriate industry content to post, try websites such as Alltop.com, Google News, and Technorati.com. LinkedIn also offers its own platform called Pulse which provides relevant content tailored to your professional interests.
3) Join and Participate in Groups
This is a great way to connect with people and learn about important trends in your industry. It’s critical to stay current while searching for a job and be seen.
Group search helps you search across all the groups on LinkedIn. Enter the appropriate keywords in the advanced search function. Also see which groups your connections belong to by using the filters for 1st degree connections. Look at some of your key connections and “model” profiles, and determine which groups are the best fit.
Focus on the top 3 to 5 groups that match your target industry. Target the most popular discussions in each group. Watch first and learn how people interact in groups before you jump in. You can respond to existing comments or provide your own comments on a particular discussion of interest. Remember to add value in all discussions!
You can request to connect with someone in the same group, but it’s advisable to do so only after interacting with the person in the group discussions. Get to know each other first, just like in real life. By having previous interaction you will increase the chances of having your connection invitation accepted. Make sure you select the radial button for Groups when sending a connection request, indicating you are in the same group to increase your chances for a successful response.
4) Follow Companies
Start by creating your top ten list of companies you would like to work at. LinkedIn’s Company Follow is a great tool for researching companies and for seeing who you’re connected with at companies where you would like to work. You will be able to see your 1st and 2nd degree connections while researching the company (see up to 100 names by clicking on See all). Remember to read Company Updates, Company Insights and posted jobs under the Careers tab.
Reach out to your connections before a job is posted for a phone chat or to meet in person. Those connections can help you with company research and with recommending you for employment with the company of interest. Note that 1st connections can introduce you to the hiring manager who posted a job opportunity or to people of interest within the same organization.
5) Leverage 1st Connections
Visit the profile page of any 1st connection of yours. See Connections and click on it to view all of your shared connections. If your contact hasn’t selected “hide” for connections, you will see them displayed as a total number which can be clicked on to view.
On the right side of the “Connections” window is a magnifying glass. (Whenever you see the magnifying glass, it indicates a searchable item.) Click on the magnifying glass. A little window opens, into which you can type any keyword of your choice. For example, type in your area of expertise: “marketing”, “legal”, “accounting”, etc. Hit enter, and you’ll now see a complete list of your connections’ connections that use the keyword selected within their profiles. This is a great way to search and target people of interest in your field of expertise.
Remember to be authentic on LinkedIn and take the time to understand the people you are trying to connect with. Make your connection requests personal and note shared interests and passions. And just like in real life, what you put in is what you get back.
Wishing you job search success!
Additional Resources for Job Seekers
LinkedIn Help (you must have an account first)
Social Media Examiner Website (search site for LinkedIn articles)