- Wise Words -
Getting started on LinkedIn
by fergus mellon
I am a bit of a social media-phobe in that I am a reluctant member of Facebook and rarely post updates on what I had for lunch and other important aspects of my life. While not being a “social sharer,” I do really value LinkedIn as a professional tool, not just a portable Rolodex, but also as a way to see who in my network could help me with business projects. There may be a long-lost colleague now at a company that I want to do a deal with or someone in my network who can provide a reference on a candidate.
It can also serve as your “professional billboard.” A well-constructed profile can show you in a great light to your industry. I’m amazed when I look at the “who viewed your profile” tab of LinkedIn (yes, LinkedIn shows you this) of just who is interested in me.
Here is the minimum of what I would do on LinkedIn:
Spend Time on Your Profile. Make it look good and ensure that it contains accurate and interesting information. The basics are to have a professional-looking picture of yourself (i.e., not holding a drink), a strong, but concise, summary of your experience and key skills and a description of your current position as well as previous ones. It really is pretty simple: View it as an online version of your résumé.
Remove the dates you spent in college as this can “age” you. Far better that you let your experience and qualifications work for you than being ruled out for roles for which you may be considered either too young or too old.
Link up. Once your professional billboard is complete, focus on getting an audience for it. Connect to everyone you can in your professional network. You don’t need to be desperate about this, but if you have a good interview with someone but don’t get the job, get LinkedIn with him or her. Use your professors and friends from college if you are just starting out and then build your network from there, through current and past colleagues, as well anyone who you take a meeting with and have a professional relationship with. Take advantage also of the service that LinkedIn has of reading your contacts on your personal email account and then inviting these people to connect.
I have a ton of people in my LinkedIn network, and they help me in my career: Some I ask for introductions to companies that I want to partner with. Some I ask for informal references on candidates and some have even helped refer me for a new job with a personal introduction. Some of the people with whom I’ve LinkedIn may never help me (or I may never help them), but it is a real-time directory of the professionals in my industry and is a serious resource for me.
Trade recommendations. If a friend leaves your company, offer to do a “recommendation trade.” Write one for them and ask for one yourself. This may seem a bit yucky, but do it anyway. View it as a professional favor. On a side note, I always have huge flags when people either don’t have recommendations OR have never written a recommendation for someone else, despite having many of their own. The latter person looks like a selfish taker, the former like someone with no professional buddies, so get some and give some!
Getting a reference from a peer or someone who worked for you can be even more useful than one from a former manager: It shows that as well as managing up, you can also manage across and below the organizational totem pole. I have recommendations from the IT guy (and wrote one for him, too!) and am as proud of that reference as I am one from a former manager or business partner.
Respond to recruiters. Always respond to recruiters professionally. The reason is simple: A recruiter could help later on. Keep them happy, and view building and keeping these relationships as a high priority. You just never know where the next big opportunity will come from. If you don’t want a job a recruiter wants to offer you, think of someone who could do the job. It will be great networking. The person you recommend will be glad that you were helping them. The recruiter will view you as an influencer and so when you ask for a job they will think highly of you. This is advice I received from my former and now current manager (amazing how staying in contact can work, right?!).
Share your news. Your company is likely going to have articles published about it as well as make announcements through its PR team. Share these through LinkedIn as they will help increase your company’s profile. By “Sharing” or “Liking” an article through LinkedIn you will be amplifying your company’s efforts.
The other “amplification” I try to do is to post job vacancies in my company to my LinkedIn. This does not just help your company, but as you will have fresh “content” that you are delivering to your network, there is more chance that people will then view your profile. By having more people view your professional billboard you will increase your chances of also landing a great new job.
Lock down your updates. If you are looking for a new job and coming into contact with a lot of hiring managers, recruiters and HR professionals you may want to turn off the “Update My Network” feature. Basically, this is a toggle that lets you stop LinkedIn from broadcasting your updates (new contacts, updates to your profile) to your network. While it is unlikely that your HR team or manager will notice activity around getting a new job, I would still not risk it.
First Published in USA Today