LinkedIn has 347 million members in 200 countries, so just having a profile is not enough. Make it work harder, and build connections before you actually need them, says our exec careers coach
A well-written LinkedIn profile is a ubiquitous part of job seeking, as well as a vital snapshot of the contribution you make within your current organisation. Whether you are actively on the job market, building a portfolio career or still climbing the corporate ladder, it is not acceptable to have a lame profile, or to get your PA to write one for you.
Show that you are tech savvy by crafting an edgy profile that portrays your years of experience as an asset, not a liability.
LinkedIn says you are seven times more likely to be contacted if you have a profile photograph. You look completely digitally challenged by not having one: it means you have something to hide or you can’t work out how to upload a photo.
Get a picture of you at your professional best, taken after a trip to the hairdressers if it makes you feel better. Recruiters don’t have time now to meet with candidates speculatively so they want to see what you look like from your profile. That means you, not your logo.
LinkedIn is a networking site. So, network! It’s not enough just to be on LinkedIn; you have to work it.
Research tells us that it’s not your connections who are the most likely source of future work – it’s your connections’ connections. So the more ex-colleagues, peers, past employers, suppliers, old friends, university mates, people you meet at conferences and so on that you connect with the better. Transfer your whole contacts list on to LinkedIn.
Engage with people and build relationships across generations, not just your peers. Use old-fashioned manners in a digital medium. Congratulate people, endorse them, comment on posts, share interesting information that reflects your wisdom and expertise.
You are a senior, respected person so make judicious recommendations. Never make reciprocal recommendations; they look contrived. Demonstrate that you keep up with trends by joining relevant groups and participating in discussions. LinkedIn lets you message people in the same group, even if you aren’t directly connected to them.
Put in personal messages when you ask people to connect and send thank you messages when they ask you.
Be particularly charming if you are trying to connect with someone you don’t know; they are more likely to accept your invitation if you explain why you have searched out their profile and how connection could benefit them.
Similarly, accept invitations from people you don’t know if they work for organisations you are interested in, or if they have access to an interesting network. (If they don’t have either, and can’t be bothered to put in a personal invitation, just delete their invitation.)
Connections are just that; they’re not friends or people you recommend, merely people who help you to reach out further. You want a balance of quantity and quality for the clever algorithms to work.
You don’t need to pay for a premium service if you use it properly by building connections and by optimising your profile with the right keywords for your skills and experience.
Customise your LinkedIn URL and put it on your email signature and CV; again, it shows you are tech savvy and keen to network.
Like your CV, your LinkedIn profile should be written with the reader in mind. Show what you can do for your connections or any potential employers. Don’t just tell us everything you’ve ever done in your career. We don’t care!
So don’t just cut and paste your job description. Explain clearly (and briefly) what your remit is, so we understand what you do and how you fit in to your organisation.
Then tell us what you have achieved. Being mindful of your organisation’s social media policy (it’s about time they had one), quantify your achievements so we know how good you are. “Exceeded target by xx%”, “Handled more claims than any other Loss Adjuster in the team”, and so on.
This shows that you are still focused and passionate about what you do and will continue to keep up the pace in a new role.
Decide if you need to put your entire career history on there or limit it to the last 15 or 20 years. You don’t need to put in every separate role you’ve had within the same organisation: people will assume that you have been stuck in one company for too long and can’t see the wood for the trees.
Look at the wording of other profiles or job descriptions from your sector and make sure your terminology is up to date.
Include recent qualifications that are relevant to what you want to do next. But if you moved on from secretarial work years ago, don’t tell us your typing speeds. And nothing dates you more than your O Level grades. Leave out your graduation date, too.
Like the personal statement section of a CV, the summary should tell us what you have done in the past, what you want to do next and the skills and experience that bridge the two. Put some passion into it, talk about the challenges in your industry that you want to meet.
Show your work by adding recent presentations, documents and links. Keep up the energy level with some contemporary causes that you care about and some energetic hobbies.
Don’t have more than one LinkedIn profile even if you have several strands to your career. The modern polymath just fits all his job titles in his headline: Leonardo Da Vinci: Painter, Sculptor, Architect, Musician, Mathematician.