Whether you’re happy in your job or itching for new opportunities, having a LinkedIn profile and exploring its features can open up many opportunities for your career down the track.
LinkedIn was launched as a professional networking site in 2003 and has become an essential networking tool, with over 7 million users in Australia, more than 433 million worldwide and thousands of employers using the site to recruit staff.
So it’s time to stop ignoring all those invitations, and get linked in now.
Admit it – do you Google yourself? Well, prospective employers will be sure to check out your online baggage too. Interestingly, an effectively built LinkedIn profile will appear above your Facebook page in search results, which gives a better first professional impression.
Once you sign up, change your profile to public in the ‘edit profile’ options. You can also customise your URL to make it more user-friendly, featuring your first and last name. You can include that URL on your resume and on your personal business cards.
Finally, here’s a way to reconnect with old colleagues and people you meet at networking events. Better that industry contacts see your amazing work history rather than those embarrassing Facebook pics of you on a pub crawl.
Any less than 30 connections can look a little lonely but don’t go crazy adding every Tom, Dick and Harry – limit your connections to those people you truly want to stay in touch with.
And if any undesirables request you as a contact, you can simply archive their request to avoid awkwardness.
You also have the opportunity to view the connections of your connections (or ‘second-degree connections’). If you would get in touch with one of them you can simply ask your contact for an introduction.
LinkedIn provides a central hub to connect all the various websites displaying your ideas and skills – including Twitter, blogs, your portfolio and company websites.
While the jury’s still out on adding a photo to a traditional resume, including your headshot in your LinkedIn profile is a great way to add your personality to your profile. Having a photo will also make your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed, according to LinkedIn. Make sure it’s a professional-looking shot – it’s not the place to show off your latest designer bikini.
LinkedIn recently revealed that over 1000 companies in Australia use LinkedIn to hire new employees. Companies advertise jobs on the site and search users to find people with the exact skills they need. Promoting your skills effectively could the difference between being noticed and missing out.
People can search the database using keywords. Search results are displayed by keyword relevance, with the most important words being those included in a user’s headline and summary. Keyword density is also a factor, so try to repeat your main keywords a few times throughout your profile.
LinkedIn will make your current job title your headline by default, but you can change this to something more impressive or eye-catching. For example, if you are a freelance proofreader, you could make your headline ‘Independent Editorial and Proofreading Professional’.
Your summary expands on your headline and gives a brief overview of your professional background. You can limit this to a succinct couple of sentences or go into greater detail if you wish.
Specialties are a feature under summary. Enter areas of expertise here (for example, tax auditing, business development, MYOB), and don’t be afraid to overlap keywords in both sections.
LinkedIn can act as your online resume. Include all details about your education and work history that are relevant to your current industry. Most importantly, include measurable achievements for each role.
Here are some example achievements:
Add authority to your profile by getting recommendations from past bosses, colleagues or business associates. Sending a recommendation request through the site may be considered less obtrusive than emailing them out of the blue.
You can also connect with people with similar interests through LinkedIn Groups. This is a great way to add colour and pizzazz to your profile, showing which areas you’re passionate about.
LinkedIn Groups offer a space for like-minded professionals in the same industry or with shared interests to connect, find answers, share content and expand their professional network. You should choose a group based on your skills and interests, and stay active in conversations to leverage your membership. Asking or answering questions is another way to interact with people on the site and show your enthusiasm and/or expertise.
This is not the place to bend or stretch the truth. Due to the interconnected nature of the site, it’s very easy to contact people who worked with you to verify your claims. So stick to jobs, titles and responsibilities you have actually had.
Find out more about companies by browsing the profiles of people who have worked there – how long did they stay at the organisation and what types of tasks did they perform? You might also want to follow some influencers that inspire you, such as Richard Branson or Arianna Huffington.
And if you’ve got an interview coming up, check out the page of the person who will be interviewing you to find out a little about their history.
Once you've built a strong LinkedIn profile, keep it updated and check back regularly for new connections to add. Interact with your connections to keep your relationships fresh, help them out with recommendations, endorsements or introductions when you can and ask them for help when you need it. A good rule of thumb is to set a reminder to update your LinkedIn profile (and resume!) once a month, so you can add in new achievements as you go along. This way, once you're looking for a job, it'll be one less thing to worry about.