LinkedIn has changed the professional networking landscape forever. Not only has it turned the world of recruiting on its head, but it is also one huge-scale and never-ending networking event, albeit without the free drinks and awkward small talk.
We are now able to make connections with like-minded professionals while also putting our best selves in front of potential employers, all through a website or app. With workplaces opting to engage more freelancers and the increased prevalence of digital start-ups, LinkedIn’s limitless structure means that it has become an invaluable professional tool for today’s autonomous, personal-branded professional.
Researchers at global economy think-tank the McKinsey Global Institute have even estimated that 11 per cent of the world’s current service jobs could be carried out remotely, and this number is likely to surge as technology opens up more flexible versions of the modern workplace. Essentially, the need for broadening your own network and establishing yourself as an authority in your field has never been greater.
With all this self-promotion, you would be forgiven for thinking that human resources departments and recruitment agencies were starting to feel superseded by LinkedIn. On the contrary, the site has become another avenue for head hunting, sourcing new talent and gaining a better overview of candidates than the traditional CV.
Michael Connell, Director of Human Resources Asia Pacific at Survey Sampling International, is no stranger to the site:
‘LinkedIn is great as you get exposure to global HR trends and you can reach out to others in your field for support and ideas. You have to keep up with trends, technology and methodology to remain competitive in the market. Myself and my team use LinkedIn a lot especially as we’re looking after five countries and we like to keep up to date with IR laws of those countries.’
Connell also talks about the benefits of creating ‘talent pipelines’. These are online LinkedIn communities of prospective employees with specific skillsets that may benefit the business. HR managers build relationships with these professionals so that when a job becomes available within the organisation, it’s not a matter of advertising and hiring, but choosing from within an already established talent group.
And with LinkedIn hitting 3.5 million Australian members in April 2014, it seems clear that employers, employees, and recruiters alike are taking part.
There’s just one problem.
People aren’t making the most of it.
Many people realise the need, or have felt obligated, to create a profile but haven’t even got as far as putting a face to their name. An unprofessional LinkedIn profile can make you look just that – unprofessional. My own LinkedIn page left a lot to be desired when I first joined the site, but over time I learned how to optimise my profile and keep it relevant.
Here are some tried-and-tested tips on how to increase your LinkedIn presence and get the most out of this serious social site.
You know that little prompt at the top of your profile asking you to fill in details about your professional history? Answer it! Treat your profile like a resume or, as Michael Connell calls it, your ‘personal brand’. You wouldn’t send in a job application with only a list of your previous job titles and no professional summary, so don’t do it on your LinkedIn profile either. But don’t overdo it either, as no one will appreciate a profile that reads like War and Peace. Make sure that you have a keyword-rich summary that reflects your experience.
The difference between LinkedIn and Facebook is the same as the difference between your office and the pub. What happens at the pub generally doesn’t mix with the workplace and so it should be on your networking sites. This includes cropping your friends out of images of drunken nights to use as your LinkedIn profile pic. If your work doesn’t take corporate photos, take your own. All you need is a friend (or a camera with a timer) and a plain wall as a background. And even if you’re camera shy like me, don’t forget to include a profile picture - your profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if you have one!
Your career is a work in progress, and so is your LinkedIn profile. If you went to a networking event, signed in and then stood in the corner for the rest of the night, I can tell you now that you wouldn’t be leaving with anything more than a mild buzz from the open bar. LinkedIn is teeming with interesting and highly useful information across a range of industries, including yours. Reading, sharing and creating your own content will not only get you noticed, you’ll remain informed about what’s going on in the professional landscape. Connell bluntly states that from an HR perspective, potential candidates who don’t keep their profile up to date ‘get passed over.’
When you leave a company, having your colleagues as LinkedIn connections is like having a letter of reference. Endorsements and referrals will show future employers your strengths through the eyes of others, which can be twice as valuable as you simply selling yourself. Remember that these are relevant connections who have their own networks too, and you never know when contacts like that could come in useful.
LinkedIn offers its members the option to publish their professional insights, based on their expertise and interests, so you should definitely make the most of it! While this won't catapult you to LinkedIn Influencer status, it is a great platform from which to share your work, your industry knowledge and experience. Your connections will receive notifications when you publish content and members who aren’t connections can still choose to follow your posts. Publishing won’t just establish you as an authority in your field, but it could expand your network and future job opportunities.
In a world where even Barbie has a LinkedIn profile, positioning herself as an entrepreneur inspiring generations of young women, the time really has come to think about your own LinkedIn brand. So don’t be afraid to jump on the LinkedIn bandwagon and create a profile to be proud of.