LinkedIn is THE social platform for career and professional networking — it is quite similar to Facebook, but where Facebook aims at keeping you in the loop regarding your personal relationships, LinkedIn aims to keep you in the know about your peers’ professional endeavors.
This article will show you how to stand out from the other candidates by becoming a LinkedIn power user and grabbing your dream job.
Find What You’re Looking For
Why Use LinkedIn?
With the abundance of social media platforms from which you can choose, why should you use LinkedIn? Well, the short answer is that it can help you grow your career. Below is a list of functions that you may carry out using the Linkedin social network:
- Recruiting for a position
- Job Hunting
- Checking out Industry-specific News
- Social-Proof and Representation
Recruiting for a Postion
First, recruiters are on LinkedIn. While over 98% indicate that they use some form of social media during the recruiting process in 2013, over 97% specifically indicated that they use LinkedIn. (As you are probably aware, social media is also not something that is waning — its influence only grows as time progresses).
Connections and Networking
Second, connections matter. Over half a billion people are on LinkedIn, and by developing relationships (even somewhat superficial digital ones), you see more and hear more about the happenings in your industry (or industries in which you are interested).
Finally, social proof matters. Everyone does research on everything, and it makes sense that people want to know more about the companies and the people they work with. As such, LinkedIn provides you with a way to present yourself beyond what people can see when meeting you briefly or what you write on your resumes and cover letters.
Using LinkedIn can have a real impact on your career, so it is important to put your best foot forward — while its digital nature makes it seem like a more casual space, you should still aim to polish your profile and present yourself in the best possible light. After all, you never know who might stumble upon and view your profile!
Learning How to Optimize Your Use of LinkedIn
Given the (professional and career-related) stakes involved, it is a good idea to put your best foot forward on Linkedin or else risk missing out on that dream job.
Just as you would not just hand over a shoddy resume, you should strive to create the best possible LinkedIn profile (presentation counts!).
We know you are busy and that you might not be completely convinced that LinkedIn is worth your time and effort yet. As such, we promise to cover all of the tips and tricks you need to improve your profile and become a LinkedIn power user in less than 60 minutes.
Ready? Let’s go!
The LinkedIn Sign Up Process
Getting your LinkedIn account up and running requires you to provide just a few details about yourself:
- First and Last name
- Email Address
- A Password
- Where you are Located
- Current Job Title
- Current Workplace
- Current Industry / Sector
At this point, your profile is sparse, but you are ready to use LinkedIn.
Becoming a LinkedIn All-Star
To get the most out of LinkedIn, you will likely want to improve your profile and include more than just the most basic of information about you. To help you reach the All-Star status, which is granted by LinkedIn to those with strong profiles, LinkedIn has a profile building wizard that guides you through the process of adding things like your previous employment, education, awards, and volunteer experiences.
The guided wizard is excellent, so we will not say much more about this as it’s pretty straightforward.
Remember, your profile can be viewed by any LinkedIn user that is signed in (unless you have set your profile to private). Your profile is your brand, so take care to keep it in good order.
You can think of your LinkedIn profile as an expanded version of your resume. Depending on the field you are in, your resume may be more or less formal. LinkedIn, by its very nature, is less formal but still accommodating in terms of allowing you to provide much more information about you than what would be appropriate on a traditional resume. If you have something to say about your experiences, say it!
What do I Need?
Here’s a list of some of the things you’ll need to become a LinkedIn All-Star. We’ve explained how you can use these techniques in further detail underneath.
- Human-readable URL
- Professional Profile Picture
- A Top Quality Summary
- Good Networking Skills
- Use LinkedIn Groups
- Share Content on LinkedIn
Make it Easy to Find You
As your digital resume, you can share your LinkedIn profile the way you would a business card. To make it easier to do so, customize the URL to your profile so that you have a unique, yet human-readable, address.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
…But only if it is a good picture! Make sure that your profile picture is appropriate, and set your cover photo to something that reflects what you do professionally. When choosing a photo, remember to choose one that:
- Shows what you really look like
- Is composed mostly of your face — your face should take up a majority of the frame
- Shows you smiling — you want to appear warm and friendly
- Shows you dressed appropriately
- Does not contain a distracting background. Keep the emphasis on you!
- Is clear and looks professional.
In addition to a profile picture, you might want to upload a cover photo.
The cover photo is not as essential as your profile picture, but it can help your LinkedIn profile stand out from others’ profiles. Keep it professional, and if at all possible, try to make it relevant to your industry (or the industry you hope to join).
LinkedIn suggests that your cover photo be an image (PNG, JPG, or GIF formats) with a resolution of 1400 x 425 pixels.
A Kick-Ass Summary
Your summary is a great way to expand on who you are. However, this is more like an elevator pitch than a lengthy presentation. Keep it short, keep it on topic, and make it memorable.
LinkedIn can auto-generate a summary for you (or you can use a template to guide your writing), and while it will likely be a good start, you will want to customize it so it accurately reflects who you are.
Networking with Others
LinkedIn is a social platform, which means that you will get the most out of its services if you connect with other users on its network. Based on your email address and the information you have previously provided, LinkedIn will suggest to you people you might know. If you are acquainted with somebody, you should connect with that person. The bigger your network, the more opportunities you have to both help and be helped!
Furthermore, as your network grows, your search ranking improves as well. To ensure that those who are looking for you can find you, make sure that you have a robust network!
Talking to Your Connections
When you connect with someone, LinkedIn provides a generic message you can send to that person. You could send this…or you could personalize this message to get the conversation going! No one likes being “just” a connection, so adding that human touch can be quite meaningful and enhance your relationship.
Quality vs. Quantity When It Comes To Your Connections
People debate on whether it is more important to have a large number of connections or to have a smaller number of more meaningful connections. There is currently no real consensus on which is better.
Having a larger number of connections, even if some are more superficial than others, means that you will have a greater rich into things like industry news, opportunities, and ability to “meet” people online on LinkedIn.
Having a smaller number of more meaningful connections, however, means that you get news that might be more applicable or interesting to you. You will have less noise to wade through when searching for a signal, and you will be able to speak more intelligently and informatively with those you communicate with on LinkedIn — after all, LinkedIn is not a substitute for real-world relationships. It is only a substitute.
However, you do not need to overthink this. If you have some professional tie to someone, we recommend that you add them to your network. If you add something to their professional lives, and they add something to your professional life, go for it!
Recommendations and Endorsements
We do not need to get into how important recommendations and endorsements are when it comes to career opportunities.
LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to leave recommendations for former colleagues and classmates, as well as solicit recommendations from those you have worked with previously. We recommend taking advantage of this feature as much as possible since it adds an additional element to your profile (and, by extension, to you) that cannot be added elsewhere.
While the recommendations left on your profile do not carry the weight of an in-depth, custom recommendation geared for a specific position, someone vouching for your leadership skills is infinitely more valuable than you claiming that you are a strong leader. Nevertheless, endorsements are a quick and easy way to broadcast to interested parties skills that you may possess. For example, a software engineer might feature endorsements that include things like:
- Test-driven development
- Python and Flask
- Full-stack development
Someone in marketing might showcase skills like demand generation and inbound marketing.
Recommendations vs. Endorsements?
LinkedIn has space for recommendations and endorsements, so you are probably wondering what the difference between the two are. Here is how these two differ:
- Recommendations are brief blurbs where someone can provide qualitative information about your prior performance, skills, and so on.
- Endorsements are skill sets that you have and can be vouched for by others (e.g., software development, content marketing, and so on).
Once you have followed the steps above, you are pretty close to clocking in your 60 minutes. You could call it quits, but if you have time (either now or later), you might check out some of the following LinkedIn features. After all, LinkedIn is a social platform, and part of that means that there is a steady stream of new or updated content presented by its users over time.
Join LinkedIn Groups
Groups, which can be public (and thus joined by anyone registered with LinkedIn) or private (joining requires the approval of a Group administrator), are places where you and others can gather to share industry news, talk about common interests, and so on. Groups are a great way for people from many different networks to get together to talk about a specific topic (or set of topics).
Carry Out Content Sharing
LinkedIn allows you to share content, regardless of whether you are the author/creator or not. You can link to a blog post, share an article, post an image, and so on.
By adding such content, you will be striking up conversations among those in your network, sharing ideas, and possibly hearing from those you would not have otherwise heard from.
What is LinkedIn Premium
LinkedIn offers two products: Basic and Premium.
LinkedIn Basic is free to use, and this type of account is ideal for those who want to “create and maintain a professional profile online.” Basic features include the ability to:
- Build and establish your online professional identity
- Build and maintain your professional network (or, at least, the digital equivalent)
- Find and reconnect with former colleagues and classmates
- Request and provide recommendations from those you have worked with
- Search for and view the profiles of any member in the LinkedIn network
- Received professional and career-related messages from those in your network
- Save and rerun searches, as well as receive alerts on your pre-defined searches (for things like job opportunities)
LinkedIn’s Premium Subscription Plans build on the Basic plan, and offer benefits like:
- Premium career features that allow you to reach out to recruiters directly, stand out as a featured applicant and get insight into how you stand as an application and the salary offered for a given position
- Generate leads and gain sales-related insights (useful for those in marketing or those who are freelancers)
- Less restrictive browsing (e.g., browse anonymously while still being able to see who has viewed your profile)
- Online educational/training materials
LinkedIn Premium Pricing
LinkedIn Premium is a subscription service that is billed on a monthly basis, but you can get a free, one-month trial if you are new to this service.
Is LinkedIn Premium Worth It?
As always, the answer to the “is it worth it?” question depends on your specific situation, but LinkedIn claims that you will “get double the attention with Premium Career.” If you are in the market for a new opportunity, you might strongly consider a LinkedIn subscription.
Finding Opportunities Using LinkedIn
If you are looking for new opportunities on LinkedIn, there are several features in which you may be interested.
- Job boards
- Flag recruiters
- Company profiles
Instead of posting your job title in your headline, you might put something like, “Creative professional seeking a new challenge” to indicate to recruiters that you are open to new offers.
LinkedIn offers a job board feature, which is a place where companies can post new opportunities for review by those who are interested.
Toggle the ‘Let recruiters know you’re open’ flag to On for a discrete way to signal to recruiters that you are open to new opportunities (even if you are currently employed). You can share your career interests with LinkedIn so that your profile will come up when recruiters review your profile.
Check Out Company Profiles
If there is a company you are interested in, look at their company LinkedIn page to see if they have posted any listings. However, hold back on the urge to apply right away — see if there is someone at that company who might be able to vouch for you. Many workplaces offer employee referral bonuses, and by having someone at the company vouch for you, your application is more likely to be seen by the appropriate parties.
Use LinkedIn Groups
In addition to being a place where people can share news and discuss issues, Groups are a good place where you can find opportunities that are aligned with your interests.
Saved Searches: Your Best Friend for Opportunity Hunting
You have probably noticed (and used) the search bar present at the top of each LinkedIn page, but did you know that you can save searches you run for future use?
By saving your searches, you are essentially creating a search alert. With a search alert in place, LinkedIn will notify you any time new results matching the search criteria you provided become available.
Why might you find this useful?
Well, if you are a job seeker, this means that you can receive notifications on new job postings and the like that match what you are looking for as soon as they get posted.
If you are looking for new talent, you will get notifications when someone new meets the qualifications you have set.
In short, saving a search means that you do not have to rerun searches, yet you still get the information you would have received had you returned to LinkedIn and manually rerun the search over time.
How Not to Behave on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social platform for professionals, and like every office, it has its own set of (informal) rules its users should follow. While nothing is set in stone and there are few hard and fast rules, here are some guidelines to keep in mind when you are on LinkedIn.
- Remember Why LinkedIn Exists
- Communicate Well
- Don’t Play Tit-For-Tat Games
- Keep it Professional
- Lock your Profile
Remember Why LinkedIn Exists
LinkedIn is there to provide information (either to job seekers or recruiters), highlight your career, or showcase opportunities. Think about whether what you are doing or posting aligns with these goals. For example, birthday notes are probably a better fit for Facebook than LinkedIn.
Speaking of Facebook, do not confuse it with LinkedIn. Keep the non-related work stuff on Facebook and keep everything on LinkedIn professional.
We keep harping on LinkedIn as a network for professionals, and we will do it again. Read your messages, and (more importantly), only send the messages that would pass the red-face test. Generally, if you cannot imagine your message being read aloud in a boardroom, do not send it.
Furthermore, there is a set list of things that you should refrain from posting about on your LinkedIn profile:
- Highly personal (a.k.a. risque or racy) photos, images, and videos
- Anything related to politics or religion
- Textual errors, including spelling and usage errors, as well as grammatical problems
- Proprietary content — it might be nice for you to showcase some of the work you did for an old employer, but if you sign a non-disclosure agreement or the employer is clear they do not want the content out in public, you can’t share it unfortunately
- Criticism (of any type) — keep things positive! There are sites for criticism and other reviews, but LinkedIn is not it.
Do Not Play Tit-for-Tat
You might endorse or recommend someone, but they are under no obligation to do the same for you (though it is encouraged!). Cultivate these things organically.
Keep it Professional
You probably know how to behave well in real life and how to network appropriately. Do not connect with someone and then immediately ask for an introduction to someone else. Do not send someone a connection request, then follow it up with a message about job opportunities at their current workplace. If you are looking to grow your client base, do not connect with someone and then immediately launch into a sales pitch.
Lock Your Profile
We get it — in the age of privacy concerns, it can be tempting to lock down your profile.
However, this can backfire. The whole purpose of LinkedIn is to share information about your career in an easily-accessible space.
Closing Your LinkedIn Profile
There is a lot to like about LinkedIn, but if you give LinkedIn a shot and decide that this platform is not for you, you can close your account. You can close your account by following the steps:
- Click the Me icon at top of your LinkedIn homepage
- Select Settings & Privacy from the drop-down menu
- Under the Account management section of the Account tab, click Change next to Closing your LinkedIn account
- Check the reason for closing your account and click Next
- Enter your account password and click Close account
- This will mean that your LinkedIn account is now closed.
Remember that if you close your account, you are permanently deleting your profile and removing your access to all the information you have previously provided. You will delete all of the recommendations you have given or received, as well as your messages and connections.
Canceling Your LinkedIn Premium Subscription
If all you want to do is can cancel your Premium Subscription Plan, you can do so at any time and downgrade to Basic using your Manage Your Account page. You do not need to close your LinkedIn account to cancel your paid subscription.
LinkedIn is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to market your skill set to potential employers online. The tips and tricks provided above will ensure that your profile stands out from the competition and may well help you to find your dream job in the industry of your choice.