What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is the world’s largest business network with millions of members. While it has some of the features of a traditional business network it has other qualities which make it quite unique. It is also a social networking site, an online job board, and a place to share and find information. Most of all it is a great place to advance your career and create business opportunities.

So why should you learn to use LinkedIn?

Whether you are looking to find a new job or simply interested in what might be available LinkedIn is the single best place to do it. It is estimated that 80% of the members of LinkedIn are decision makers which means that these are people who can help you to advance your career. Networking with people in your industry on LinkedIn is well worth the time that you invest in it.

There are a number of ways that you can use LinkedIn directly to find a new job. Firstly you can use LinkedIn’s own job search which allows you to look for jobs that have been posted by people connected to your network. You can also follow specific companies so that when they post new job openings you will be one of the first to know.

However this does not even begin to tap the surface of LinkedIn’s possibilities when it comes to advancing your career. One of the best things about LinkedIn is that it provides the opportunity for enhanced visibility. As we have already seen people on LinkedIn are decision makers and the chance to get in front of these people and demonstrate your expertise will open up doors for you.

One of the best ways to gain visibility on LinkedIn is to simply start participating. Make sure that your voice is heard and contribute valuable insight and content to the site. Whether it is posting on your news feed, providing content to groups or answering questions in the answer section there are plenty of opportunities to show that you know what you are talking about.

In this guide you will learn how to make the most of LinkedIn’s features. You will discover how to optimize your profile so that you are highly visible to potential recruiters and employers. You will also discover how you can stand out in the groups and answer section so that you are recognized as a thought leader in your industry. If you have a dream company that you would love to work for you will find out how LinkedIn can make it happen.

It does take time and effort in order to make the most of LinkedIn’s many features but the rewards for your career both financially and creatively make it well worth doing. The good thing is that most people do not have a system in place to make the most of LinkedIn and thus it is not too hard to stand out from the crowd.

Setting Up Your Profile

The first thing you will need to do when you join LinkedIn is to setup a profile. Your profile will be how potential employers and recruiters view you so it is important that you take the time to set it up correctly. A good profile will make you appear professional but will also stand out from the crowd.

Your Photo

Your photo is going to represent you on LinkedIn so you want to make sure that it presents you at your best. People do judge a book by its cover so we want to make sure that we give an instant good impression.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you use a head shot for your photo. This is both the preferred format by LinkedIn and also the one that looks the best in thumbnail format. The thumbnails are relatively small and if you take a full body shot you will not be clear when you are making comments in groups or appearing in other search results.

It is important that you use a photo in which you are smiling. Think of your photo as being the face that you would make when you were meeting a potential employer for the first time. You would not scowl at them or provide a blank expression. Even though you are not dealing with people face to face if you are smiling you will tend to give a good impression. We are subconsciously programmed to feel favorably to those who are smiling at us so take advantage of this fact and remember to grin.

You should also make sure that the background of the photo is distinct from the foreground. A good example of this is the photos that you would take for your passport. A blue background works well as this will provide a distinct image of your face even when you are in thumbnail. If there is background imagery you will tend to mix in with it and you will not appear as clearly. You want there to be clear lines between you and your background.

In terms of your dress you always want to appear well groomed and professional. What is professional will be different for each industry. If you were applying for positions in wealth management then wearing a suit and tie might be important however if you were looking for a creative position at an advertising firm then you may wish to dress in a more modern way. Essentially you want to represent the best of whatever industry it is that you work in.

Making Sure That People Can Find You

The first thing you need to do make sure that potential employers and recruiters can find you is to set your profile to public. You can do this in your account settings. Some people restrict who can view their profile because of privacy concerns. If you already have any presence on the internet people can probably already find out as much as they want to about you. Having your profile public on LinkedIn is unlikely to harm your privacy any further than this. But if you restrict viewing of your profile you are going to seriously limit your chances of being hired by employers. When they see that your profile is not visible they will in most cases simply move on to one that is.

Next you need to optimize your profile for the search engines. LinkedIn has its own search engines with an algorithm that is secret but one of the main ways it presents results is according to the keywords in the persons profiles. For example if I am a recruiter and I am looking for an Charted Professional Accountant I might type into the LinkedIn search engine “CPA” this will then present back to me everyone who has these initials in the profile.

Therefore in order to appear on search engine radar you must make sure that you have the appropriate keywords in your profile. If we look at the above example we can see that the recruiter might have typed in either “Chartered Professional Accountant” or “CPA”. It is important that you include all of the possible variations in your profile. In one part of your profile you might use the abbreviation when you are referring to your qualifications and in another you might spell it out in full.

The first step to optimizing your profile is to make a list of the words that a recruiter would use when they were searching for someone in your industry. Once you have this list you need to make sure that these words are scattered throughout your profile. It is a good idea to write your profile first so that it appears as natural as possible and then include in these abbreviations afterwards. While you want to be visible in the search engines you also want you profile to read well when potential employers and recruiters look at it.

You should also include both the abbreviations and the full name of any educational institute that you attended. For example if you are alumni of NYU you would include both this abbreviation as well as New York University. Again this will make sure that when people use either of these variations you will be one of the search results.

Adding Skills

In the same way that having your keywords in your profile will help you to be found by potential employers adding as many relevant skills as possible to your profile will also help you to be found. The skills section can be found just below work history inside your profile. You are able to list up to 50 Skills and you want to take advantage of all of these spaces.

Of course thinking of 50 relevant skills is not easy but there is a way to fill this section out easily. At the top navigation bar click on “skills” from the drop down menu type in one of your main skills and then click search; This will bring up a another page which will have a list of skills that relate to the one that you just entered. From this list choose ones you believe to be relevant and then click “add skill”. The great thing about this process is that not only will you find loads of skills you would never have thought of by yourself you will also be getting a list of skills that recruiters often use when they are searching.

Profile Headline

Your profile headline appears just below you name. Along with your photo and name this is the only information that is always visible to other people. When you post for example in a group only these three things will appear next to your comment. As your name is fixed and if you have already taken the steps above to provide an excellent photo your only way to grab attention is through this headline.

If you do not fill in a headline then LinkedIn will by default put in your job title and company. This means that there tends to be a lot of fairly bland headlines. The good thing is that if you get a little creative with this headline it will not be difficult to stand out. Overall LinkedIn has a very corporate and risk adverse feel. This gives an advantage to the person who is willing to think creatively. If you have an interesting headline people are far more likely to click on your profile to learn more about you. Some of these people will be potential employers or recruiters or they may simply be people who know of an opportunity that you might be interested in.

Writing Your Profile Summary

One of the ways that LinkedIn search engine evaluates which results to return is based on whether or not you have a complete profile. LinkedIn tells you as a percentage how much of your profile you have to complete. Also a complete profile will include more potential keywords and so again you are more likely to appear in the search results. Finally a full profile will give you the best opportunity to tell your story and win over potential employers. For these reasons it is important that you take the time to fill in the profile completely.

When you are writing up your profile it is important that you write in the first person. This means using “I worked at IBM” rather than “David worked at IBM” the second of these sounds awkward when read and should be avoided.

A great way to make an impression with your profile is to use what are known as power words. These are words which Marketers and Advertisers use to sell product. The can equally help to sell you to potential employers.

In the first paragraph of your profile you want to state why it is that you are on LinkedIn. One of the mistakes that people make is that they forget that there are many reasons why a person might join LinkedIn. The site is a place to find employees as well as to find employers. It is also a place to find potential business partners and vendors. A person who is approaching your profile for the first time doesn’t know why it is that you are there.

If you are looking for a job you want to make this clear in your first paragraph then when employers and recruiters look at your profile they will know that you are worth taking the time to approach about potential employment.

Once you have stated why it is you are on LinkedIn you should include your accomplishments both past and present. This can include your academic achievements as well as your career achievements. When you are listing your career achievements make sure to include how these impacted and benefited the organizations that you worked for. You should also be careful to include the keywords that recruiters will use as mentioned earlier on.

In the last paragraph you will really sell yourself. When we read information we tend to remember the first thing that we remember and the last thing that we remember much better than the rest of the content. People also have a tendency to scan down the page and skip over content that is in the middle. You need to make sure that the end paragraph demonstrates your unique value. Ask yourself the question “Why should someone choose me over other applicants?” The answer to this question should be placed in the last paragraph.

Focus on Results

When you are writing up your work history you need to be careful to focus on the results that you achieved rather than the duties that you performed. If you say for example that you worked in sales that don’t tell anybody anything about how well you performed that job. If instead you say that you lifted regional sales by 15% then this is a result. Focus your attention on what it is that you achieved in your role rather than what that role was.

Include all of your experience

You should include all of your work experience in your profile provided that it is relevant. You do not need to simply include your full time work experience; you can also include part time work, internships, and contract work that you might have performed. The work that you list does not have to be paid work so if you have done volunteer work in the past then you should include this as well.

In particular if you are just starting out you might not have a lot of full time work experience. If this is the case then you will then to look a little deeper at your own work experience. In particular look for work experiences that highlight results that you have achieved or developed valuable skills.

Look at Other Peoples Profiles

If you are having trouble trying to fill out your own profile or you want to make sure that you are writing it up in a way which will be attractive to future employers then take a look at profiles of people who do the same sort of work as you do.

For example if you were looking for a position at Apple you might take a look at people who are already working at Apple in that capacity or who have worked there in the past. See what skills they listed on their profile and how they have composed their summary.

You shouldn’t assume that just because they already have gotten the job that there profile is perfect. After all they may not have even gotten the job through LinkedIn but if you are looking at multiple profiles and you are seeing commonalities then you will want to make sure that your profile includes these too.

LinkedIn Recommendations

LinkedIn recommendations are a way of endorsing people that you have had a business relationship with. They are a powerful way to strengthen your network and gain recommendations of your own. Recommendations have a fairly high degree of credibility because while you can choose whether or not to show the recommendation on your profile you cannot make any changes to what the person has written about you.

To recommend someone visit the profile page of the person that you want to recommend and then click on “Recommend this person”. You will then be asked whether you are a business partner, a service provider or a colleague. On the next screen you will be asked to clarify the nature of your relationship with the person including what your job title was at the time, what their title was at the time and what the basis for your recommendation is. This can be a little difficult to find an appropriate choice but just choose whatever seems closest. In the next box you write your recommendation. Usually about one short paragraph will suffice. Try and include the value that this person added to your business or career as this will give the recommendation more impact.

Once you have finished writing your recommendation click send and the person that you have recommended will receive an email detailing your recommendation. They can then choose to accept it or not.

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