Social Networking is Still Networking: Using LinkedIn More Effectively (The Basics)

Not only is it ubiquitous (which I know because my technology-adverse mother, who’s never heard of Facebook, is on LinkedIn), it’s also the best tool for keeping in touch with (and keep tabs on) your professional network.

But LinkedIn can be hard to navigate, and even if you’ve managed to set up a profile, you may not be using it as effectively as you could.

This month’s post covers basic strategies to leverage the power of LinkedIn.

Why Bother?

We don’t think we need to convince anyone of the power of social networks, but as the song goes… let’s start at the very beginning (it is, after all, a very good place to start).

In short, keeping up your profile and network are critical, regardless whether you’re actively looking for a new opportunity or not.

If You’re Actively Looking

Many employers, particularly tech companies, will review your profile before doing a phone screen or interview. Not having a profile, or having one that’s out-of-date, can create a negative impression about your tech-savviness.

More importantly, as we mentioned in our previous post, employee referrals are the best way to get noticed by internal recruiters. Failing to keep your LinkedIn network updated will make it harder to discover that your old college roommate is now a senior engineer at your target company.

Even If You’re Perfectly Happy Where You Are

Keeping your profile and network updated is still a wise investment because:

  • Potential clients also use LinkedIn.
  • Surprises happen – acquisitions, layoffs, family emergencies, etc. Think of it like job insurance.
  • This is how recruiters and those in your network discover that you’re “perfect” for an opportunity you weren’t even looking for.

Your LinkedIn Profile

So now that you’re ready to build your profile, where do you start?

Start by taking a lesson from in-person networking and consider your audience first: who do you want looking at your profile and why? Your future employer? Future clients?

Once you know who you want to attract with your profile, you can craft each section keeping in mind the type of information that your target audience would want to know about you.

Starting at the End

It turns out that the beginning isn’t the only good place to start.

Ironically, LinkedIn first asks you for a “Summary.”  While the summary section is a key part of your profile (more on that later), you ought to take some time to draft this thoughtfully so it should probably be one of the last things you add.

Instead, start with the “Experience” and “Education” sections. You already know this information, so it should be relatively straight-forward.

Here are a few specific tips:

  • Link your entries to the company/institution’s LinkedIn page. This will add their logo to your page (giving your page some visual interest) and can add context and credibility to your profile.
    • How: When you input an entry, there’ll be a drop down menu of potential matches.
    • Note: many companies have similar names so make sure you affiliate yourself with the correct organization.
  • Use a descriptive title, rather than your actual title. Your goal is to help your audience easily figure out what you do.
    • Example: If your title is VP of Legal, but your primary responsibility is to manage relationships with business partners in Asia, you may want to say, VP of Legal, Business Partnerships (Asia).
  • When writing a description of your role and responsibilities at each job, it’s a good idea to take a client-centric approach to and present yourself in a way that shows how you added value to clients.

Adding a Picture

We know that this can be a touchy subject, but we’d recommend adding a photo.

Pictures make any webpage more engaging, and adding a photo of yourself will make it easier for others in your network to recognize you which can be useful for in-person networking.

A few basic pointers on pictures:

  • The photo doesn’t have to be a professional headshot, but it should be a relatively recent, flattering picture of you.
  • Wear work-appropriate attire for your audience. If you’re an actress, you may opt for a different style than an engineer. If you work in a conservative industry with an “old school” demographic, go for a suit. If not, “business casual” is fine.
  • You face should take about at least 25% of the picture (keeping in mind how small LinkedIn photos are – i.e. roughly 2” by 2”).
  • This isn’t your passport or your driver’s license, so don’t feel you have to take a picture against a bland, white wall or use your phone to take a selfie. Ask a friend to take several photos of you against different backdrops and have them help you choose the best one.

Stay Tuned:

So far, so good? In our next post, we’ll address the trickier sections of your LinkedIn profile.

Like it or not, LinkedIn is here to stay.