Most posts on social media in the work environment are long lists of what to avoid. Don’t use Facebook at work. Don’t post offensive material. Don’t choose a profile picture of you dressed as Britney Spears circa 2000 drinking from an ice luge – the list goes on an on. Except when it comes to LinkedIn. LinkedIn is your one chance to make your presence known and actually attract potential future employers. I can’t tell you how many times I have been messaged by CEOs, recruiters and other professionals in my field asking if I’m interested in joining their team – And they all found me on LinkedIn.
In a social media world filled with inappropriate professional “No-Nos”, LinkedIn stands out as a platform to make social media work for you, even if you don’t pay for the upgrade. So, how can young professionals morph their social media skills into a productive tool? Optimize your LinkedIn account with these 10 easy steps:
Step 1: Choose a Solid Profile Picture
This seemingly basic step can actually be tough. The trick is to choose a photo that showcases your personality while remaining professional. Potential employers want to see your face and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so make sure your profile picture is an accurate representation of who you are, your personality, style and energy. As you can see on my LinkedIn profile, I personally opt for a more casual picture rather than a professional headshot, but either way works.
Step 2: Make the Most of Your Title
As you enter your employment history, put some thought into each and every position title listed. The job you have may have been listed as a basic content writer when you found it on Craigslist, but is that really all you do? Think about what you are bringing to each one of your professional positions and create a title that accurately depicts your skills. This is worth putting some time into. Create a title that tells potential employers exactly what you do and where your expertise may lie rather than what’s written on your pay stub.
Step 3: Write a Catchy Summary:
Do not, I repeat DO NOT leave your summary blank. Think of LinkedIn as your first interview with a potential employer. Would you ever just ignore a question? That’s exactly what it’s like when an employer sees a blank LinkedIn summary. This is your chance to showcase your skills and give future employers a glimpse into your professional world. While you want to toot your own horn to an extent and showcase your strengths, you also don’t want to write a novel that no one in his or her right mind would read. Keep it short and sweet and focus on what experience and/or personality traits you have that make you stand out in your field.
Step 4: Trim the Fat Off Your Work Experience
Don’t list every job you’ve ever held, instead highlight the main positions you’ve had that relate to your field. A four-month internship that directly relates to your prospective career is a lot more beneficial than that summer you spent bussing tables, unless of course, you are looking for a career in the restaurant business. Think of your profile as an online resume and taper your work experience to showcase your strengths in the field you are applying for.
Step 5: Hold On to Your Connections
My favorite thing about LinkedIn is it’s a great way to keep in contact with past co-workers, employers and professional acquaintances even long after you’ve changed careers. For anyone in public relations and marketing related positions, this is extremely helpful because not only will your connections help you find new professional opportunities, they are also great resources for your career in general. Remember the old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know”? This couldn’t be more true, so use LinkedIn as a tool to find your professional connections and maintain them throughout your career changes.
Step 6: Add Your Publications:
If you work in the blogging, journalism, or marketing fields, this is especially important. LinkedIn makes it easy to showcase your work without cluttering your resume with article links. It is also possible to organize your publications by relevance or highest quality so that potential employers see your best work up front. Then they can browse through your writing and find the articles that relate most to the position they have available.
Step 7: Keep It Fresh and Updated:
Although you don’t want to make your LinkedIn account another version of your Facebook or Twitter profiles with status updates about everything from what you’re eating for dinner to random duck face selfies, it is important to keep your LinkedIn profile fresh. Make sure to update your account if you have earned a promotion, changed jobs, completed any further education or published an article. It’s key to show future employers that you take your professional life seriously and take pride in your accomplishments so show them off!
Step 8: List Your Skills
Listing your skills on LinkedIn is not only a great way to share your strengths with potential employers and professional connections, but it’s also the best way to get endorsed. The more skills you have listed, the more likely you are to be endorsed by your fellow connections. An endorsement is basically a way for professional connections to give you props for your skills. If a big name endorses you for relative skills, it’s like a stamp of approval, making you that much more attractive to future employers.
Step 9: Endorse and Recommend Others
Most people know the best way to get more Twitter followers is to follow more people; well the same is true when it comes to LinkedIn endorsements. The more people you endorse, the more likely they are to endorse your skills in return. It only takes a second to click endorse next to your connection’s listed skills and if you’ve had a positive interaction with a person, why not endorse them? So, spread the love.
Step 10: Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out
There is no point in creating a strong LinkedIn profile if no one is ever going to see it, so find people to connect with. This is not the place to add every party buddy you ever had in college, this is the place to add past co-workers, professional connections, and even old employers who are influential in your field. This is a chance to expand your professional bubble and yes, it’s okay to add people you don’t already know, but want to know. Go ahead and go big – search for the intimidating lead attorney at the law firm you are dying to work for or connect with the CEO of your dream company. The worst that can happen is they take one look at your profile and say no, but hey – at least they looked. In the professional world, it’s all about whom you know, so reach out and make connections.
Lots of young professionals look at LinkedIn as just another social media platform, but in reality it is much more. It’s a strong tool for making and maintaining professional connections, showcasing your skills and furthering your career. So, instead of spending another hour scanning the latest Vine videos in your Facebook feed, put a little effort into your LinkedIn account and turn your job hunt around by letting your next career find you.