Laura Woodward gives some advice on using your online presence to make connections, attract employers and get the job you want
Q: I know that LinkedIn can help me with job searching but I have no idea where to start. What’s involved in creating a profile, and what can I do to stand out?
A: If you are actively job searching, LinkedIn should most definitely form part of your strategy. One colleague recently described it as ‘Facebook for grownups’. But joking aside, it’s important to note that LinkedIn is certainly not Facebook. It isn’t necessarily about trying to just have as many contacts as you can, but rather making them relevant to you, whether you are job hunting or just networking generally.
The first thing to think about is the profile itself. Ensure that the information you include is up to date, and that you complete every section. This includes all the usual details like dates of employment, job titles and qualifications but you should also provide a summary (with a reasonable amount of detail) of what you did within each role.
Think about the key words you include in your profile and use these to attract potential recruiters. LinkedIn is used extensively by recruiters (either agencies or in-house recruiters) to headhunt, so if those key words are not in your profile you may be overlooked. Think carefully about the job titles that you use as well – if a title is very specific to an organisation, it may be worth changing it to something more generic.
If you are currently employed, it may be more difficult to be open on LinkedIn about the fact you are job searching. But if you can be open, I would strongly encourage you to do so, by including terms such as ‘looking for opportunities’ or ‘actively seeking’.
You might not think it is necessary, but it’s also important to include a photo. Studies have found that profiles with photos are more likely to be clicked on. And remember – it’s not Facebook, so use a photo that shows you in a professional light.
A good word
The next step is to build up your network. Most people begin by linking with their current and previous colleagues, as well as friends. You should then seek recommendations and endorsements from members of your network. You can request these from your immediate connections. For example, you might request a recommendation from a colleague at the end of a successful project, or from your manager. You could also ask previous colleagues to recommend your work. Recruiters like to see recommendations because they provide more detail about you as a worker, and they also demonstrate that you are a good networker – you have asked for and received recommendations. It’s better to continuously ask for recommendations throughout your career, rather than suddenly getting lots of them when you’re trying to find a new job.
Be active on the site too. It’s all very well creating a profile, but so have 90 million others, so stand out by showing you are engaged. You could for example reciprocate recommendations by giving them to colleagues.
With many jobs never being advertised or being ‘hidden’, it is important to really think about how you use your networks, online and face to face. Try to establish links with people in the areas where you want to work and join groups that share similar interests (there are currently over 160,000 groups on LinkedIn, so there should be some that you will find relevant – if not, create a new one). Joining groups and participating in discussions will also strengthen your profile. LinkedIn advertises jobs on the site, so make sure you check these out too.
Finally, a word of caution. Although LinkedIn can act as the professional side of your online presence, you should be careful in all aspects of your online activity – a recruiter may not restrict their search to your LinkedIn profile. Think about what you say online and what your profiles say about you. For example, never be negative about current or previous employers. And if you haven’t already reviewed your privacy settings, now might be the time to do so. Try to separate your personal and professional presences as much as possible.
You will find lots of resources online as well as many books about using your online presence when job searching, but at this stage I would simply encourage you to get online to create your profile and start building your network.
If you have more advice you’d like to share about this month’s question — or have your own career conundrum for Laura — please write to firstname.lastname@example.org