LinkedIn has become essential and unavoidable for job search in most professions and industries simply because it is so popular with recruiters and employers. Why is it so popular? Because it allows them to easily search for qualified candidates, rather than sifting through hundreds of resumes and applications from people who are, unfortunately, seldom qualified for the jobs they apply for.
As a result, recruiters are -- by far -- LinkedIn's major source of revenue. Recruiters trust it to, usually, provide a relatively accurate picture of job candidates (versus the fiction that can appear on resumes occasionally).
Be sure that your resumes and job applications agree with the facts you publish on your LinkedIn profile. They will be compared by employers, and discrepancies will be viewed very negatively.
LinkedIn is not a set-it-and-forget-it magic carpet ride to a new job. For an effective LinkedIn experience, you'll need to spend time developing your profile, building your Connections, and actively participating on LinkedIn at least 15 to 30 minutes a day, more if you are currently unemployed.
Regardless of your job search or career goals, these LinkedIn components are essential to your success on LinkedIn.
Yes, your LinkedIn Profile should build upon your past -- your education, experience, and accomplishments, in current and previous jobs. However, effective LinkedIn Profiles must be focused to make your professional expertise clear. This focus is particularly important in the Professional Headline, Summary, Work Experience, and Skills sections.
For example, I've seen many LinkedIn members describe themselves as a "Marketing Professional" in their LinkedIn Professional Headline. What a terrible waste of valuable virtual real estate as well as a classic contradiciton in terms! And this mistake, unfortuntately, is NOT limited to people in marketing.
Why is this a useless headline? If you were looking for a marketer to connect with (or to hire), would you search LinkedIn or Google for a "marketing professional"? NO!
Rather, you would search for someone with the specific marketing expertise you need, like marketing research analyst, consumer product marketing manager, social media marketing specialist, and so on. These are very specific terms because people don't have the time to dig through thousands of "marketing professionals" to find the people with the specific marketing expertise they need.
In addition, a vague Profile lacks the critical keyword focus needed to be found in LinkedIn search results. So, vague Profiles are largely invisible.
Deadliest of all is what employers think: A vague Profile which seems to indicate that the member is open to marketing, administration, finance, and sales is useless. This lack of focus is viewed as representing someone who can do a "little bit" of several things but are not "expert" in any one thing.
[MORE: Fast Formula for a Powerful LinkedIn Professional Headline, Maximize Your LinkedIn Profile Professional Headline, and Leverage Your LinkedIn Profile's Professional Headline for Findability & Branding.]
If your LinkedIn profile doesn't display this icon (left), you need to improve it. An "All-Star" profile is a complete profile that recieves 14 times (1,400%) more visibility in search results than one which is not All-Star.
A solid LinkedIn profile provides a great foundation for any job search or career. Think of it as your personal marketing brochure, larger and more complete than your resume.
Done well, your LinkedIn profile and visiblity effectively demonstrate the quality of your work and your communications skills much more clearly than simply stating that you are "highly motivated" and the "go-to" "problem solver." Providing more details also ensures that the appropriate keywords for you to attract recruiters to your profile (and you) for the right jobs for you are included, too.
Of course, the opposite is also true. Done poorly, your LinkedIn profile hurts your chances at a job for several reasons:
So, don't copy your resume into your LinkedIn profile, and think you will impress anyone. You won't!
The more connections you have, the greater your visiblity in LinkedIn. You also have more credibility with 300 connections than with 50 (50 is the minimum for an "All-Star" profile), and the majority of active LinkedIn members today are in the 500+ category. In general, your credibility is increased when you have more than 500 connections.
Start by connecting with colleagues, friends, even family. Don't forget clients / customers, suppliers, and other "allies" in your work. Also, reach out to former colleagues (great excuse to get back in touch), former classmates (again, great excuse to reconnect), former professors and instructors, former clients / customers (and/or suppliers), and others you know.
Then, consider connecting with people you don't actually know -- categories of people who are relevant to your job search or career, like recruiters and others in your industry or profession. Most people in the "careers industry" are willing to accept invitations to connect from people they don't know, and they usually have large networks which will instantly make you more visible to their networks, which often includes many recruiters (making you more visible to those recruiters).
LinkedIn shows you your connections and identifies their relationship to you when you are logged in:
In general, don't worry about accepting a LinkedIn request from someone you have not met, but do be careful. Before you click on the "Accept" button, view their profile. Are they someone you would like to meet in person? Do they do something related to what you do?
Does their profile seem real? Fake LinkedIn profiles do exist for selling and scamming reasons, so always check the person's profile before you accept a connection request. Be wary of profiles with poor capitalization, bad spelling, and poor grammar -- often signs that the person who created the profile is not familiar with proper English usage.
If the person is incredibly attractive with 3 or fewer connections, assume that an image of a model is being used. And look for other signs that a profile is not real -- I received a connection invitation from a very attractive US Army general who attended the USAF Academy (doubtful) and was wearing an USMC general's uniform (NEVER!). These days, I am generally skeptical of profiles with fewer than 100 connections.
LinkedIn has finally made it easier to send a customized connection request by simply clicking on the "Connect" link when you are on the person's profile page.
Customized connection requests are often accepted. A generic "Please accept my connection request" is not usually effective. Make it clear why you would like to connect, hopefully in a way that benefits both of you:
The message can be as simple as this --
Hi [person's first name],
I see that we both attended [name of school], (and both majored in [the major] OR although not in the same [class or major]). Connecting on LinkedIn should help us both to advance our careers, so I hope you will accept this invitation to connect.
[your first name]
Be wary of clicking on the "Connect" button in LinkedIn's "People You May Know" list which may generate a generic connect invitation. Instead, click on the person's name or image to go to their profile, and then click on the connect button on their profile to customize your connection request.
If you don't see a "Connect" button, as above, look for 3 great dots or "More" on the person's profile, usually the upper right corner of the main box, as seen on the left, here.
Click on that link to open a menu box which will usually include a "Connect" option.
Being active in LinkedIn every day is essential now. Create at least one "update" every day to share with your network. It's very easy to do:
LinkedIn members can belong to up to 100 LinkedIn Groups, but seven is the average number of Groups that members have joined. Groups are also an excellent venue for sending fifteen free private messages a month to Group members you are not (yet) connected to -- one of the big advantages of Group membership.
Groups are typically very easy to join and even easier to leave. You can always leave a Group after you have your new job. Look for these Groups to join:
When you have joined a Group, observe what is happening in the Group. Are the Discussions interesting and useful to you, or are they "spam" posts from people selling their products or services? Leave Groups that are not helpful, but contribute to Groups that are, even if you only "Like" a Discussion or a comment.
CAREFULLY contribute to Group Discussions. Be sure to keep your job search in mind. Recruiters and prospective employers may well be reading posts and even your comments!
The greatest LinkedIn Profile is very close to useless without current contact information in it. Recruiters and potential network members will find your Profile, be impressed by what they find, and have no way to contact you without paying LinkedIn for a "premium" account. Opportunities lost!
[MORE: Expand Opportunities by Optimizinng Your LinkedIn Contact Information for the details.]
LinkedIn is essential for job search today for the vast majority of jobs. Be careful and thorough in your approach, spending at least 15 minutes a day on LinkedIn, learning, connecting, and updating. It will pay off!
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.