Creating the optimum LinkedIn profile that has the best chances of attracting the interest and attention of potential employers and clients starts with setting up your profile, building your job and education history, and importing a flattering profile picture, but there is much more that can be done.
After you’ve spent a good amount of time filling out your LinkedIn profile and are rewarded with the blue 100% complete status bar, take a deep breath and start to explore the ways in which LinkedIn is much more than a one dimensional paper resume, and what it can do for your professional life:
- Make relevant connections that are meaningful to your career and profession; take LinkedIn’s advice and don’t add people without some thought and reflection and only if you’ve had some professional or at least significant social contact with them in the past.The goal in LinkedIn is to build a professional network that will enhance your professional life and even get you a better job, not to log as many contacts or “friend” as many people as you can, as many teenage Facebook surfers are inclined to do, the minute they have created their Facebook account.The temptation to add all of the various people you have known throughout your life when they pop up in LinkedIn’s “People you may know” box is hard to resist, but try – be selective or at least proceed slowly and methodically, and after you have added someone and they have accepted, be sure to have some communication with them and thank them for their add.
- The status update box, which shares the same “What’s on your mind?” prompt as Facebook’s is a great way to share with your network what you have been doing with your job and education, to start a conversation, and to promote your work and exchange information with others.If you have your Twitter account connected in LinkedIn’s account settings, you can send your LinkedIn status update as a Tweet to your Twitter account, but keep in mind that the 140 character limit applies, and also that, unless you have ticked the box to “protect my tweets” in Twitter’s account settings, everyone who follows you can view the update. This also means that a follower can retweet your Tweet, making it viewable to all of their followers, potentially thousands of people. Twitter is public by default, which people sometimes forget.If you have ticked this “protect my tweets” box only those who you have approved can view your Tweets, including those Tweets you sent from LinkedIn. But even with this limitation, those followers can retweet your Tweets, in effect making them potentially public to many. With Facebook, it is often hard to know or understand when something you have done there can be public. With Twitter, it is very difficult not to be public with any post you make, so best not to use it at all if you are not comfortable with this the first and most important fact of the Twitterverse.
- The sharing between Twitter and LinkedIn works both ways. If you have added your Twitter account keep in mind that all of your Tweets will be sent to your LinkedIn profile, unless you have ticked the box that tells LinkedIn to only include Tweets with either the #in or #li hashtag.If you are someone who Tweets frequently about many things not related to job or education, you should use these hashtags to keep your LinkedIn profile focus on professional networking.For example, I don’t Tweet that much unless I am sharing an article I wrote or something related to my writing or other teaching work. I so far have just 114 tweets I have made since December last year. But I did just recently connect my Twitter to my LinkedIn and sometimes I forget this when I feel the urge to send a Tweet, like yesterday, after I spent the morning opening up a new bank account at the Big C shopping center near my village in Klongsam, Thailand. Afterwards I tweeted this:“Opening a new bank account on a Saturday morning in a busy Thai shopping center:good time to restart meditation practice.One with my new ATM”. Not really related to anything in my job but it shared that I am living in Thailand which adds context to my professional life. Still, its borderline relevant. Next time, since I have now ticked that box to only send tweets with the #in or #li tag, I may choose not to include these hashtags so the tweet will not be sent to LinkedIn, although this does not stop it from going to my other connected accounts like Facebook.
- Join LinkedIn groups related to your career and education. It can and does help with productivity, information exchange and establishing new connections.I recently joined a writer’s group on LinkedIn and have researched writing articles for magazines in it, in a post titled “At times, I exceed word counts for pay-by-the-word stories by 200/300 words..” The thread, which so far has 129 comments (and counting) made by writers who charge in the range of $1 per word for their magazine articles, has been a valuable way to research what magazines to write for, what to charge, and how to find them.In effect, this thread is an online water cooler around which all of these successful and established writers are sharing their insights and experience during their career. I have not only gained information from the thread, I have looked at a handful of profiles, then Googled these authors and reviewed their websites to see how they promote themselves online.
- On paper resumes and cover letters we often say “recommendations provided upon request.” On our LinkedIn profile we can do this upfront. Ask former colleagues, clients, and bosses to make recommendations about your work on your profile, but before sending the automatic request, send your contact a personal email telling them you are about to send it, and why it is important. After they have made their recommendation, send a thank you note and perhaps offer to write your own, especially for colleagues.
- Browse LinkedIn’s rich application directory to find apps you can use to enhance your profile, network, and increase your productivity.For example: find professional conferences and events with Events, manage and share files with colleagues using Box, sync your WordPress blog with your LinkedIn profile with WordPress, get career and business advice from the FT Press e-Bookshelf, and promote your best work using SlideShare.
- Use LinkedIn’s Q&A platform to become an expert in your field, which helps you network, obtain new clients, get information, and learn from other professionals in your field. LinkedIn members who answer questions have them ranked on the Answers Leaderboard called “This week’s top members.” Top ranking members generally spend two hours a day, the maximum in a 24 hour period, answering up to 50 questions. These members say they do this mainly for networking reasons, and it pays off.Christine Falco, one of the top three ranking experts last week, said the Answers forum is a great way to promote her expertise and also learn from others: “I enjoy learning from other professionals, and the input from other users’ real life experience is invaluable.” Christina Heuber, a social media and search marketing strategist, and another of last week’s top three experts on Answers, said that answering questions on the Q&A forum is her daily marketing investment, and that most of her new clients now come from this activity:“Since I started focusing on Answers about a year ago, all of my new clients I’ve gained either directly or indirectly through Answers, since my ranking and demonstrated expertise is very impressive to them. Plus, it’s brought other opportunities my way like giving presentations on LinkedIn, being featured in YouTube videos ”
- Build a better, and better looking resume with LinkedIn’s Resume builder tool, and cut down on the many hours spent choosing the best action verb, just the right font and the right margin and the right amount of space between each line, and so on, and on and on as anyone who has set out to build just the right resume with all the right information packed into one or two pages has experienced.Recently I did just that. Here is my latest two page version, and the one before that most of this all packed into one page, and the one before that, another two pager but with more, and probably too much more information.Next I will try LinkedIn’s Resume builder tool and hopefully find a format that will give me a CV format to last another 5 years or so.Mashable contributor Sharalyn Lauby was impressed: “It’s incredibly easy to use, and I was impressed with the number of different resume formats available. Keep in mind, the quality of the resume is directly attributable to the quality of information on your profile. If people want to take full advantage of this feature, they will need to keep their profiles updated regularly with the information they ultimately want on their resume.”