LinkedIn is the social network of choice for hooking up with people and companies professionally; in fact, one survey found that 86 per cent of companies that use social networks to recruit talent do so with LinkedIn. Just being on LinkedIn and participating in relevant groups has helped open up freelancing opportunities for me, and the service offers a great many features you may or may not know about that can help support your own networking, freelancing or job search needs. Here's a look at how to use LinkedIn's many tools to increase your "hirability".
Below we'll explore how to:
- Tweak your profile to make it more enticing and search-friendly.
- Automatically pull in interesting data into your profile using apps (so you don't have to manually update everything.
- Use the power of LinkedIn groups to really boost your professional opportunities.
The LinkedIn Profile: The Homepage of Your Career
The profile page is, in essence, your way of building your "personal brand" on LinkedIn, and it's also how you get found by others -- whether they're recruiters, old colleagues or potential clients.
Note: If you're already using LinkedIn, you've already got a profile. In this section, I'll detail ways to make your profile more employer-friendly, but if yours is already polished to perfection you can just jump to the next section, "Applications: Make Your Profile a Dynamic Showcase".
LinkedIn's profile page can even serve as a one-page digital resume, since it includes all the major things you'd have on one: a profile summary, current and previous work experience, education and personal website(s) links. You can save your profile to PDF or use the LinkedIn Resume Builder we noted last year to turn your profile into a more traditionally styled resume with little hassle.
Because I fall into the jack-of-all-trades category and my resume is somewhat long, my summary simply includes specific keywords that are relevant to the industries I've worked in (marketing, technology and online writing) and brief details on my background. The keywords make it easier for people to find my profile in search results (if you Google me, my LinkedIn profile comes in at No. 6).
As with paper resumes, using keywords that show up most often for your specific industry or career could make your profile more attractive to the people who make hiring decisions.
In addition to entering relevant experience and education -- which you should target for the kinds of work you want to attract -- some key parts of the profile I think are definitely worth focusing on:
- Professional headline: That's the blurb right under your name. Your title or a description of your expertise works here. Mine includes "communications specialist" simply because a lot of jobs use that phrasing/title in their listings.
- Specialties: In the Summary section, this is where you can position yourself and where your focus is.
- Other Sections: LinkedIn has added support for new sections such as certifications, courses, organisations, languages, and more to enhance your profile, as well as applications (more on that in a bit). The Skills section is very useful to add here; headhunters and others looking for consultants or new hires will want to see skills sets, and, again, these keywords can increase your profile visibility.
- Contact Preferences: Don't forget in the Contact Settings to indicate how you want others to find you and if you're open to consulting offers, career opportunities, etc.
Applications: Make Your Profile a Dynamic Showcase
LinkedIn's many plug-in applications make it easy to strut your stuff or retrieve and share information with your network. I use the Tweets application, for example, to pull in my Twitter feed; you can specify to include only tweets tagged with #in to filter out the non-professional tweets if you wish. Having your social feeds or blog posts pulled in can show prospective clients or recruiters more of your personality and help you stand out. (Naturally, be careful what you post on any social network.)
Other applications you can use to enhance your profile include:
- Creative Portfolio Display: Showcases visual work, including videos, in an attractive portfolio
- GitHub: Show off your coding projects
- WordPress: Pull in your WordPress blog posts
- Box.net: Share files like white papers or ebooks with your network
- SlideShare: Display presentations (your own or find ones by your colleagues)
Groups: A Treasure Trove for Job Hunting
Joining LinkedIn Groups has generated the most freelance and networking opportunities for me -- and I really hate networking. LinkedIn groups are a great way to connect with other professionals and even find work, for a few reasons:
- Often, members within the topic-specific groups post openings that you might not see on job boards until later. The good thing is you already have a connection to someone associated with the company, so you have an "in" there, so to speak.
- You'll find like-minded people who will stimulate your own work or projects. On the Creative technologists group, for example, there's a discussions on using Tumblr creatively; on LinkEds and Writers, a thread on pet peeves for commonly misused words.
- It's easier to ask fellow group members to add you to their network by introducing yourself with the "we have this group in common" thing. Sometimes those connections lead to other connections which leads to actual work.
Just two days ago I got the nicest message in my LinkedIn mailbox from someone I was connected to through one of LinkedIn's groups. He thanked me for adding him into my network and said he might need my expertise, as he was starting a new venture. It might not work out, but the point is, just being in a group on LinkedIn connects you to scores of people you might not otherwise have met. And the more people you know, the greater your hiring opportunities.
Other Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting Work Through LinkedIn
Besides checking the Jobs listings in LinkedIn for work opportunities and networking with your groups, there are a couple of strategies you can use to increase your hiring chances.
Connect to the most connected people: There are some people on LinkedIn who are the "Connectors", as Malcolm Gladwell would peg them. Get connected to one of these people with 500+ network connections and you may be able to expand your network with one of their connections. One of my friends, who is also a connector, became a client referrer for me when someone he knew saw my profile linked to his. Again, just being on LinkedIn and connected to people is a big plus.
Follow companies: Following companies on LinkedIn will help you see who's coming and going at the company, new job postings, people to follow and more. Amazon even encourages prospective applicants to reach out to them via LinkedIn specifically.
Keep in touch with your network: Probably the most important thing about using LinkedIn is to just use it. It's easy to set up a profile and let it quickly collect dust (I know, I have). If you're actively looking or open to new opportunities, tweak your profile, see if there are new connections you can make, research some companies (look for "startups" perhaps) that may be hiring, or join a discussion in one of your groups.
Do you use LinkedIn for networking or have you used it to find work? Share your experiences with us in the comments.