LinkedIn – “More Than Just a Profile”
August 2, 2011
When I was asked to blog about this subject for the TAG HR Socity, I had to stop and think a bit, had to focus… I love social media, and from a professional standpoint, LinkedIn has got it going on! Of course it has its quirks, but by and large LI is THE place to begin building an online career portfolio. In one place, you can nearly access the entire professional world! I could easily wax on about so many areas, but the focus is on why LI is more than just a profile. So…
If you didn’t already know it, LinkedIn has quickly become the online “place” to have your professional “face”. And from humble beginnings in 2003 LI has grown to become the #1 way that recruiters look for hidden talent and for professionals to connect. For example, in October of 2009 there were only 50 million users. Fast forward to March 2011, and over 100 million people had established a profile. It has become the default “Facebook” for professionals. It’s easy to understand why, according to a recent survey by Jobvite, nearly 50% of companies always check out candidate’s online profile!
There are of course alternatives to LinkedIn, other sites with professional connections such as Spoke, XING etc., but these pale in comparison to the power of being first, or better yet, to be considered the defacto standard. Way “back in the day”, companies were spending millions to try and make their websites into places that potential customers and candidates would come and meet us, check us out, learn about us, like us, stay with us…., ‘cause you know it really was about us. Having lived through those exploratory and wonderfully evangelistic days as a marketer, we were all about inviting candidates to come and hang out with us. But the reality was they only wanted to engage when they needed something.
So much better that LinkedIn created a way for all of us to connect, and be “out there” with our credentials, successes and questions to build a real community…..Alas, like all marketing tools, LI is open to misuse. Most people are only curious or half-heartedly create their profile, thinking that it’s probably like M****** and CB******, so I should put my profile up there, try to link into anyone and everyone who maybe someday, could possibly help me and then wait for the hordes of companies and recruiters to tell me how much they love me.
For example, of the thousands of profiles I’ve personally looked at, it has become very tiresome to look at shoddily thrown together profiles with limited information, or in most cases way too much and many cases misleading or “amplified” information (I call that vapor ware) all in the hopes of getting noticed by recruiters. Honestly, spam is too nice of a word for this but it is the only one that is fit for print.
Rather than doing what the masses are doing, I suggest listening to what a post on the Linked In blog says (found at http://blog.linkedin.com/2011/07/18/linkedin-etiquette-rules/ ). The discussion is focused on what not to do on your profile. One of the more appropriate suggestions is to not over promote yourself and your capabilities or experiences. You may get found, but you may also get found out…. Save the fish tales for the lake…
Another of my long standing issues with other BIG job boards (and one that most “LinkedIn Gurus suggest) is that you are encouraged to proliferate your profile and resume with tons of keywords or tags in hopes of increasing your “search value” and to attract recruiters. SPAM, SPAM, SPAM….!
Of course it’s a good idea to use keywords and metatags, because you can bring clarity to an extremely busy and crowded online world AND because it is one of the key ways you will be found! BUT, if it is done carelessly and without thought, and you include keywords that don’t apply even remotely to your experience, your focus, your career, your goal, your brand, then it is nothing more than a lot of words that end up making recruiters more frustrated and as a result UNLIKE you as a potential candidate.
Use LI with forethought, as an extension of your overall career marketing plan. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. If you are in the office supply business and that’s where the majority of your real experience is, focus on words that indicate what you are doing to advance the industry, or the company you work for, the key areas of your expertise. Put keywords in your profile that identify what your real ability to deliver value is. Who cares if you don’t show up in a search for National Sales Director for ERP solutions? You might think it would be cool, but it’s not what you really do….
For those that have heard me speak about treating your career as “A Company of 1” you know that I am passionate and particular about how you should go about marketing yourself and your career. Many marketers believe that if social media works, then BE EVERYWHERE!
I say NO…! (unless that’s your brand!) Use the right social media outlet and the right marketing tools for the task. Otherwise you only create noise. On LinkedIn your profile is your best or worst advertisement. Used wisely and appropriately, it can attract potential employers, even customers that you may never have connected to offline.
But be warned….. LinkedIn used wrongly can become a public embarrassment if you are called out in the wrong forum for tall tales… . In today’s e-world, information travels faster than you can say “oops” can I take that back”?
Don’t think of it as just a “profile”. Think of it as your central place to build an electronic network…. And how do you build a network? Give back, pay it forward, and create conversation around your passion (which is hopefully, also your career). So many tools to use on LI, and it can be daunting I know. So start small.
Easy Ways to Make it More than Just a LinkedIn Profile
1) Think about what you want your career to be about (this is the only hard part)
2) Upload a picture that matches who you are professionally.
3) Make sure your current and most recent positions are accurate. Make sure the dates are right. SPELLCHECK! Think of direct and creative ways to “advertise” your successes.
4) Get connected! Not in a haphazard way that you “hope” will lead to a job offer, but in a way that puts you in an audience of people that are like you, that have similar professional pursuits.
5) Join Groups that you are interested in, involved, want to communicate with and then ENGAGE the group…. Add commentary, ask questions that really matter to you.
6) Follow others conversations, comments, blogs etc….
7) Define yourself and your career by becoming known for being the go to place for information on your area of expertise.
8) Don’t spend your life on LinkedIn, but visit regularly!
9) Above all, if getting involved isn’t you, that’s okay. At least build a strong billboard presence. (there’s at least a .5 – 1.5% return) so who knows you may win the lottery.
LinkedIn is where professionals go to find and get to know other professionals in their industry, where recruiters go to find the unknown or undiscovered talent in a particular area or profession. It’s where you can go and share professional experiences, knowledge and get involved with your professional community. But be authentic…don’t be someone you are not, don’t pretend to be something more than you are to get something. Better yet, decide how you want to give back to the community instead of viewing LinkedIn as a way to “get to” people and that will lead to a richer, more fulfilling career than you ever thought possible.
Look, LinkedIn is not the “be-all end-all” or Holy Grail of social media marketing, honestly nothing can ever replace a hard earned reputation for delivering results. Somehow, there are still people who are highly successful sought after talent that don’t have a LinkedIn profile, wouldn’t know a tweet from a honk, and don’t know why they should be on Facebook.
They are players because they deliver and in their industry, in their circles, they are known for delivering results that drive business success. Still, LinkedIn is an excellent and forward thinking way of communicating you’re “A Company of 1” brand, expanding your professional community, expanding your corporate reach and as Stephen Covey says, “expanding your circle of influence”.
LinkedIn is much more than just a profile….. It’s a living breathing representation of your professional life. To make it work at its best, it takes time and it takes involvement. They call it “social” for a reason. But it is only one of many very cool and useful tools and someday (think Moore’s Law), LinkedIn will be surpassed by the next generation of connecting tools. But today, it is a key place to start your professional social networking. If you use it like one of the BIG boards and “post” your resume and “pray” that it gets found, then you are wasting your time. It’s not a static “profile” but a gateway to your professional portfolio that can lead to conversation, can connect you to people you never knew, it can lead to being “found”, LinkedIn could lead you to your next great career move…..