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LinkedIn and the lion

I am an open networker
Tammy Rainey

Why does the main page of LinkedIn these days look like a promo for National Geographic’s “Big Cat Week”? Yes, yes I get it. Folks are advertising that they are LinkedIn Open Networkers. I am an open networker as well, but do I really have to wade through screen after screen of Simba selfies to really get the news I want?

Given my profession and my personality as well, I like staying connected and am probably on the site way more than I should be. Over the years in watching other users, learning from them, as well as some trial and error on my part, I have tried to build a brand that conveys the balance between the professional and personal.

With that said, I would like to offer some tips to get the most out of your LinkedIn experience.

Picture – you should have one.

However resist the urge to have a cartoon avatar or some other equally inane thing. Recently I saw someone who used a graphic of a 20 sided die. And as much as I enjoyed playing Dungeons and Dragons back in the day, equating your picture with an item of chance does not fill me with optimism about a potential business dealing.

Oh yes, and save the duckface headshot for your Facebook page. And while I am on the subject, LinkedIn is not a dating site, so save the provocative picture for your profile.

So what sort of picture would work? If you’re inclined, you can go get a professional headshot done. Or perhaps someone that you know is a shutterbug and they can take a photo of you. And yes, you can take a selfie, but remember to smile! The bottom line is that the image you use should be a professional projection of how you look at work.

Profile – it does not have to be a duplicate of your resume.

I can hear the sirens of the LinkedIn police already. What? Not using your resume? So does that mean your profile is wrong or bad if you do use your resume? No, of course it doesn’t. I just think you are missing out on the chance to provide additional data to allow a recruiter like me to assess your candidacy.

As I shared in an earlier article, your LinkedIn profile is meant to complement your resume and not to be a substitute for one. If you’re an active job seeker, and I am reviewing your resume because you applied to my posting, think how much better a recruiter like me will be able to understand your value. Your profile can contain links to documents or other graphically interesting elements that can make your candidacy stand out.

And the same concept holds true if I come across your profile first. Taking advantage of the dynamic nature of your LinkedIn profile (for example, in mine, I have my recommendations as the first thing a viewer would read) allows you to customize how you want the market to perceive your brand. So highlight what makes you stand out.

Your LinkedIn profile invites creativity, whereas going too wild and crazy on a resume only invites a quick trip to the round file.

A word of caution is in order. Make sure you proof your work. Spelling errors are a quick way to get your profile mentioned in a column like this one. Also verify job titles and dates. The structural elements of your profile and resume should be identical. I have seen on more than one occasion, mismatched titles. On the resume the candidate was a manager, and on the LinkedIn profile, a senior engineer. These must sync.

Posting – your message to the marketplace.

The main page of LinkedIn is not just bombarded with people displaying their feline affection; I also see math problems to solve (if I’m a genius), and pithy quotes. Sometimes and in some ways, the main page has become like Facebook.

Now before I get flooded with emails that remind me that I can change my view and therefore what I see, I would like to remind everyone of Aesop’s fable “The Boy who Cried Wolf”.

Essentially posts in LinkedIn are very much like crying wolf. You are doing this to draw attention to yourself. In a marketplace where it is a struggle to standout, make a name, build a brand, it can be easy to reason that any post is a good post. If it gets you noticed then it has done its job.

And being noticed is the goal, is it not? Whether it is to help you find that next opportunity or to demonstrate in some way that you are a subject matter expert, the point of posting is to get noticed.

I would argue that too many “puff” postings will dilute your brand. After a while, people who had been reading your posts begin to realize that the content is not there. And then, when you do really have something to say, like the boy who cried wolf, no one listens.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool and can add immeasurably to your personal brand. You just need to remember to smartly manage the 3 P’s – picture, profile and posting. All that is left then are the Q’s. So if any of you have questions about LinkedIn, your job search, or how a recruiter thinks, please feel free to contact me.

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