More and more college students, business owners and executives are creating LinkedIn accounts. Career services professionals, resume writers, career coaches and others advise soon-to-be graduates to create the account to help them get jobs. But there's more to it than just creating another profile! Whether you are about to graduate from college or a seasoned professional, it is important to use LinkedIn purposefully and practice professional etiquette associated with it.
LinkedIn vs. Facebook Demographics
So which social networking site is best for a job search or gaining referrals? While you should use all the tools available to build your professional presence, LinkedIn wins hands down. 68% of LinkedIn users are age 35+ (i.e. people with the power to hire or influence hiring). 66% have annual salaries of $60K or more and 72% are college grads. These are people you should know. Meanwhile, the face of Facebook is changing. Research indicates the fastest growing demographic for Facebook is women over 55. It is also known that Facebook is the preferred place to share photos and engage in more informal, personal conversations with friends and family. Before you create or update your profiles do some research. Understand the national and international demographics and trends to determine the type of social media that will best help you in reaching your career goals. My vote is for LinkedIn!
While recruiters, employers and retailers are creating Facebook fan pages, LinkedIn stands out as the preferred place for recruiters, experienced professionals and other saavy professionals to connect for the purpose of gaining referrals and knowledge . Join professional organizations and online groups in your field of interest. You can simply search for them on LinkedIn. In addition, great referral and connection sources include alumni organizations and sororities/fraternities. Be sure to join your college’s alumni group or your sorority/fraternity group on LinkedIn no matter what your career stage.
Begin with the end in mind!
Depending on your career stage, professional goals and interests you will want to use LinkedIn as the preferred job search and referral resource. Before creating your profile, determine your goals, the industry you want to target and even the top 3 states you'd consider for possible relocation. Ask yourself:
1) What do I want to achieve from LinkedIn? Job offers? Referrals? Avoid thinking just in terms of how many connections you have or need. Take a look at your first and second degree connections. Treat them with courtesy and respect. These are people from your college, past employment, community service or other organizations who can provide electronic or in-person introductions. Share information with them and ask for their advice. Send them private inquiries. Learn more about how to start using the power of your first and second degree connections for introductions and referrals.
2) How can I best demonstrate what I have to offer? What is your personal brand or headline statement? Write your profile using good adjectives and effective headlines to grab attention. Be sure to back it up with detailed facts and numerical accomplishments whenever possible. Complete as much of your profile as possible and update it weekly. Avoid constant, shameless self-promotion or mindless rantings.
3) Who can provide credible recommendations? Choose no more than 5-7 professionally credible people from your LinkedIn connections who can write well, know your skills, accomplishments and work ethic. Then send them a direct message asking for a recommendation. I know it takes more time but you'll get a more authentic and impressive result. (See Practice LinkedIn Etiquette below)
4) Own a small business? What kind of clients do you want to attract? (Anyone who's paying is not a good answer!) Target specific industries for a few months, consider state or federal government, healthcare or education. Avoid every status post or link being a blatant promotional ad about yourself, your business or your services. Share your expertise or even good motivational quotes. Share freely and often, it comes back to you in so many positive ways. And yes, eventually that may even mean a job offer or a gaining a new, paying client. Share links to your website or blog and be patient yet continue to engage in meaningful communication with your connections.
Practice LinkedIn Etiquette
Networking online can be tricky. It’s easy to simply send random electronic requests for a recommendation without engaging in any other communication. You'll want to practice the following etiquette:
• Avoid asking for recommendations from those who truly do not know your work. This is just like asking someone to serve as a reference who does not know you. Be sure to always send a customized message asking for the recommendation, not the standard one. Remind the person of what you’re looking for. That way, they can write a specific, targeted recommendation using key words that will get you noticed. Make sure the person has professional credibility and can write in a professional tone. Any recommendation that says, “Bill is a great guy” or ”I enjoyed working with her,” adds no value or perspective. Recommendations should include an authentic,short description of how you've used specific skills or abilities/accomplishments that you will provide a prospective client or employer.
• It is appropriate to include your LinkedIn address on your resume, especially if you are in an active job search. Most recruiters will check LinkedIn and other social media anyway, so make it easy for them. Why? because if you are not right for their opportunity they may know someone who knows someone who needs your skills. Write your profile in a manner that provides a snapshot of your accomplishments which matches your resume. Avoid a laundry list of work history, focus on key words that indicate what you can do.
•Join groups and subgroups where you can both gain knowledge and participate in discussions about your field. If you have good advice to share from your life and career perspective, share it in a way that helps others. Don't stalk boards or groups looking for referrals or jobs, actively engage and share.
• If you blog, add a link to your blog on your LinkedIn profile. Be sure it demonstrates your professional knowledge or expertise in an area. Your mindless or even intelligent ramblings on political or religious matters can close door. Unless you have the luxury of searching for jobs or accepting clients where only those with that political party or religious affiliation work, avoid overly biased blogging. I know some of you may disagree...comments welcome on this one!
• Avoid posting a LinkedIn status as: "I need a job!" It looks and sounds desperate. Which means, no one will be as interested in you. Also, if you have a job and want your search to remain confidential, avoid posting, “need a job,” since you never know who in your organization is just one connection away from you. Stay positive and focus on taking some time to help or encourage someone else and expect nothing in return. If somone helps you, pay it forward.
• Watch your grammar, spelling and punctuation in your profile. Don't write it with the same abbreviations you would use to text. ("ru" should be spelled out as "are you"). Proofread your LinkedIn profile just as you would a resume. Fair or unfair, a sloppy profile might mean a sloppy worker or business owner. It’s okay to revisit your profile from time to time and make corrections or enhancements to your personal brand statement.
Don't forget to invest time and attention in building face-to-face relationships. Everything from joining a local health club to volunteering can also connect you with interesting, prospective employers, clients or even new friends who will become part of your support system. Be friendly, be wise and don't neglect picking up the phone or asking for an informal meeting to have a face-to-face conversation about a career or industry. And it never hurts to exercise regularly, so you can be in good health for that new job (or client) coming your way. Commit, plan and succeed.