I just got back from a presentation where I asked audience members to raise their hands to show if they were LinkedIn... and as usual, several people simply sat that question out... and avoided eye contact with me.
As a follow-up, I then queried the group as to who had made their profiles robust and updated them recently. A large number of hands came down at that point. After the program was over, several people came up to me and said they had a profile up but it wasn't something of which they were particularly proud, but they knew other LinkedIn users were looking at them, based on the stats.
WAKE UP! Don't be a LinkedIn “Ignoridiot!"
Folks resisting technology and plugging their heads into the proverbial ostrich hole and other people who just post up the minimal content are completely MISSING THE BOAT.
Looking for a job? Many companies are ONLY using LinkedIn to post employment opportunities, preferring the “six degrees of separation" aspect of how candidates might be linked to their company. But only people who are already LinkedIn users can apply, which means you are shut out of that process completely.
Not looking for a job? Many recruiters are prowling LinkedIn looking for industry talent. Don't you want to have your door open to these offers?
The point is that if you aren't on there, they cannot find you.
And what you post on this social media platform on there profoundly impacts how others see you. It is critical that view LinkedIn as one of the main cornerstones of your career marketing materials much like you would view your resume or cover letter.
But here's the catch:
LinkedIn is on there 24/7/365 and anyone in the world can find you. And if you aren't on there, there's a major door to your career future that hasn't been opened yet.
Some people scoff and see LinkedIn and all new technology as a contrivance, but from everything I have heard, learned, and listened to from industry experts, it is a fallacy to believe that you can still be out there working and not have an active, completely filled out profile.
A careers industry colleague, Jason Alba, who is recognized as one of the country's top LinkedIn experts, recently provided a great example of a top-notch LinkedIn profile – check this out so you can see what one looks like.
While this is an excellent example, there are still some things that can be done to fill out the entire profile itself, but it is a good start.
Some tips to avoid being a LinkedIn “Ignoridiot":
1. If you aren't on there, get on there. You are only hurting yourself and keeping yourself shut off from opportunity.
2. Add a photo. Don't be a blank “egg" – humans are visual creatures. For your photo shoot, dress conservatively like you would for an interview. Because it is. LinkedIn is like an interview that is available year-round, 24/7. Please DO NOT go to Glamourshots. Please do make the best clean-cut appearance possible with minimal jewelry. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
3. Add a headline. Don't list “unemployed" because unemployed is not a direction. You want to point to the positive goal you are aiming towards, so create a job title headline. Then you can list you are available underneath that.
4. Get a personalized URL. LinkedIn provides this option. It is a heckuva lot easier for an employer to type in your name than the lengthy default number, letter, and symbol URL LinkedIn assigns.
5. Create a compelling summary. Saying you are an experienced blah blah blah manager is NOT good enough anymore. This is social media, folks, and that means adding a warm touch. Use this summary to convey a bit about your personality and unveil some of your passion for your field.
6. Add some bling. Make sure to add links that augment and enhance your profile. Use SlideShare to include a presentation that enhances your credentials. But whatever you do, make sure the links you include lead to useful, polished, and relevant information.
7. Make sure to include your specialties. (Pssst... here's the secret - this is your keyword search area.) Don't know what those are? Go to www.onetonline.org and type in your job title. Presto! Make yourself searchable.
8. Tell a story about each job record. Of course you are limited with the number of characters so you only want to include the “biggies" about your accomplishments, but toss a bone to your former employer and make yourself look good: lead off with a story talking about what the biggest takeaway and/or lesson you learned at that company. It's a win-win situation – you look generous, your previous employer looks good, and the potential employer feels like they have a future employee in front of them who is a learner and adapter.
9. Don't forget the awards. If you have any specific accolades in your field, make sure you list them. In essence, this is how you have separated yourself from the crowd. Remember, the cream rises to the top.
10. Education. Besides the good old-fashioned book learning, leverage (if possible) what you learned in school and provide a good example of how you have been able to apply it in the real world. Employers LOVE that! But please don't list what year you graduated – LinkedIn lets you choose the "blank" option. This will help avoid potential age discrimination problems.
11. Volunteer. Being engaged and involved in your field or industry shows traction. Remember to keep track of these engagements.
12. Get recommended. By asking others to make a recommendation (no “scratch my back and I'll scratch yours"), you are actually leveraging their reputation to endorse you, which also gives you a boost in credibility. Think supervisors, former bosses, colleagues, mentors, industry partners, or subordinates. But please have your best pal or family members to recommend you. Just don't.
13. Join industry groups. Keep on top of trends and share ideas. Hmm... all very attractive things to employers.
14. Answer or ask questions. Being part of an active online dialogue is a great way to boost your own profile and subject matter expertise. Better yet, if your answers get rated as “best responses," you gain little stars in expertise.
15. Update your status regularly. If you don't use your profile, how do you expect others to? Just remember, if the lights are on and no one is home, employers will move along to someone else who will answer the door.
Cultivating an active LinkedIn profile requires vigilance, persistence, and resolve. But by doing so, you avoid becoming an Ignoridiot and instead open the doors to who knows what kind of opportunity.
It's your choice. What are you going to do about it?
Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Oregon-based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. Clients from across the United States and Canada and from all career levels have benefited from Dawn's highly-focused and results-oriented resume, cover letter, and job search coaching services.