There are more than 300 million LinkedIn users in over 200 countries. How can you possibly stand out in a crowd that large? The answer lies in your personal brand. Who are you and what do you stand for? What have you achieved throughout your career? By building a stronger LinkedIn brand you can attract more attention from recruiters and open the door to more career possibilities.
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Personal branding as a concept was first described by author and management expert Tom Peters who said, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
The Personal Branding Wiki defines branding as “the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.”
As a Job Search Coach, one of the most common mistakes I see professionals making is spending too little time on LinkedIn. Yet, not only is LinkedIn a powerful job search adjunct; it’s also a formidable career management tool.
Consider these statistics:
Millions of job seekers who previously worked with recruiters to land great jobs are now finding that those same recruiters are overwhelmed with great candidates. Indeed, recruiters themselves report that they have a superabundance of great candidates and too few jobs to place folks into.
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So, how do you get a recruiter’s attention in such a tight market? I’d like to suggest this 7-step method. This is an unusual approach, but it is more likely to get your candidacy noticed - which is, after all, what you’re looking for. In a market as tight as this one, it takes more than a superlative resume to get attention.
First, begin with the best possible LinkedIn profile targeted to your audience.
You know that LinkedIn is a critically important job search tool, right? But do you know the specific ways LinkedIn can elevate your search results? Let’s take a look at 15 of them.
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There are five major job search methodologies, or ways to bring your candidacy to the attention of prospective employers. By supplementing your action steps in each of these areas with specific LinkedIn tactics, you can upgrade the number of interviews and career opportunities you attract.
You already know you have a LinkedIn network (and hopefully it's a large one). But do you know you actually have a total of four LinkedIn networks?
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Your first LinkedIn network is made up of your first-level connections – all the people you are directly connected to on LinkedIn. These are the folks whose total shows on your profile (until your network surpasses 500, after which, LinkedIn lists it as 500+). To see the true scope of your first network, click on "Advanced Search," which you’ll find next to the LinkedIn search bar on the top center of any page.
On the new page that appears you will see an overlay that allows you to search LinkedIn. Close the overlay so you can see the page it masks. In the left-hand margin you will see a run-down of your network relationships: your first, second, Group, and third-level connections. Your second-level and Group contacts are the first and second networks you don’t know you have.
Your second-level connections are all those people your first-level contacts are connected to, while your third-level connections are all those your second-levels know. And your Group connections are all those folks with whom you share a LinkedIn Group membership.
While your first-level connections are a very important part of your overall LinkedIn network, it is imperative to pay attention to your second-level and Group connections, as well. For different reasons, both of these networks play a key role in your career search. Use LinkedIn’s advanced search capabilities to filter your network by relationship level so you can pinpoint target contacts you want to get to know better or leverage strategically.
One goal of your LinkedIn networking should be to promote as many of your second-level connections to the first-level as you can. Examine the profiles of your second-level connections and identify ways you can tighten the networking relationship between you.
So, just what is thought leadership in the context of a job search? Let’s start with a few sample definitions.
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The term “thought leadership” was first coined by Joel Kurtzman, then Editor-in-Chief of Booz& Co’s Strategy & Business Magazine. Wikipedia defines a thought leader as “an individual that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.”
Daniel Rasmus described thought leadership a little differently in his Fast Company.com article, The Golden Rules for Creating Thoughtful Thought Leadership, “Thought leadership should be an entry point to a relationship. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.”
Michael Brenner noted in his LinkedIn post, “What is Thought Leadership? Why You Need It. And Steps to Get it Right,” that “thought leadership is about becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.”
Brenner raises a good point in that demonstrating thought leadership is ultimately about answering relevant questions. Which leads me to the reasons why thought leadership is worthy of a job seeker’s time – because demonstrating your expertise on key issues in your industry can help attract recruiters and hiring executives to your candidacy.
Think about it this way. If your candidacy is the proverbial needle in a haystack, then to get the attention of recruiters and hiring executives you need to somehow clone yourself to make it easier for them to discover you. Thought leadership is the perfect solution. Done right, this strategy helps your target market to find you, to get to know you, and to validate your knowledge when compared to other candidates. That’s no small thing in a market in which there are three unemployed persons for every job opening and 250 applicants for every corporate job posting (for the full infographic see CareerEnlightenment.com).
Okay, so maybe you understand why thought leadership is important for job seekers to consider. But why is it important to do so on LinkedIn? Well, if that’s the #1 place where recruiters and hiring executives are looking for candidates (and it is), then it makes sense to focus your initial thought leadership efforts on LinkedIn. Don’t limit yourself to this social media site, however; consider adding Twitter and other valuable sites such as Quora as your comfort level with thought leadership grows.
Before we review the key ways to build thought leadership on LinkedIn, I’d like to reference some key points Brenner made in the article I referenced earlier. He suggests that thought leadership needs to focus on five key elements. His ideas deserve a full attribution in this quote “translated” to relate to job seekers:
Throughout your career search, you will (hopefully) have the opportunity to showcase your candidacy in multiple job interviews. Considering it takes an average of seven interviews to win one job offer, it’s imperative that your performance is exceptional enough to propel you to the next level. How can you best present your strengths during an interview to earn a call-back?
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Let’s concentrate on three key ways you can present your strengths effectively during an interview.