ince 2003, LinkedIn has grown into the premier professional networking tool. With a presence in 200 countries and 430 million accounts worldwide, the power of this network to deliver improved job prospects is second to none. Many people, however, don’t take notice of how to use it effectively. So if your profile is out of date and the words are bland, perhaps it is time that you tended your network, because it just might help you land your dream job.
LinkedIn is a social media application which is focussed exclusively on business. It relies on individuals making connections which are by company – “We all work for the Broken Biscuit Company” or by profession “we all work in HR” or even by location “Art and culture in Hull”. This database is huge and relatively free to use, so what are you waiting for?
What do you need to know or do to make LinkedIn work for you? Here are some ideas:
1. Attend to your profile
A former chief executive that I know, who is not physically a very big man, has his LinkedIn profile picture of himself strapped into a car as a passenger. Because he is small and the angle of the camera, he seriously looks as if he is strapped into a booster seat, not very flattering or wise given that he is trying to build a career as a consultant. So lesson one is to choose your profile picture with care. What do you want it to say about you? Save the pouting, lush lips and political statements for Facebook. Lesson two, keep it professional. Make sure your headline says something about you as a professional, not some random quote from the back of a cereal packet. You need to distinguish your personas on the two sites. Lesson three, make sure your profile is complete and reflects the terminology of the industry you aspire to. You can even get your skills endorsed by other users, which is OK if it is genuine and not a mutual appreciation society. But it isn’t all about you…
2. LinkedIn as a powerful database
With millions of users, all of whom have public profiles which are searchable (in contrast to their Facebook persona), you can pretty much find anyone you need to unless their name is “John Smith” and they are a teacher. Having found your target, use the information to research them. You can look at their progression, what training they have had (does everyone in that job have it?). What is the best length of time to stay in a post before moving on? Why does company “X“ have a high turnover of board members (never a good sign)? Does the company poach staff or grow its own from within? What proportion of its staff and in which categories are off shored? Know too that provided you have angled your profile correctly, it will even help you to make the most advantageous links by suggesting people to network with. You don’t have to know all the people on your network personally, it is enough that your work is related to build a network
3. Networks only work for you if you work them
Politicians and popstars work a crowd; you have to work the network. Look for people in the same line of business, stay in touch with old school /university friends who have done well or who could get you an introduction to someone who could be of help to you in your career – either through a potential job offer or as a mentor who might be willing to coach you.
4. Intelligence gathering
If you are applying for a job with a particular organisation, get the lowdown on it and its employees. Find out how it likes to present itself and decide whether you might be a good fit. Use your intelligence subtly at interview. Similarly, you can monitor comings and goings in your industry – especially if it is a small one. Look how your competitors brand themselves and use it, or follow a different path. If you are planning to move industry or sectors, notice the language and try to match it.
5. Follow companies
Especially if it is one you would like to work for. You can choose them and find out about their offering, you can even bookmark jobs with particular titles. Some companies (many in the US) actually advertise jobs through their LinkedIn pages and actively encourage would be recruiters to showcase their talent there. In economic terms where the US leads the UK will follow so get ahead of the curve.
So if you are looking for a new job, it can’t help to use the power of LinkedIn to improve your prospects, over to you and good luck.