If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you may want to consider this valuable resource for professional networking. If you do have a LinkedIn profile, you may want to tweak it to best represent your background, experience and professional goals. Studies show that your LinkedIn profile is one of the first things that come up in search results if someone “googles” your name online. Just as you dress to make the best impression at work, you may need to give similar attention to your online identity.
Below is a step-by-step guide for creating an outstanding LinkedIn profile:
- Put some thought into the picture that you choose. LinkedIn is designed to represent your professional self and your picture needs to reflect that. Provocative, silly, or family shots should be reserved for Facebook. And yes, you should definitely upload a picture. This gives you a presence and potentially some recognition, where those without a picture do not appear as committed or professional. I always wonder if those without a picture are out of date.
- Add at least 5 years of career background. Like a virtual resume, LinkedIn gives others a more in depth look at your background and expertise. It’s also a nice way to keep in touch with former colleagues and, more importantly, managers who may want to contact you someday to offer you your dream job. Make sure to include a brief summary of what each company does or sells.
- Try not to copy your resume. Use this opportunity to talk about your experience in your own words. Include appropriate keywords and industry specific terms whenever possible. For example, “First Community Sales Director for brand new assisted living community, went from blue sky marketing to 100% occupancy within 9 months” sounds better than “Marketer for new assisted living community”
- Education is important. Make sure to include your alma mater and your degree major on LinkedIn, however unless it’s relevant to your experience (just got degree in industry specific course of study ie, gerontology, healthcare administration, MBA etc) I would refrain from including the year that you attended or graduated. Your expertise should be evaluated by how many years of experience you have and what you’ve accomplished rather than how many years you’ve been out of college. If you don’t have a degree, just state that: University of CA San Francisco – Coursework (or General Studies). Do not include your high school information here.
- Connect, connect, connect! LinkedIn is designed to be more beneficial to you the more connections you have. You can ask to connect with others that have worked at companies you’ve worked at. Search for the name of the company and a drop down box should come up that says “People who work at XYZ Senior Living”, “People that used to work at XYZ Senior Living” and “Jobs at XYZ Senior Living”. Obviously click on either “People who work at “ or “People who used to work at “ and you will get a list of people. I like to write a personalized message on each invitation but most people just click “Invite to connect”. You may have to choose “former colleague” and then click on the company where you worked together,
- Get Engaged. Join industry or sales groups. Consider this part of your industry networking strategy. Read relevant articles and make comments. Especially if you’re looking for a new position, companies often post their jobs in industry groups for free, so it’s a great tool. You can also invite people to connect if you belong to the same group and they can invite you. This is a “must do” to grow your connections! Try to make a point to congratulate people when they get a new job or have a work anniversary. LinkedIn makes this easy by adding your connection’s updates to your home page.
- Ask for recommendations. Don’t be shy about asking former supervisors or colleagues to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn. If you want to be seen as an expert in your field, recommendations are essential. First you will need to connect with those that you wish to ask, and then LinkedIn automates the process of asking them. On your profile page, hover over the down arrow next to “Edit Profile”, and click on “Ask to be recommended”. The rest is self-explanatory. Try to get one from each job you’ve had but the quality of the recommendation is more important than the quantity.
Now you will find that LinkedIn has even more to offer as you stay up to date on the latest in your industry by reading articles, blog posts and company announcements on your home page and in your groups. Remember to update your profile anytime something changes so you don’t have to do a major overhaul later. Think of LinkedIn like a virtual networking group and you will be a power user in no time!