There are a lot of things you can—and should—be doing in your job search. You obviously need a resume. A network of people is important since it’s still about who you know. Strong interview skills will help you succeed once you get the call. But in today’s social-media-driven world, it’s also imperative to be on LinkedIn. And you can’t just be there; you need to be optimizing LinkedIn to make the most of your job search.
There are plenty of job seekers “of a certain age” who are hesitant to put themselves on social media. While you may be opposed to creating a profile on Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn is a different animal all together. This is where job seekers, sales professionals, business decision makers, and corporate recruiters spend their time. LinkedIn is not a social platform for the kids. Business deals happen here every day. Likewise, job seekers find jobs here.
Currently, there are more than 575 million users on LinkedIn, and 260 million of them are active monthly. There are members across the street and around the world. And because of the way the network is built, you have direct access to your or first-level connections, but your extended network goes through your second- and third-level connections. That’s a lot of people you can reach. Quickly.
In short, you’re doing your job search a disservice if you’re not using and optimizing LinkedIn.
7 Tips for Optimizing LinkedIn
Being on LinkedIn is one thing. And it’s a good thing. But it’s not everything. Just because you have a profile on the site doesn’t mean you’re helping your job search.
It’s important to remember that LinkedIn is a search engine, just like Google. That means you need to optimize your LinkedIn profile. That’s what businesses do to their websites to ensure they are found. It’s called SEO, or search engine optimization, and you should follow the example of businesses when you SEO your personal LinkedIn profile.
1. Create a Custom URL
Every page on the internet has a URL, or address. That means that you’ll be given one by LinkedIn automatically. But it’s long and cumbersome. Instead, create one that’s short and targeted. Your name is the ideal choice for your custom URL. It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s easy to do. Follow these simple instructions to create yours.
2. Use Professional Photos
To convey a professional image, you need to use professional photos in your profile. If you don’t have a professional headshot, have a friend take a nice picture of you. A selfie should be considered your last option, although it can often look pretty good with some practice. You should be the only person in the picture, and make sure it’s recent and clear.
You can also choose an image for your cover. As a job seeker, keep it simple. Maybe something of interest to you or a place you’ve visited.
3. Cultivate 500+ Connections
There are a couple of reasons you need to grow your network to 500 or more. When you’re optimizing LinkedIn, a huge component is about your profile, but another aspect to how easily people can find you is how broad your network is. When you have 150 connections, your network extends to 1503, or 3.3 million. That’s because up to third-level connections can easily find you. However, when you have 5003, your network grows to 125 million. Remember that 575 million people are on LinkedIn and you’ll see how valuable it is to be better connected.
Another, more aesthetic, reason to have 500+ connections is how it looks on your profile. LinkedIn offers up the number of connections you have below 500. But if you have 500+, it simply says 500+. That means you could have 501 or 5,001 connections. And that comes across as having a robust network.
4. Complete Your Profile
Just as SEO on a website depends on content, so does optimizing LinkedIn. You need to have a fully complete profile with lots of information and keywords. There are a few areas in which you want to add keywords so that your profile be found:
- Most recent, or current, position
The keywords are the words you want to be found for, such as the job title you’re seeking. Keep in mind that recruiters won’t be looking for you specifically because they won’t yet know your name. Instead, they are looking for someone who does what you do or has the experience you have. It’s your job to tell LinkedIn about yourself so it can help serve you up to the people who need to find you.
5. Add Supplementary Portfolio Items
As a job seeker, it’s unlikely you have a website of your own that showcases your wins. Luckily for you, LinkedIn solves the problem by providing you the perfect platform for creating an online profile. Not only can you upload your PDF resume; you can also add practically any type of PDF, JPG, or video to your profile.
While not every job seeker has portfolio components to add for optimizing LinkedIn, those creative types certainly will. If you are a writer or designer, you’ll no doubt have portfolio items to share with potential employers. And if you’ve spoken professionally or been on television, you can add videos of those experiences.
Now, when you add your LinkedIn URL to your resume, employers will have something new to learn about you when they visit. This definitely increases the “oomph” factor in your job search.
6. Ask for Recommendations
Gone are the days of attaching printed, signed letters of recommendation along with your resume and cover letter. In today’s job market, all you really need are well-written testimonials added to your profile. Thankfully, LinkedIn makes it pretty simple to ask for a recommendation: It’s as easy as a few clicks.
Those testimonials lend credibility to your campaign by adding third-party recommendations, which are invaluable.
A word here on endorsements (which are not to be confused with recommendations). At one point, anyone and everyone was clicking on your skill list to endorse you. While these are not particularly valuable since the people who endorse you may not even know you, endorsements do go a long way toward optimizing LinkedIn. That’s because they act as keywords. You can control which skills are on your list and ask people to endorse you for them so they have more weight, if you will. While not great for recruiters, endorsements certainly do help your profile be found online.
7. Add Valuable Posts and Articles
Just as Facebook encourages users to post updates, so does LinkedIn. You can do so right from the home page on your computer or mobile app. Unlike Facebook, this is not where you’ll share what you ate for dinner or the latest meme that made you giggle. When you’re optimizing LinkedIn, you want to share items of value.
The kinds of things to share on LinkedIn include articles or posts you’ve found on the internet, a Ted talk video that inspired you, or a comment about how you will add value to a potential employer.
You can add a post (aka status update) to your profile as well as to any group that you belong to on the site.
If you want to up your game a bit, you can write an article on LinkedIn. Essentially a blog, your article gets shared on your page and in your connections’ newsfeed. Articles are compiled on LinkedIn’s Pulse, which is the site’s online ezine. They have the potential, as well, to be shared via email to your connections (and beyond) if they capture enough attention.
While posts can direct readers to others’ articles and blogs, the articles you share directly on LinkedIn should be your original content. If you are a writer, this is a great way to create interest and goes a long way toward optimizing LinkedIn.
How Optimizing LinkedIn Helps Your Job Search
As a job seeker in a mid- to executive-level search, LinkedIn is a vital tool in your toolbox. It is where high-caliber decision makers and recruiters spend a good chunk of their time. And they’re looking for you. But if you haven’t bothered optimizing LinkedIn, you’re missing a huge opportunity to be found by people who wouldn’t have otherwise known about you.
By optimizing your profile and sharing valuable content regularly, you position yourself as an industry expert and thought leader. You are letting recruiters and key leaders know that you are a value add to their organization. Put simply, in today’s job market, optimizing LinkedIn is vital for finding your next position.
Need Help Optimizing LinkedIn?
If you’ve read this article and feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Many of the job seekers we work with at Ink & Quill Communications are unclear not only about optimizing LinkedIn but about their value proposition as well.
We can help.
Amanda Miller has been writing resumes since 1996, so she knows how to quickly and effectively position job seekers in the market. Once LinkedIn entered the scene, she jumped on the bandwagon and learned the key ways to help job seekers in optimizing LinkedIn to broaden their network. She has spoken to numerous organizations about how to strengthen their LinkedIn presence and unlock even more opportunities on the site.
If you have questions about LinkedIn, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re not sure what position you’re seeking, Shari Sterling, our career coach, is available. Since 2004, Shari has been helping shine the light on how job seekers’ talents and interests can tie to their next career opportunity.