- By Irina Rasskazova -
LinkedIn is a global professional social network that is mainly known for an opportunity to create an online version of your resumé and to search for jobs. However, we often have a little idea about how to build professional connections on LinkedIn more effectively and how to improve our chances to succeed in particular career paths. Here are 7 most important take-aways on that matter from the LinkedIn Lab Workshop presented by MIT Global Education and Career Development (GECD) during MS&PC Career Connect Series. Navigating LinkedIn just got easier.
Catch attention at first sight
There are thousands of profiles on LinkedIn, and to be noticed you need to include all the relevant information, yet to stay clear and concise. One way to improve visibility of your profile in a situation when employer carries out a search by key-words is to customize your “Headline”. Instead of duplicating information and keeping there the title of your most recent position, try to paraphrase it. “Content creator, media strategist, and social media specialist” sounds more robust than a dull “Account manager”. Stating the obvious, your profile must also convey business attitude. When employers are running the search your photo will be the first thing they will notice – so choose a professional headshot.
Write a summary for your profile but don't just list all of your experiences. Use this space for an elevator-pitch that will show your human voice and make you stand out. Tell your success story, what fascinates you in a particular industry, and what you are looking for. This is also a great opportunity to explain reasons behind career change or stress that you're relocating, for example. Fill this space with key-words your target audience is most interested in, and if possible, add media files to your summary – it might be published articles, presentations, video and other projects that will demonstrate your skills. Don’t forget to personalize the link to your public profile – it enhances your visibility on search engines like Google and looks more professional too. (Me – View Profile – Edit your public profile – Edit public profile URL)
Build a strong network
First, add all the “warm” contacts, in other words, people you know: colleagues, supervisors, classmates, professors, friends. The more people you have in your network, the bigger chance you have to get more profile views. Always endorse your connections for skills they have, and most probably they will endorse you back – that’s the etiquette of LinkedIn. Also, if possible, ask the most prominent connections (your boss, industry leader, big client) to write you a recommendation – it really gives a boost of credibility to your profile. When adding people you don’t know in real life, always write a personalized note. Introduce yourself, explain why you’re writing (“I'm hoping to learn more about how you got your career started at XXX”/ “I recently moved to Y and I'd love to learn more” / “I’m very impressed by your research, and would like to ask your advice”), and suggest to set up a call or a brief meeting to ask your questions (“Would you be open for a quick 15 minute conversation”).
Understand the company from within
It's challenging to expand your professional network when your social circle is limited. However, if you know WHAT you want to do, this task becomes a little bit easier with LinkedIn. Open LinkedIn page of a company you’re interested in and click on “Employees” – you'll see a list of people that can be filtered by key-words, location, industry, school, etc. If you have any “shared connections”, ask them to introduce you. This research tool is also useful to understand what are the responsibilities of certain jobs, what kind of career path has a person in a position you're aiming for, as well as to get to know who is a hiring manager in charge.
(RE)Connect to alumni
Alumni tool (linkedin.com/alumni) is another great way to expand your network or knowledge about a particular industry. By default, the link above will redirect you to the latest alma mater page from your profile but you can check out any university, whether you have a degree or not. Besides the possibility to filter the results by graduation year, location, and industry, you can see what people are skilled at. The latter will help you to adjust your skill set to the market demand and maybe even to finalize your decision about whether to take that online course you’ve been thinking about or not.
Join the community
One of the most annoying LinkedIn rules is that you can't message people who are your 2nd or 3rd degree connection. Being a part of a LinkedIn group though allows you to reach out to any group member without being connected. To start a conversation, open the list of the group members and click on a small letter icon next to the person's name. You can filter the list by typing “title:”, “school:”, and “company:” in the search bar. Be aware that LinkedIn allows you to send free 15 message per month, so use it wisely. You can also increase your profile visibility by sharing your professional expertise with a community, whether it is leaving a comment on a company’s page, participating in a group discussion or publishing your own LinkedIn article.
Set your privacy settings right
LinkedIn is a social network, which implies that by creating a profile you agree to be looked at. So don't be afraid to check out other people’s pages! By keeping your “viewing” settings on (Me – Settings & Privacy – Privacy – Profile viewing options – Your name and headline = ON), you increase the chances of making a connection: if you checked someone’s profile, it’s very likely that they will look at yours too – it’s just human curiosity! However, don’t overshare updates with your network – people probably won't be very happy to see that you've made 10 changes on your profile on the same day or liked 20 posts. To deactivate updates select “Sharing profile edits – NO” in Privacy Settings. You can turn it back on when you’ll have something important to share, for example, a new job or certification.