Throughout your career, you’ll likely encounter plenty of situations where you need to be able to talk about yourself and your unique skills. Perhaps you’ll need to secure an internship or job, or to explain your role at an organization. As the YALI Network has explored before, the ability to talk about and promote yourself is a necessary skill to develop. But these days, there are many ways to do that—both in person and online. One of the best ways to establish your “personal brand” is through LinkedIn, a social media site that’s tailored just for professional individuals and companies.
This YALI Network resource will teach you more about LinkedIn and help you take advantage of all of the useful platform offers.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a business-oriented online social network of individuals and companies. With more than 400 million members and companies from more than 200 countries, LinkedIn helps its users network, make professional connections, find jobs, foster business opportunities, and more. Unlike other social networks like Facebook—which you might use to connect with friends or family—LinkedIn is specifically meant for connecting with other professionals. It’s also used by recruiters at many corporations and organizations to find potential candidates.
Why should I Use LinkedIn?
For the last several years, LinkedIn has been growing by about two new users per second. The site is now one one of the largest and fastest-growing business social networks in the world, making it an essential tool for job-seekers and professionals. It’s also one of the primary ways recruiters today find potential candidates for jobs. Last year, Forbes reported that 97% of recruiters used LinkedIn as part of their process. Whether you’re looking for jobs or hiring employees at your own organization or company, LinkedIn is a resource that’s almost impossible to ignore.
Not convinced yet? Here are a few more reasons you should join LinkedIn:
- Self-marketing: At 1-2 pages long, paper resumes are often limited by space restrictions. On LinkedIn, you can include more details about your experiences and skills that might otherwise get cut. Consider your LinkedIn profile as an expanded resume— an opportunity to showcase your accomplishments, education, professional interests, and establish credibility in your field.
- Professional Networking: LinkedIn is an incredibly useful tool for growing and maintaining your professional network. It can help you stay in touch with former colleagues or friends while allowing you to connect with new people, such as hiring managers, sales prospects, or potential employees. And the more connections you have, the more people you can reach via your network.
- Job Applications: Through your LinkedIn profile, you can quickly and easily apply for a multitude of jobs via third-party company websites. With just a couple of clicks, the information stored in your profile can be shared with company recruiters in a professional format.
And best of all, LinkedIn is free to join!
How to Use LinkedIn
Create and update your profile
Just like your profiles on other social media networks, your profile on LinkedIn is how you present your online persona. On LinkedIn, your profile resembles a digital resume and includes sections where you can detail your work skills, experience, certifications, projects, and more. But it’s important that you fill out every single section of your profile—the more detail you include, the better the odds are that recruiters will find you.
To write your best possible profile, try looking at it from the recruiter’s perspective. They want to know your professional history, as well as what skills you have to offer and how you perform in a job. What are your experiences? What have you accomplished? Why should someone hire you? Telling a story and conveying your unique value will help you stand out from other people.
Pro Tip: LinkedIn measures the completeness of your profile as you work through it and offers suggestions on how to make it stronger.
Ready to create your LinkedIn profile? It should include:
- An up-to-date picture: As the saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ The same goes for LinkedIn. A great profile photo can go a long way in conveying who you are and what you’re passionate about. Make sure to choose a clear, professional image that is appropriate for your target company or industry. See what other people in your chosen field are doing and try to do the same.
- Location: Including your location will improve accuracy when someone searches for a job candidate in your area. This isn’t only helpful for growing your network online, it can also help you connect to people or events happening offline in your city.
- Experiences: This section of your profile should provide an overview of your work history, including the company names, dates, job titles, and locations of your current and previous positions. For each position, include a brief description of your responsibilities along with a bulleted list of accomplishments, just as you would on your resume.
- Skills: Include keywords that will help you appear in recruiters’ searches and provide a fuller story of who you are and what you’re capable of. Add skills that are important for someone in your industry to have and order the list so that your most valuable skills appear first. Contacts in your network can endorse you for these skills, which will add to your credibility and attract hiring managers.
- Special projects and publications: LinkedIn provides extra sections where you can write about or link to projects and publications. Use these sections to demonstrate your expertise and provide a broader look at your work. Include articles you’ve written, papers you’ve published, websites you’ve developed, or any other work that adds dimension to your work.
- Volunteer work: LinkedIn also includes a section devoted exclusively to volunteer history, which you might consider incorporating into your experience profile—especially if your volunteer positions show leadership skills. These sections are great way to showcase your skills and help you stand out from the crowd.
- Recommendations: Recommendations on LinkedIn act like letters of reference, and can help you get hired. Whenever possible, ask former and current colleagues to write you a recommendation on your profile. And don’t be afraid to ask them to be specific! What projects did you work on? What value did you provide? Having their input can give hiring managers a better picture of what qualities make you a good fit at their company.
Pro Tip: Don’t put off updating your LinkedIn profile until you’re on the job market. Try to revisit your LinkedIn profile every six months or so to make sure all of the information is as up-to-date as possible, and that it’s an accurate representation of you. Remember, the more time you spend on your profile, the more it will pay off in the long run.
Lastly, make sure your profile is public so that people can find you!
Grow your network
LinkedIn allows you to make connections with your professional contacts. As with all social networks, the more connections you make, the larger the audience you’re able to reach. Growing your network will help you connect to new opportunities, experiences, and potential jobs. Here’s how to do it:
- Use the “Add Contacts” Feature: This feature syncs with your email contacts and makes suggestions for people you may want to connect with on LinkedIn.
- Use the “People You May Know” Feature: The “People You May Know” feature finds commonalities between you and other LinkedIn members, such as common connections, similar profile information, or experience at same company. It also includes contacts you’ve imported from your email and mobile address books. Use this tool to reach out to professionals with similar backgrounds and connections, or to find employees whose careers you’d like to emulate. Interested in a job at a specific company? Go to its page and click to “follow” the company and find employees who currently work there.
- Add friends and family members: As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, friends and family can be a great way to expand your network and help you find new work opportunities. While adding connections on multiple social media networks might seem counterintuitive, it’s actually a good idea: remember, you’re not just connecting with one person, you’re connecting with their network, too. Maybe your friend has a connection to someone who could help your career.
- Connect with people you meet in real life: Perhaps you find yourself in an interesting discussion at an event or conference. Maybe you’re operating your day-to-day business. Use these opportunities to exchange business cards with other professionals in your field, then add them as connections on LinkedIn. Or connect on the spot using a smartphone!
Pro Tip: Be thoughtful about who you add as a connection. For the best chance of successfully connecting with people, personalize every invitation with a unique message. Introduce yourself, thank them for connecting with you, and remind the person how you met or invite them to connect in real time. And avoid adding those you don’t know, or have some legitimate connection to, as LinkedIn may penalize your account for doing this.
Manage your skills and endorsements
Getting endorsements from fellow LinkedIn members is a great way to show off your skills. The best way to ensure endorsements are effective is to keep your skills up-to-date. As you move between careers, develop new skills, or gain new responsibilities, drop outdated skills from your profile and add the ones you want to be recognized for. That way, when connections view your profile, they’ll only see—and endorse you for—the most relevant skills. This will increase your chances of being recruited for positions that you’re most interested in.
Post and share relevant content
LinkedIn is a good place to share informative content that’s catered to your network, including blog posts, studies, or news articles. Spend time collecting and sharing content that your network will find valuable. This can also include your own content. LinkedIn has a publishing platform where you can strengthen your professional identity by publishing articles about your own expertise, opinions, experience, and interests. Every time you publish an article, your original content becomes part of your professional profile and is displayed on the “Articles” section of your LinkedIn profile. It’s also shared with your connections and followers in their news feeds.
Join active professional groups
Beyond sharing general updates and content on your news feed, try becoming more active in professional groups. Not sure where to start? Browse suggestions for “Groups You May Like,” join alumni groups, groups for people in your industry, or active professional groups. Not only are these groups a great place to learn about what’s going on in your professional world or to learn about the latest industry trends, but also having the group’s logo on your profile helps “brand” yourself as an established professional in your field. Once you’ve found several groups to join, spend time “listening,” contributing to current discussions, or posting new discussions. This will demonstrate that you’re an expert in your field and also help you get noticed by recruiters.
Interested in taking the next step with your business? Check out our #YALIEntrepreneurs page.