Networking is an art, a science, a skill, a dance and a contact sport. We have all heard the adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” There are two other levels that need to be considered: “Who knows you” and, more important, “Who knows about you.” Welcome to the world of social media. A luxury, once experienced, quickly becomes a necessity, and LinkedIn is a great example. It is the third leg of your networking stool along with networking groups and personal contacts. Why is LinkedIn so important? Because it is where you will be found. It can and will open doors for you. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if you don’t take the time to carefully build your profile, few people will find you, and the ones who do are unlikely to give you a second look. I have met few young adults who are not on Facebook. LinkedIn is the Facebook for professionals. A properly positioned LinkedIn profile can go where you can’t go, and it can sell you when you’re not there. Here are a few tips that might help you “be found.”
Make sure your profile is 100 percent complete – That includes your profile picture. Take a picture of who you want to be, someone you would want to know. Companies are 10 times more likely to view your profile when a professional picture is displayed. In order to achieve 100 percent complete status, you need a minimum of 500 connections. I know what you’re thinking, but if this was easy, everybody would be doing it.
Elaborate on your posted resume – You have the opportunity to showcase yourself as a well-rounded individual. You can talk about your charitable activities, internships and your summer jobs. The Slide Share option gives you the ability to showcase your professional story with visual content on your profile. This means you can illustrate your achievements in the form of images. Don’t go overboard. Limit your adjectives as if you had a $1 budget and each adjective costs you 50 cents. Simplicity is the key here. Simplify to amplify.
Ask people for recommendations – This provides evidence that you are who you say you are. Professors and coaches are excellent sources, provided they too are on LinkedIn. You should have 12 to 15 recommendations. Potential employers are looking for common themes of your focus and character. They are looking for a strong sense of ownership, customer obsession, a bias for action and teamwork, the ability to influence others and the ability to analyze data to help drive decision-making. You can talk about this until your face turns blue, but it’s better when someone else does it for you. Recommendations can help you verify your accomplishments, what you’ve actually delivered, and thus highlight the impact. It’s not where you’ve been, it’s what you’ve done that counts.
Use keywords – Think of LinkedIn as a website. What do you want to do? What kind of problems can you solve? What makes you different? Why should the reader care? It is important to implement practical Search Engine Optimization tools (SEO). Place keywords in the content of your page as many times as acceptable (not as many times as possible). For example, a financial analyst might want to use keywords such as cost analysis, budgeting, capital ROI and forecasting just to name a few.
Edit your Facebook page – It should be PG rated. If you have posted 300 pictures and 299 of them are of you at various parties with a beer in your hand or a lamp shade on your head, you should get rid of them ASAP. Ditto if you are captured on a friend’s page demonstrating similar social interactive activities.
Networking should never be limited to what you can do sitting in front of your computer. LinkedIn is a tool that is designed to support your networking effort, not replace it. If you really want to find your ideal job, your networking efforts must and should go off-line. Opportunities come from conversations. Nothing to date has replaced the value of a face-to-face conversation.
Brad Smith is an executive training coach. www.bsmithcc.com