Here are some stats to chew on:
- LinkedIn has more than 645 million users worldwide.
- 30 million companies have profiles on the network.
- Two professionals join every second.
With these odds, we're betting you have a LinkedIn presence. But is it working hard enough to find you work or—even if you're not actively looking—is it making you attractive enough to let that person who is hiring for your dream job know that you exist?
Keep in mind, opportunities often come along when we least expect them. (We all have that friend who swore off dating altogether only to find The One the following Friday. ) Make sure you're always showing your best self to your colleagues, peers, and that amazing boss you haven't met yet.
Let them know you're out there
Did you know that there is basically a dog whistle for recruiters on LinkedIn? You can find it under “Me,” “Settings & Privacy”, and then “Job Seeking Preferences” where you can “Let recruiters know you're open to opportunities.”
This clandestine feature hides your choice from your current employer and any recruiter affiliated with them—helpful because unless you are between jobs, you don't want to broadcast that you're not interested unless the perfect opportunity comes along. 90% of recruiters use LinkedIn on a regular basis. And they can help keep your career on track even when you're content where you are.
A picture is worth a thousand jobs
Okay, that's an exaggeration. But you have to remember that LinkedIn members with pictures get 21 times more profile views and 9 times more connection requests. One study shows that recruiters spend nearly 20 percent of their time looking solely at profile pictures.
Now, LinkedIn is a professional site, but you also need to stand out a bit in a sea of 629,999,999 other people. Think of what personality traits you want to convey (Authoritative? Approachable? Confident? Creative?) and map your image to that (what you're wearing, what filters you do or don't use, whether it's a photo or an illustration). You can also use the background of the photo to help you visually say more.
NYC photographer and headshot specialist Peter Hurley, whose “5 Quick Headshot Tips” video has close to 3 million views, says it's all about the “squinch,” an eye technique which he says makes people look more approachable and confident.
And if you want to go beyond the general is-this-good Q&A with your mom and friends, check out Snappr, which uses research along with image recognition and machine-learning technologies to rate how well your LinkedIn profile pic will perform.
A sense of belonging…AND free messages
Join LinkedIn Groups that will tell others, ahem, potential new bosses, a bit more about you—there are more than 2 million Groups and counting, including college alumni, industry associations, type of job role, personal hobbies, political affiliations, and environmental organizations.
The key? Making sure the groups are on-brand for you. What's that mean? Think about the story you are telling about yourself. If you're a creative type, you might join Groups with fellow designers, artists, or writers. Maybe it's a group about trends in branding or advertising. Your alma mater. Or women in the workplace. The Groups you join are a way to let people know what's important to you, both in your career and in your life. (By the way, if you need help with personal branding, we got you.)
The real beauty of the LinkedIn Group is that you can send up to 15 free messages per month to anyone who is also a member of that Group. This means you don't even have to be connected to someone yet, or spend money on an InMail to start a conversation.
Type your mind with LinkedIn Publisher
Everyone in the U.S. can offer their original insights by publishing an article, which will be attached and visible in your profile and distributed in your connections' and followers' news feeds. Just tap on your Home icon, and at the top of the page in the middle section, you will see a link to “Write an Article”.
When the platform first started, it was only available for a select 150 influencers (think: Richard Branson). The fact that now anyone can publish, levels the playing field between Regular Joes and the Influencer Famous.
Plus, if your connections like, share, or comment on your article, their first connections will see your article too—which means a wider audience for your musings. And, the more articles you publish, the more you will start to be seen as an authority or thought leader in the space.
As if that weren't enough to convince you, articles published through the LinkedIn platform are indexed by Google and show up in organic search results. Likely, a site with the clout of LinkedIn gives you much more of a search boost than your own blog might. And if you share your article as a status update after you publish it, you can throw in some hashtags so that even people you're not connected with or who don't follow you still have a chance at seeing it. Again, that's more eyeballs for all of your very clever thinking.
Even if you don't write articles yourself, you should be reading them. What's happening in your industry? What are people are talking about? What catches your eye? Post the content that you think will be insightful for others and start to establish yourself as a person in the know. And add comments to others' posts—but only if you truly are adding to the conversation.
Here again, you need to think about your brand. Make sure what you're sharing makes sense for the narrative you're telling about yourself. If you're interested in working at an ad agency, don't share an article about how they are dying. If you want your LinkedIn presence to establish you as a serious business professional, skip posting a cat video. If you are passionate about parental leave, add a comment commending a company that has a great policy. Much of it is common sense, but you need to be mindful of it.
You can also tap on your “Me” icon and look under “Manage” to find “Posts & Activity.” Here, you can check out the analytics on your posts. You'll be able to see the number of views and likes, the number of reshares, and your audience demographics—including location, company and job title. So you can start to learn what is resonating with your contacts. And what isn't.
Get the download on your data
You have access to all your data on LinkedIn, which could be helpful on and off the platform. Tap on “Me” and “How LinkedIn Uses Your Data” and then “Getting a Copy of Your Data.” You can request articles, connections, messages, recommendations, and more—which they will compile for you and email in the form of a link so you can download the file.
Say you choose connections, you can then import your first connections' emails into your Gmail account to add to your blog, newsletter, or Christmas ecard, for example. (Note: your connections would need to have opted to share their email in their own settings for you to receive their email address.)
It's also interesting to view historical data such as every article you've shared or commented on—this could be useful in interview prep to help you answer potential questions around industry trends and your own interests.
Put the “you” in your URL
You have the ability to create a custom URL for your LinkedIn profile and it's really simple. Just tap your “Me” icon and “View profile.” Now look in the top right corner where you'll see “Edit public profile & URL.” This is a handy way to have a nice, clean link to add to your résumé or text over to people. It's also another opportunity to show off a bit of your personality—it doesn't just have to be your name. It could be a nod to your superhero power or a nickname or anything else that might attract attention.
LinkedIn is all about making yourself marketable so be sure to take full advantage. Let's head to our trusty “Me” icon again and “View profile.” Just under your name, there's a link for “Contact info,” tap on the pencil icon and you'll see an option to add a website. This could be your portfolio, your company site (if you are a partner or founder or on the board of directors), or even something like your Etsy store. It's like giving people a glimpse into another facet of yourself that they may not glean from your profile itself.
Key into your profile
Recruiters and hiring managers often find the perfect person for the job by keyword. In fact, Forbes recently called it the #1 way to get attention on LinkedIn. Your headline, which is a mere 120 characters, gives you the most bang for your buck. Think of it like the most perfect tweet ever composed. Only shorter.
So, what are the magic words? One idea is to find a job description for your dream gig and study it. Pull out anything relevant and sprinkle it into your headline and throughout your profile. Also, be specific. Do not use buzzwords as your keywords (e.g., strategic, synergy, robust, expert). Give something that sets you apart (e.g., best-selling author, certified SCRUM master, word nerd extraordinaire).
Make use of the wealth of information already on the platform too. How are other people in your role talking about themselves? What are thought leaders in your industry musing about right now? Are there trends you can capitalize on that you have experience with?
Don't overlook the obvious
This might be a forest-for-the-trees situation but firstly, do not lose sight of your area of expertise. If you are a copywriter, you'd better have a killer About Me description. Designers and art directors should have a background photo that showcases their keen eyeballs. Make use of the ability to hyperlink projects and showcase thumbnails within your Experience section, which can be done for each job you have listed. This is relevant for almost anyone creative, from 3D artists to those who design UX workflows. If you're a marketer, tell a narrative within your job descriptions about how you influenced campaigns, customer behavior, revenue for the company, ROI, etc.
Secondly, don't forget that you become more of an expert as you grow in your career. Keep your LinkedIn presence updated. Show your growth. Add new bullets. Talk about junior staff you now mentor, awards you've won, additional skills you've learned, other brands you work on, greater responsibilities you've tackled. And when you hit the strategy level, talk strategy. Guess what? If your manager wants to hear it, EVERY manager wants to hear it. The same goes for showing how you improve the business you work in every day. It's a lot of responsibility, it needs to show up on your profile. We all get stuck in the minutiae of the day, but updating your profile lets you take stock of where you've been, what you've done, and even where you might be headed next. And if you're worried your current company will see your recent update and know that you're “looking,” don't be. It's your career—be proud of your accomplishments. Heck, this might be the showcase to senior management you've been looking for.
Basically, this is like an interview before you get the interview. Don't treat it as a throwaway.
So now you know how to make the most of LinkedIn—whether you're between gigs, actively looking, or simply staying marketable—one thing that's for sure is that nothing is ever for sure. So it's always a good idea to be prepared, show your best self, and have an extra snack in your bag at all times. Stay hungry, friends.