The s and outs
By Marissa Yaremich
Last year, LinkedIn calculated there were 2 billion people searches; and the site currently boasts 100 million members in 200-plus countries and territories. It further estimates 1 million new members join each week, or “at a rate equivalent to a professional joining the site faster than one member per second.”
So now that you’re concerned about your career, are you ready to jump on board?
Realize the power of LinkedIn
The benefit of a LinkedIn account for a job seeker or potential job seeker is you can maximize your career by maximizing your professional network.
“What’s great about LinkedIn is that it’s an online, work-related rolodex,” says Shelley Zajic, vice president of talent management for Apollo Group/University of Phoenix. Zajic heads a team of Apollo’s job recruiters, like Evan Elbert, who regularly use LinkedIn to canvass candidates.
Yet this rolodex also gives you access to other people’s rolodexes or as LinkedIn calls them: connections. And this kind of access is what networking is all about, especially when you’re looking for a job, says Elbert, Apollo Group’s talent acquisition manager and a veteran finance and accounting recruiter.
“The more connections you have, the larger your network is for you to sprawl out and let it help you conduct business or get a job,” says Elbert, who counts himself among the earliest professionals to recognize LinkedIn’s networking potential when it first launched on May 5, 2003. Its slow rise in popularity is mostly due to people’s worry of overexposing themselves on the Internet, but Elbert says that perception is crumbling as social networking sites gain widespread acceptance. “People are using it for everyday business now,” adds Elbert. “It has definitely become a valuable business networking tool, and once people see the connection to the power of LinkedIn, then they realize it’s not really intrusive.”
Setting up an account
So you’ve agreed to join, but you aren’t sure if you need to go beyond the free, “basic” subscription. Both Zajic and Elbert suggest not paying for a premium LinkedIn account unless you are in a career, such as sales, that demands you gain access to more profiles or send unsolicited “inmail” to people out of your network in order to drive business.
I set up an account, now what?
You set up yet another username and password, so now what? According to Elbert, it is wisest to not just unload your résumé onto your public profile and hope that some diligent recruiter will discover you and unlock your talents. “Too many people when they join LinkedIn essentially say, ‘here’s my name, my email and this is who I worked for.’ They may even update their education, but there are other pieces that are critical, and those are what’s going to get you found by a recruiter, for example, or make you more attractive when you’re networking with others,” he says.
Zajic encourages users to highlight work accomplishments and skills that make them stand out as potential job candidate. This will also help other potential connections determine if you align with them from a professional networking perspective.
Establishing a network
Even a fresh-faced college graduate with only an internship under his belt can establish a network once a profile is completed.
“If you are newly out of school and don’t have a lot of professional contacts, then you should reach out to a number of former classmates or people from your first job or internship. The idea here is to start building a network that builds up over time,” says Zajic, whose six-year-old network contains more than 500 connections, including college classmates, former co-workers and others with whom she’s recently conducted business.
“Your LinkedIn network is meant to be a long-term tool, but it is also meant to be interactive, so what you get out of it is going to be what you put into it,” she adds.
This doesn’t mean you need to spend an inordinate amount of time regularly updating your profile, sending “connection” requests to expand your network, or soliciting recommendations from your connections, Zajic says. Recommendations, both Zajic and Elbert note, are primarily taken at face value by recruiters. However, as a job seeker, it does prove beneficial to spend a little time perfecting your profile, keeping open the line of communication with your current network and carefully selecting potential connections in your field.
Zajic and Elbert suggest further diversifying your connections by asking people in your network to introduce you to others in your field. For example, Elbert says he may want to get in touch with Bob who is well-versed in finance and accounting, but Bob is in Zajic’s network and not Elbert’s. LinkedIn allows Elbert to “get introduced” through Zajic, who also is in his network. If she agrees, Zajic can then facilitate the introduction by connecting Bob and Elbert. Yet it is at Bob’s discretion to respond.
You also can join groups or company landing pages to find people you may know or want to include in your network. Elbert says he recently “ran into” a high school friend this way when he saw her engaged in the Apollo Group website. She was researching Apollo Group as part of her job hunt, and she can now network with Elbert to maximize her efforts.
Overall, Elbert and Zajic agree that there is no ideal number of network connections because professionals use LinkedIn for a variety of reasons, including research and business service referrals.
Yet there are best practices to follow when utilizing LinkedIn. Perhaps the most important one, stresses Zajic, is to keep your profile and interactions professional and free from outlandish or offensive photos or information.
Industry guru Dave Taylor has a few best business practices for LinkedIn on his website, askdavetaylor.com:
- Don’t be afraid to search and connect with people you don’t know, but who are involved in your industry.
- A helpful LinkedIn feature is the news section, which gives one-stop insight into the latest industry trends and happenings to help direct one’s career.
- When writing or receiving recommendations, make certain to emphasize skills and substantial information as opposed to cheerleader statements, such as “I’d work again with her in a heartbeat.” Otherwise, they don’t hold much value.
- Emphasize in a profile your technology and program skills, including those learned in college if you are a recent graduate.
- Reciprocate introductions or referrals to those who ask.
Marissa Yaremich is an award-winning freelance journalist with more than 13 years of experience serving in various positions as a reporter, researcher or photojournalist at several media outlets, including CBS’s Inside Edition, The Boston Globe and the New Haven Register. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Boston University.
|Maximizing your professional reputation on LinkedIn requires little more than the effective management of your account settings, says Steve Altes, a former recruiter and a LinkedIn expert.
Altes says individuals need only to set aside a few minutes to activate preferred profile settings that may provide long-term networking and career benefits. Settings are accessible by clicking on your name located at the screen’s top right and selecting Settings.
“There are about 30 different settings a user can edit on [LinkedIn’s] Settings page. Take some time to investigate all the ways you can make LinkedIn work best for you,” says Altes, now a business consultant with Spire Associates in Valencia, California.
Altes generally recommends users seeking career opportunities make their profiles “public.” This is what appears for web users via a search engine. LinkedIn provides users with the ability to control how little or how much information is publicly displayed.
“It’s a way you can get found by potential employers. It increases your visibility online and helps you build your professional brand,” Altes says. You can apply these settings—found at Settings/Profile/Edit your public profile—to customize your public profile URL to include your name in the URL as opposed to bearing only a dizzying string of numbers.
Users also can customize the volume of personal or group digest emails they receive, which is helpful for job seekers who sign up for various groups as a networking technique. Go to Settings/Email Preferences and then select either “email” or “group digest emails.”
If you are a Tweeter, you can adjust your settings to link your Twitter account. When selecting this connection, Altes says integrating all of your tweets into a LinkedIn profile reveals “more than just their content,” including whether you’re tweeting on company time. “When you link your accounts, LinkedIn gives you two choices as to which tweets are connected: either ‘all tweets’ or ‘only tweets with #in within the message.’ I recommend the latter,” he adds.
LinkedIn also offers the setting, “Who’s Viewed Your Profile.” This is located on the mid-right side of your LinkedIn homepage. Clicking here provides statistics on how many times your profile recently has been viewed, appeared in search engine results and who viewed your profile, Altes says. Just take note that others may be equally interested in who is viewing their profiles. Therefore, Altes notes, users can select how they appear to others checking their stats (i.e., name and headline only, anonymously displayed with only your industry and title appearing or invisible).
Overall, the point of LinkedIn for many users is to be found by a headhunter/recruiter. Thus, Altes recommends managing your content so it always appears professional.