Online Social (Job) Networking
As a brief reminder, the Profile in LinkedIn is analogous to your resume. It includes a summary section, a job history section, an education section, and an objective (headline) section that should essentially showcase your work history and highlight your skills and expertise. However, unlike your collection of several targeted resumes on Monster or CareerBuilder, where each resume might highlight different aspects of your professional experience and emphasize skills relevant to specific careers, LinkedIn only has a single profile. You therefore need to be careful when creating it.
In cases where you have a broad set of skills or have been in multiple careers, putting your full history in your profile is more likely to lead to confusion than to opportunity. For people with very distinct, singular careers, yes, you can probably put most (or all) of your resume into the profile. When in doubt, remember that “less is more”– give them enough to be of interest, but don’t feel obligated to overload your profile.
There is a feature in LinkedIn called “Connections” which is analogous to “friends” in other social websites. These are the people that have a more complete access to your posted information and also the people that you want to associate yourself with. From LinkedIn’s early days, this was considered analogous to a “Rolodex” file of contacts that you might maintain…people you considered work associates that you wanted to maintain a connection with. You can search for contacts in several different ways and then invite them (use a personal message, not the “canned” request) to join your network of contacts.
Due to the free-for-all influence of the web, this list of connections has migrated into a list of “introducers” that many users of LinkedIn use to find other people that they might leverage as a resource in developing their professional network. In some cases this can be very useful for the job seeker looking for a contact in a specific company of interest … they can ask for introductions to friends-of-friends as a way of finding a contact that might provide useful in networking them into the company.
But in other ways, allowing “outsiders” to have access to my connections might pose a problem. In fact, this has happened to me, where a recruiter contacted me and she started asking questions about a person I had listed as a connection. Seems this recruiter was gathering information on my friend before actually contacting him about a potential job. As a suggestion, until you fully understand the power and etiquette of networking and job searching in LinkedIn, I suggest you mark your contact list as private. Go to “Settings”, click on “Connections Browse”, and hide your connections from all viewers. (We’ll talk about more privacy settings later.)
I have mixed feelings about recommendations. These are short statements by one or more of your connections that generally are complimentary of you. Most of the ones I’ve seen are 2-4 sentences that talk about how the “recommender” enjoyed working with you and sometimes gives a specific example. The great part about a recommendation is that it shows others that view your profile that you have one or more people that like you or your work. Your objective should be to get one recommendation for every 3-4 years of work you have listed in your profile.
But there are a few problems with these recommendations. If you think about it, these are like “references” that you might use during an interview process. The issue is that you are essentially providing access to your references to anyone that reads your profile. Personally, I like to manage access to my references–not opening them up to queries about me that my references aren’t prepared to answer. So I suggest you get a couple of solid recommendations by true friends — people that would be supportive of you regardless who might contact them.
This is a great feature of LinkedIn — these are discussion areas set up by any LinkedIn member on almost any topic. This is a place for networking, sharing ideas, collaborating, and otherwise meeting with your peers in an online setting. For the job seeker this feature is invaluable. Find several groups relative to your profession and join them and then participate in the discussions. This shows your knowledge or skills in a particular area and the others that participate in the group can be both mentors to you and beneficiaries of your knowledge. For example, I’m active in various education and project management groups where I share my thoughts a few times a month on various topics. The hidden secret about groups is the number of recruiters that monitor these groups looking for talented people. The more you post well-written, well-considered posts, the more likely those recruiters will take notice.
As a side note to groups, be careful about which ones you join and which ones are visible on your profile. If you’re in the job hunt mode, make sure you order the most influential groups (professional organizations, etc.) to the top of your group list and hide the ones that might cause issues with recruiters (political parties, questionable social groups, etc.). To hide and sort these groups, go to “Settings” and then to “Groups Order and Display” and adjust these to your benefit.
Bottom Line: LinkedIn is quickly becoming theplace that you must have a professional presence if you are in the job search, but it needs to be done right. Get your profile to reflect the key strengths from your resume, grow and maintain a contact list, get/provide recommendations, and actively participate in appropriate groups. The more professional your profile and the more skillfully you share your knowledge in LinkedIn, the more likely recruiters will take a notice.