When working with job seekers, I often get asked, “Do I need a LinkedIn profile? And if so, what should it look like?“
I’m pleased the job seeker is asking the question. Yet the answer is going to take longer to explain than the person asking the question was expecting. The reason is most often related to the fact that the person asking the question isn’t participating actively on LinkedIn. It’s not just some place you “post” a resume…it’s an active and dynamic social environment with multiple goals, but it’s centered around working professionals. Not job seekers. Not college students. Not sports fans. Not news junkies. Working Professionals. So what does this mean to the job seeker?
Depth and Diversity
Do you remember when resumes had a section that listed hobbies and social activities? One of the reasons was to show the hiring manager that you had some outside interests–things that provided an insight to a manager regarding your passions, your interests, and your life experiences. Over the years we moved away from the practice of providing this information on a resume…and now resumes are a rather sterile document that are “business only” advertisements.
It is not the intent of the LinkedIn profile to replicate the resume. Quite to the contrary, the profile should be considered a complement to a resume. Yes, it will have your work history, your titles, and other “resume-ish” elements. However, the benefit of the profile is to provide some depth to your identity. After you enter the basic information on your current job (company, dates, titles, brief description), provide some detail on one or more aspects of your job…focus on how you tackled a situation and it yielded a result worth mentioning. This is what the recruiter is looking for–a better understanding of those “bullet” statements you provided on your paper resume.
Not only can you expand on your job talents, LinkedIn lets you demonstrate your diversity (well-roundedness?) by providing you various avenues to show career-strengthening traits. A few of my favorite sections of the profile are the “Volunteering and Causes” and “Interests”. Yes, I recommend you only list the ones that are socially correct or ones that are aligned with your career goals. For example, if you want to be a political consultant, then mentioning working for a candidate would be OK. In general, things like housing for the needy (Habitat for Humanity, etc.), animal care (ASPCA, etc.), and care for the elderly/young (Meals on Wheels, etc.) are examples of safe choices. You don’t want these features to eliminate you from consideration of a firm that has an opposite agenda to your interests (Smith & Wesson vs. Brady Campaign or PETA vs. KFC), so be cautious.
Engaged and Energetic
Did I mention that LinkedIn is a social networking site? This is not a static site where you post an extract of your resume and wait for a recruiter to contact you. You need to demonstrate, not just list, your talents on this site. One of the best ways to do this is to find a couple of career affiliated LinkedIn Groups that are publicly accessible (not members-only) and engage in discussions with professional and well-written thoughts. A couple of posts a week can be adequate–too many might lead the recruiter to consider you too “distracted” while too few posts are of no real benefit to your profile.
Organizations that can strengthen your career image can and should be identified. The real benefit here is to use the new “add” option for that section and indicate your role and your period of membership. The old organizations section that was on LinkedIn just let you list the organization. And while that’s OK, the clarity of providing your role and your years of membership with these groups is a real benefit.
Projects–this a new section that LinkedIn added in 2012. This is a great way to show off your talent and teamwork. This section lets you link to a URL where you might have a portfolio of your work. You can add teammates to the Project link which shows off your collaborative nature and even add non-LinkedIn names. (I use a www.webs.com free website…a good place to start publishing your portfolio!)
Bottom Line: The moral of this story is to get a strong LinkedIn profile that “aligns” with your resume but isn’t a duplicate. Then use the features of LinkedIn to show how you are engaged in your profession but also have a balanced and diverse life. Choose carefully which groups, interests, or projects you associate with on LinkedIn–some choices can limit your hiring potential!
Make sure to read my prior LinkedIn posting to understand a bit more about profiles
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