With the job market on shaky ground due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to make sure you stand out as a job candidate. Even if you aren’t currently searching for a job, keeping your professional portfolio up to date is smart. You never know when your job could be on the chopping block or when that perfect employment opportunity might come along.
LinkedIn is by far the world’s largest social media network for working professionals, with more than 700 million members. More than 20 million companies are listed on the site, along with 20 million open jobs. Not surprisingly, 87% of recruiters regularly use LinkedIn to find potential employees. It goes without saying, then, that you should have a professional presence on LinkedIn. If you don’t already have a profile or haven’t updated it for a while, let’s review how to create a LinkedIn profile and some tips for getting the most out of it.
To get started, go to www.linkedin.com, where you will need to create an account to start developing your profile. It might seem like there are a lot of boxes to fill in, but LinkedIn does a good job of describing what each one is and how to complete it. You can develop your profile in chunks, if needed, but here are seven tips to making sure you have a robust profile that will get you noticed and garner the most networking benefits.
Make a Good First Impression
Because the top half of your profile is what people will see when they first discover or search for you, it’s critical to fill this out fully – and well. First, invest in a professional headshot that depicts your character and makes you more than just a nameless applicant. Next, use the headline section to creatively tell what you do and what your specialty is in just a few words. This will entice readers to move to the Summary section where you will use 2-3 paragraphs to develop a word picture of how you use your unique knowledge, skills and experience to do your current job, or how you’ll use them in a career you are seeking. If you aren’t comfortable describing yourself, it’s okay to enlist a little help for this section.
Go Beyond the Resume
The next section of your LinkedIn profile requires you to provide relevant work and/or volunteer experience. It will be tempting to simply copy and paste information from your resume. While it should parallel your resume, this LinkedIn section should be a bit more personal. Use a first-person (I) description of what your primary responsibilities and accomplishments were as opposed to bullet points. This will make you more relatable and show ownership of what you have done. Try to do this in 2-6 sentences.
Optimize the Education and Training Section
If you are fresh out of college, here is the place to highlight any specific internships, projects, or volunteer work that you did. At this level, it also helps to list activities, clubs, and sororities/fraternities you were involved in. If you are more than five years past graduation, these extracurriculars aren’t necessary, nor is listing your high school education; volunteer experience is always relevant, however.
A unique feature of this LinkedIn section is the ability to add any specialized training and certifications, as well as the option of adding a description to provide finer details of your education. For example, if you earned, or are currently earning an online degree as a working adult, you might explain what motivated you to seek career advancement or where you are in the process.
Unlock the Key to Keywords
If you want to be recognized by prospective employers for certain skills, experience or job titles, it will be important to include those keywords in your LinkedIn summary so they can easily be discovered in a search by recruiters. If you aren’t sure which keywords to use, do a little sleuthing of your own. Both on the internet and within LinkedIn, conduct a search for similar roles in your field and note which keywords appear most frequently; then incorporate those buzzwords into your summary, work history and descriptions. You can also feature your top three hard skills and add additional soft skills that highlight your abilities, talents, knowledge, and characteristics. Your profile should now pop up more frequently when the keywords are searched for.
Showcase Your Work
Don’t overlook the opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of your best work. In the “Featured” section, you can include notable accomplishments, publications, videos, languages, special projects, courses, awards, or accolades that will show prospective employers what you can do rather than just tell them. In the work history section, you can also add examples of work completed at each position.
Give and Get Recommendations
Another way to stand out is to receive recommendations from others who validate your special skills and expertise, and perhaps more importantly, how well you work with others. Like on social media, reach out to your colleagues, teachers, clients, and managers in your network to see if they will post a recommendation for you. You may be more likely to get a positive response if you take the initiative and post a recommendation for them first. A word of advice, however. Make sure your recommendations are genuine and ask theirs to be, as well.
Whether or not you’re currently looking for a job, it will serve you well to keep your profile up to date, so you are in a good position when that perfect career advancement opportunity comes along. But there’s more to LinkedIn than your profile - much more. First is the networking factor. You’ll want to add people you know from your industry, that you meet at networking events, or even cold contacts if their background or interests are relevant. You never know when you might want to connect with them again about a potential opportunity. You can also use LinkedIn to post articles, comment on and share others’ posts, stay abreast of trends in your industry, and simply interact with your peers. Making LinkedIn part of your weekly reading and engagement along with updating your profile information every six months will help you get the most out of your LinkedIn experience.
Now that your LinkedIn professional portfolio is complete, it’s time to draw some attention to it. Try including a customized LinkedIn URL in a cover letter or resume, point people to specific portfolio content, or invite prospective employers and recruiters to view your personally branded profile and featured work.
Your professional story is unique to you, and your LinkedIn profile helps you tell that story in your own distinct style. As you are updating your profile, you may notice that you would like to further your education. Contact us today to see how Ottawa University can help you advance your career!