You reach out to people with your résumé. But you attract people to you by projecting your personal brand and value with your LinkedIn profile. Creating effective messaging in both your résumé and profile is critical to a successful job search.
In recent months, LinkedIn has significantly changed its user interface, and with it how your profile looks to viewers. All LinkedIn content is searchable, and therefore a well-done profile optimizes your opportunities of being found by people and organizations in need of your skills and abilities. Moreover, your LinkedIn profile can make you professionally interesting both to those people you already know and strangers alike.
Each profile has a whole series of elements. Through them you introduce yourself and convey "what you are about" with your unique personal brand. Imagine yourself standing in front of someone you're about to meet for the first time. Through your profile, you extend your hand in friendship and keep a smile on your face.
Unlike on a résumé, on LinkedIn you don't have to worry about the constraint of trying to fit everything into one or two pages. And because the website is social, you should be personable in the way you relate your unique story.
Here are key steps in creating an informative and powerful profile:
1. Let them see your face. Social media is just that: social. Images are at its heart, and you therefore want to include a great, tight close-up of your smiling face filling most of the frame. Your background should show a tasteful contrasting color, and there should be no other object, person or pet who would compete with your face for attention. You don't necessarily need a formal shot, but you should appear as a professional.
2. Tell who you are. Somewhere along the line, you will come up as a third-degree connection in someone else's search results. LinkedIn stopped letting non-paying members see the name of third degrees, but you can easily remedy this. Begin your Background / Summary section with your name, on a line all of its own. Depending on your comfort level, you may want to also provide a personal address that you use exclusively for job-hunting, so that those who have a legitimate reason may contact you directly.
3. Own your experience. Include all your professional and educational roles, along with dates, in your experience section. You thereby can find and be easily found by anyone who overlapped with you at any of your previous employers or schools.
4. Convey your successes, not your responsibilities. Lots of people likely have or have had similar responsibilities to yours in one company or another. Listing your responsibilities just lumps you in with everyone else. You distinguish yourself by conveying what is unique to you.
With each position, explain how you confronted your responsibilities, what you did, how you did it, what obstacles you overcame and the results you achieved. You can share a series of short vignettes, at least one per job on LinkedIn, that no résumé will accommodate.
5. Remember that social means personal. While you would never use "I" on a résumé, and only sparingly in a cover letter, it is fine to speak in the first person on LinkedIn. And, by all means, avoid referring to yourself in the impersonal third person: "Mister," "Miss," "he" or "she."
6. Gain credibility with references. LinkedIn's "Endorsements" feature has yet to show substantial value for job hunters. By contrast, a solid well-written reference is precious. When people recommend you, their words appear in your profile, and are commonly searched by recruiting sourcers and hiring mangers.
It is well worth approaching former supervisors, co-workers, clients and customers who can relate something specific about your qualities, skills and value. Make it easy for them by structuring your request with reminders like this:
"Dear XXX, remembering that we worked together at ABC company on the Widget project in 2003, I hope you would write a recommendation for me that would show my involvement and contributions doing XYZ. As you recall, our team was singled out for our achievements of ... and I would love to have that highlighted as well. Thanks in advance!"
7. Gain credit by association. LinkedIn groups are prolific, and you can be a member of 50 of them at any one time. Each group has its own logo, and can appear in the "Groups" section of your profile. By joining prominent industry, professional and skill-set based groups you can subtly suggest: "this the professional that I am, even without a job."
While it is a great idea to join groups that focus on job search, to avoid appearing desperate you may not want to show more than a couple of these kinds of groups on your profile. Within each group, you can adjust whether or not to display that group's logo by going into the "Your Settings" choice on the "More..." menu.
Once you have your profile completely set up, you are ready to utilize many of LinkedIn's other functions and reap their rewards for your job search.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.