LinkedIn is one of your toolkits as a professional, use and maximise your professional toolkit wisely.
– By Damilola Oyedele
Load your toolkit
I get scores of LinkedIn requests every week. Most go ignored, and I’m not sorry. Actually, I am. I recently said to a coworker that I now feel guilty when I reject LinkedIn requests. A few years ago, I would add all and sundry, but now I’m at the point where my LinkedIn is saturated, and I only accept value-adding contacts, or people I already know.
As a young professional, LinkedIn is one of the strongest tools in your career growth kit. Most recruiters either identify you as a prospect through a LinkedIn search, or if your name comes up through another channel, go straight to your LinkedIn page (and your other social media pages, but that’s a story for another day) for vetting.
In every sense, your LinkedIn page is your professional advertisement, and you want to keep it in top form. How do you communicate that you’re a value-add? The keys are presentation, connection, and engagement, and I have some tips to get you started on all three.
First things first, you should have a photo. This is the first impression, and it will impact how people feel when they review your page. No one is excited to read a faceless profile or one with a blurry photo. Invest in a high quality photo of your face – head and shoulders wearing professional clothing. And smile in your photo! Research (and frankly, common sense) shows that smiling with your teeth in your LinkedIn profile makes you more likeable. Go on and be great.
Secondly, have a concise title that says what you do and where. Concise here means a title that would fit and make sense underneath your name on a business card. Mine says ‘Senior Product Manager at Amazon’, as I prefer to keep things simple, but I’ve seen some interesting title lines that made me curious to look at the person’s page.
Also fill up your page with your work experience, education, and interests. If you’re still trying to land your dream role, be sure to add a few bullets under each role that describes your achievements, so people can easily understand what you’ve done. Under education, add any special achievements, leadership roles, or associations of interest that you were an active part of.
Here’s an easy tip that made me feel great when I did it – Customize your LinkedIn profile URL. It’s more tidy, and you can more easily put it on your resume and other social media pages.
Finally, snoop around! Check out industry peers and leaders for inspiration on ways to customize your page, present your experience, and sell yourself.
Presentation matters because an empty, sparse, or poorly laid out LinkedIn page is actually worse than having no LinkedIn page.
Connection comes next
There is no point having the best profile page when you have zero connections. The more connections you have, the stronger the signal that you are a real person who indeed has these credentials which you claim on your page. So how many connections should you aim to have? Legend has it that a good number to aim for is more than 500, because LinkedIn stops counting after that and just shows you as having “500+ connections”. So how do you build this posse? I’ve got you!
Going back to my opening paragraph, one big mistake many make when they request connection on LinkedIn is to send a blank request. Unless this person knows you well, you should always add a note. Here’s a recent LinkedIn request I sent –
I am a recent MBA grad from Chicago Booth who follows you on twitter and is highly inspired by your career trajectory! I’d love to connect on here, and hopefully in real life someday soon. Happy Holidays! Best, Dami”
If you met someone at a networking event, or found out about her on Twitter, let her know what the connection is. If you’re connecting because the person is an alumnus of your university in a similar industry to you, say so. Adding a note increases your likelihood of being added as their connection.
Engagement seals the deal
In recent years, LinkedIn has greatly ramped up features that allow users to engage, and I must confess this is one area I still don’t maximize. However, those I’ve seen use it well often share interesting articles written by themselves or others. Go on LinkedIn regularly. See what stories are up and like a few. However, be aware of what you like and comment on, as these get aggregated on your profile page. A good question to ask is if you would want your future boss to see that you liked this article.Keep it professional.
Another way to engage is to reach out to people of interest, and ask for a phone chat or a quick meeting. Etiquette suggests that these meetings should not exceed 15 – 30 minutes for a phone meeting or 30 – 45 minutes for an in person meeting. Do not waste the person’s time! Hopefully if things go well, you get a follow up conversation. But I digress. Also, never ask someone to hire you for a job through LinkedIn.
Get in on LinkedIn
In 2018, increasingly fewer recruiters and hiring managers will take you seriously with a shoddy or empty profile page. A few weeks ago, a mentor told my colleague: “When you’re ready to start applying for new jobs, go take a new and revamped LinkedIn profile picture”. I was awed. Who would have thought that something as small as your changing your profile picture could make a difference and signal to the market that you’re searching for your next role? Learn to use LinkedIn well, and you’ll be on your way to being headhunted and landing top roles and referrals.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.