Seeing as how LinkedIn now has more than 200 million members, it appears fewer people are saying, "I don't need another social network." Instead, they're joining the career-minded ranks on the still-growing platform.
But it's easy to be myopic about the job search site, especially when you're out of work and scrambling for a new gig. However, the most successful people on LinkedIn are ones who have a different tact. They are not trying to find a job; they are trying to build their personal brands and advance their careers. And that distinction is what separates the strong from the weak on this growing and hyper-networked platform.
Think of LinkedIn as a dynamic resume. It's a place where your interests, personality, and capabilities can all come to life in a vibrant system of links, logos, videos, images, and more. Let's face it: A resume can only take you so far in 2013. Summing up a career through active verbs methodically aligned on ivory-colored cotton paper truly underutilizes the tools at hand. Resumes remain distant and sterile, and they are fast becoming a relic of the pre-internet society.
So, how do you make the most of LinkedIn and build your personal brand in the process? Here are five ways to help you fit in and stand out.
Be a player in the news feed
People who share, comment, and act as contributing members of the LinkedIn community are the aspirational leaders. They have interest beyond finding a job and show a passion for their line of work.
The LinkedIn news feed is the Holy Grail for recruiters, and the more you post, the more you are seen. In fact, members who post at least once a week are 10 times more likely to be seen by recruiters. Post, read, and participate often.
Let LinkedIn be your Sherpa
LinkedIn is a self-perpetuating ecosystem. It makes sharing, joining, and connecting easy because that behavior benefits the site as much as it does the member. Be OK with that transaction and click "Improve My Profile" when prompted and do things like personalize your URL. LinkedIn offers a guided setup to help with these matters.
Follow LinkedIn's advice, but don't be afraid to discover on your own. It is just as important to show you understand how LinkedIn works as it is to show your ability to handle specific job duties. Those who exhibit a cursory knowledge of LinkedIn shine far less than those who confidently navigate through it.
Show some personality
Pictures, interests, hobbies, and volunteering are all fair game for your profile. Discuss them the way you would at a relaxed business dinner. It's important to let recruiters get a feel for who you are, not just what you do.
Remember, their job is to find people who can fulfill the duties but also fit into a company culture. Show recruiters you are the right fit both vocationally and socially for the job.
Make recruiters' jobs easier
My career began as an elf, swimming instructor (briefly), lifeguard, caterer, bellhop, maintenance man, retail associate, fast food employee (one day), parking monitor, ski-lift operator, production assistant, PR and media rep, and more. As different as those jobs seem, the duties were the same: to make my boss's job easier.
The same goes for recruiters. Don't meander, be long-winded, or bury the lead in your profile. Forget buzzwords. Please proofread and be worthy of consideration. And don't confuse the dynamics here with other social sites. Keep it professional, even with those you know personally. Every keystroke on the internet is captured and logged for eternity, so be smart and positive. LinkedIn is one big job interview -- even when it isn't.
Get specific with recommendation requests
Endorsements don't mean much. It's LinkedIn's simple way to trigger a news feed item. It's annoying, but ingenious. However, recruiters don't value these because it only takes a second of thought and a click to express.
On the other hand, recommendations offer much more value. It takes time, thought, and conscience to write one. Asking for recommendations makes a ton of sense, but be smart in how you do it. Be as specific as possible with your requests. General recommendations can be difficult to write. Focus the recommendation on a specific project, especially when it is fresh in everyone's minds. It will work out much better for all parties.
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