Remember when networking was something you did with your dad and his golf buddy? Your dad would subtly mention to his friend, "Did you know my son is interested in advertising?" Nowadays, you don't need a golf buddy or even your dad to connect you to people who can help with your career.
But what you do need is a plan. Now that you can contact people so easily through LinkedIn, how will you use that access? LinkedIn represents a world of texture to add to an otherwise sedentary resume. It's easy to bring to life your interests, places you volunteer, charities, portfolio, all in one simple package. It's also easy to overindulge -- like a college freshman at his first kegger -- and end up embarrassing yourself.
This is one social network where you need to impose your own limits. If you become an object of ridicule on Facebook for something silly you did, it's one thing. But do it on LinkedIn and it could cost you a job -- or a career. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for as you market yourself on LinkedIn.
Mistake No. 1: You don't consider yourself a product
As you look at your favorite brands, deconstruct what you like about them. Are they funny, clever, consistent? Do they always deliver on a specific identity? Do they innovate? Do they have a competitive advantage? If you can build your personal brand with those conventions in mind, it can become a guiding principle, helping you present a profile that is simple, tailored, and smart.
Once you determine your personal "product" voice, incorporate it throughout your profile. Lead with a concise, well-written summary that speaks to your capabilities and what you can uniquely contribute to the workplace.
Mistake No. 2: You're indifferent
The more you are sharing insight, articles, and perspectives, the more you are seen as an expert in your field -- or at least someone with a passion for his or her industry. As you market yourself as a product, the easiest way to get your awareness for your brand is through the newsfeed. People are 10 times more likely to show up in search results, and be seen, if they are active. Just make sure the content you post has value, moves your story forward, and fits into the brand identity you create for yourself.
Mistake No. 3: You're too social for this particular social network
Stop thinking of this channel as a social network, and start thinking of it as a professional network. There's a big difference in how you approach a social dinner versus a business one, right? Use that generative analogy to help guide your decisions. Rather than focusing on connecting with buddies, you should focus on connecting with a person you just met at a conference or other professional setting. You may not be as "social" with them as you are with your college buddy, but you do have a business interest. And that will serve you much better on this platform.
Your headshot should also be professional. A suggestive shot or one that shows you partying it up won't be well received by human resources.
Mistake No. 4: You only do the minimum
This is one area where many struggle. So often, people feel the need to be on LinkedIn, yet once they are on it, the journey ends. But an incomplete profile, with no structure, story, or thought will actually hurt you more than it helps. As LinkedIn is one of the tools in your job search, it should be taken seriously and part of a larger plan. You would never send a half-completed resume, so why present a half-completed profile? Hiring managers will see the minimal effort you put into your profile (and by default, job search) and presume you would take that approach in your job. Gerry Rubin, the co-founder of RPA, said, "Everything matters because everything communicates." A sloppy profile brands you as a sloppy worker. Manage your profile as if your job depended on it, because it does. At the very minimum, you need a professional photo, a story that tracks, and solid references to bring your career to life. And don't forget to include your email so that organizations can easily contact you.
Mistake No. 5: You over-complete your profile
As important as it is to be complete, being over-complete can hurt as well. You are right out of college and you have a two-page resume? My takeaway is you can't make a decision and don't know where to cut. And in a world of attention scarcity, someone who cannot prioritize and present the most important information is someone who will quickly fall out of consideration.
Mistake No. 6: You ignore the basics -- spellcheck and grammar
Not taking care of this obvious necessity will show your lack of attention to detail, which could cost you that job.
Mistake No. 7: You tell a flat story
It's important to make it easy for the person hiring you to gain a cursory understanding of you as a worker and person, so it needs to be a story that is easy to read. If not, the person will move on to the next candidate. A rule of thumb for screenwriting is that every sentence needs to move the story ahead in some way. If not, the line should be cut. Same goes for your background. If every position does not move toward why you should be hired for that particular position, lose it. If you are interviewing to be a copywriter, your retail experience at Forever21 will not help get you the job.
Your story can be greatly enhanced by recommendations from past colleagues, clients, professors, or supervisors. Consider adding "Projects" where you can discuss in a bit more detail assignments you worked on from start to finish and include team members to show who you worked with.
One more thing about recommendations: If you write them for others, be careful not to include negative commentary. Others can see your recommendations and won't be impressed by your candor.
Mistake No. 8: You embellish freely
LinkedIn adds a third-party dimension and credibility that can work for you. And yes, it's a bit of a one-sided love fest, since people are endorsing and writing recommendations. I liken the endorsement part of the site to Yelp if the reviewers constantly ate at their favorite restaurants and only gave glowing reviews. Like your resume (which is meant to present your best, if not sometimes unrealistic self), LinkedIn presents a rarefied persona. But here, your profile combines a cover letter, resume, and references, all into one dynamic universe. Make sure the real you lives up to your profile; otherwise, a foot in the door may quickly get the door shut on it.
Mistake No. 9: You connect to sell
One of my pet peeves is when I connect with people and immediately get pitched. In general, it's just bad manners to be so brutally transparent with your intentions. And although this may not lose you a job, it will most definitely lose you any current or future consideration for that business. Slow down, present some articles, comment on work or posts from that person, and let the networking happen naturally. Before you know it, you will probably be asked about your company and a project that may fit. For me, the pitch is not to be pitched. And that's when the networking really happens.
Mistake No. 10: You're overly personal
When reaching out to a new acquaintance to connect on LinkedIn, take the time to pen a personal note. Don't use the auto-populated copy LinkedIn provides. It's like cutting corners. Your new contact will be much more willing to get to know you and possibly help you out if you take the time to write a note that will resonate with them. But do not use this note function to get too personal. This isn't the place to be casually flirtatious.
LinkedIn is an extremely valuable professional resource. It truly is the one-stop place for all hiring managers across industries. It's up to you to maintain an updated and thorough, yet concise, profile that sells the best you.
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