As the economy falls deeper into recession, many people have turned to LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, to job hunt and connect with contacts who might help them land a new gig. But career experts say your LinkedIn job-hunting efforts will all be for naught if you don't build your profile page properly and ensure that it is search-friendly for potential employers and recruiters.
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You can take some simple steps (all free of charge) to ensure that you've done everything possible to differentiate your LinkedIn profile from the others, career management experts say. These steps will make it more likely that recruiters and other LinkedIn users will find you serendipitously when they navigate and search the site.
We've arranged these tips (roughly) in the order they appear on a LinkedIn profile page. In order to change your profile, log into LinkedIn and go the left menu. Click on the aptly named "Edit my profile" link.
While you don't necessarily need to pay a professional photographer, it's important to upload a picture to your LinkedIn profile, says Jason Alba, CEO of Jibberjobber.com, a career management firm, and author of the book I'm On LinkedIn — Now What?.
"It doesn't have to be amazing, but a picture just makes your profile a lot more personable," Alba says. "With the way digital cameras are nowadays, just put on a suit and have your friend take some pictures and crop it in."
Like the New York Times has its slogan "all the news that's fit to print," your professional tagline should sum you up for the LinkedIn reader, very concisely.
Because the professional tagline occupies the prime real-estate immediately below where your name is, you really want to make this one count, says Kirsten Dixson, a career management consultant who specializes in helping people utilize web applications for their professional endeavors.
"It's how you position yourself right away in the reader's mind," Dixson says. "It should be a shortened version of your personal brand."
According to Alba of Jibberjobber.com, if you have a job, it's not necessary for you to use your actual title, especially since that appears in the "current" jobs section of your LinkedIn profile section. If you're looking for a job, "think of the tagline as your ten second pitch," he says. "It's not easy to do [in so small a space], but make sure you get a clear message in there of what you're about professionally."
What Are You Working On?
This is like LinkedIn's version of Twitter, the short messaging service that allows users to leave status messages regarding what they're doing. Unlike Twitter, all your status messages should be business-like in tone and compelling for readers.
According to Dixson, these messages could ask an intelligent question to your fellow contacts, known as "connections," on LinkedIn. Or you might offer mention of a specific project you're working on that exemplifies the kind of work you do or are interested in pursuing.
Dixson says the status update also provides an easy avenue to keep your page fresh. If you update it regularly, it will show that you're engaged with your LinkedIn page and the people who visit it.
LinkedIn allows you to list three websites on your profile. Most people choose to add their company sites, or blog (if they have one).
When you go to add a site in the edit settings page, you will be given the option to describe the site generically as "My Company" or "My Blog." But if you look closely, you can click on "Other," which will allow you to type in something customary. Alba recommends using that feature.
While you could choose to type in your company name, Alba says you might want to use a phrase that's descriptive and that will draw readers in. In Alba's case, for instance, he would describe his blog as "career management blog" instead of the generic "My blog."
Go get your LinkedIn URL
Like any social network or web service of its kind, LinkedIn will create an address for your profile page. Ideally, you want to have your name at the end of the URL. Such as, for example, http://www.linkedin.com/in/cglynch.
You can edit your LinkedIn URL. And do it quickly, especially if you suspect many users share the same name as you. It's much like free e-mail services: it's better to be John Smith@[email service] than JohnSmith1431@[e-mail service].
"This is a URL you might leave in your blog or homepage, or maybe in your professional e-mail signature," Alba says. "If it's cleaner and recognizable, that will be helpful."
The "summary" section is the meat of your LinkedIn profile, and matters a great deal both in terms of human interaction (do people find it interesting?), and also in terms of LinkedIn's powerful search engine, which will find certain keywords in it relevant, and return you higher in search results when people query terms in your field of work.
"The more keywords you have the more relevant you are in search," Alba says. "So if you're in project management, for example, you might want to have PMP (Project Management Professional) in there."
But Alba says you must remember that humans will be reading your summary, so don't get so hung up on keywords that the summary becomes unreadable.
"Some people will do SEO (search engine optimization) and make it just a list of keywords," Alba says. "That's not very compelling for a human reading your summary."
One thing you might do, Dixson says, is focus on writing a good concise summary of yourself in the summary field and save the keywords for "specialties," which appears as a subsection within the summary and can be modified when you click to edit your summary.
Recommendations allow people viewing your profile to get a third-party perspective on you and your work. If you ask someone to write you a recommendation, you will be able to approve it before it gets posted to your profile.
While Alba says it's nice to have that recommendation where your boss gushes over all the great work you do, don't stop there. Go for what career coaches call the 360-degree view.
"If you can have subordinates say you're the greatest boss in the world, or customers who say you're great to do business with, that provides [readers of your LinkedIn profile] with a much fuller view of you," Alba says.
What to do with Apps
In October, LinkedIn launched its applications platform, making it possible for users to add up to 10 different apps to their LinkedIn profile.
"Whatever you do within the apps, keep it on brand," Alba says.
As an example, then, don't use the slideshow application to post pictures of your vacation to Florida or anything personal. Instead, the app to create a PowerPoint-like presentation showcasing your work, Dixson says, or display your career goals in another engaging format.