In mid October, LinkedIn unveiled a number of changes to the site at its annual conference. That willingness to evolve is one of the reasons why LinkedIn has become the world’s largest professional network with more than 175 million members in over 200 countries and territories. While job site mainstays Careerbuilder.com and Monster.com still serve a purpose, LinkedIn has quickly established itself as the most-used tool by recruiters. For professionals, whether you are actively seeking a job or not, making the most out of what makes LinkedIn unique has become indispensable.
Most people think of LinkedIn as a social network, but more importantly it is your online resume. Take the time to fill out your profile completely with an eye towards catching recruiters’ and employers’ attention. Go beyond just your work experience and education and make sure you also complete the skills and expertise section. You will need those skills and areas of expertise if you want to benefit from endorsements. A new feature allows you to add more sections “to reflect achievements and experiences on your profile.” Incorporating these new attributes will not only provide dimension to your profile but also demonstrate you are remaining current, especially when it comes to technology.
Of course, what distinguishes LinkedIn from other job search engines is the ability to build a social network and interact online with your professional community. Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com, two of the leading job search sites, host well over a million job postings each at any given time. Monster alone contains over 150 million resumes in its database. These large repositories of job postings and resumes are simultaneously wonderful and overwhelming. Even with refined searches, having to sift through them is time-consuming and it is far too easy for opportunities and candidates to become lost in the shuffle. LinkedIn, on the other hand, provides valuable context and a more nuanced presentation of your professional self. Devoting time to finding connections, joining alumni and professional groups, posting updates, and sharing content will pay off enormously. Perhaps the most effective aspect, however, is having recommendations right in front of a potential employer.
Soliciting endorsements and recommendations is not always easy but it is essential if you want your LinkedIn profile to garner the attention of recruiters and employees. LinkedIn makes this even simpler by requesting endorsements of your skills and expertise from your connections. This appears sometimes in the form of a large box at the top of someone’s profile and always when someone hovers a mouse over your endorsements. Endorsements are a quick and easy way for colleagues and past employers to support you and verify that your profile is accurate. While that is helpful, ultimately you want recommendations that require someone to write something substantive and unique about you.
Most people start by asking for recommendations from those they have personal as well as professional relationships with, usually accompanied by an offer to return the favor. When reaching out to past colleagues who are not friends, you can approach this a couple of different ways. You could simply write recommendations for your connections and see who reciprocates. That leaves a lot to chance, however, and if you contact them immediately after doing so, you may seem insincere and opportunistic. A better way is to send a brief but warm email that asks how your colleague is doing, acknowledges something you have read on your colleague’s profile, and extends your congratulations, if appropriate. Give a short update about yourself and then simply ask for the recommendation while also offering to write one for them as well. With former supervisors, this may seem a bit awkward, but everyone loves receiving praise, regardless of who has the higher status. Most importantly, make sure you write the recommendations you have promised. Not following through is simply not an option and will reflect poorly on you, as a person and as a professional. Beyond demonstrating professional courtesy and good manners, keep in mind that recommendations can be edited or withdrawn at any time.
LinkedIn has surpassed CareerBuilder and Monster because it has reintroduced the human element into our professional online world. It helps us reconnect with colleagues we lost touch with long ago and foster stronger connections with those still in our lives. More importantly, it presents a more complex, well-rounded picture of who we are and that additional context can make the difference between being noticed or forgotten. Recruiters and employers have flocked to LinkedIn because they have received excellent results. Likewise, job seekers have found opportunities and amazing jobs directly through the site. By taking the time to build an extensive network, create a compelling profile, and make meaningful contributions you come several steps closer to having the career of your dreams.