Question: How do you successfully use LinkedIn? – J. Washington, Chicago
Answer: Ah, LinkedIn! To some, a godsend. To others, a necessary evil. No matter where you fall in the spectrum, it’s undeniable that the platform has proven to be an invaluable asset to the job search. From endorsements, to headlines, to finding the perfect symphony of words to make your summary shine, LinkedIn can prove to be a challenge to even the most seasoned professional. For those just starting out, a beginner’s guide, below:
A Complete Profile. Make sure you have a completed profile! This seems obvious but you’ll be amazed how many I see that list even less information than you’ll find in a resume. You don’t have to fill out every section just because you’re prompted, but you also want to highlight—say—your volunteer experience, your major project or your desire to join a nonprofit board.
The Photo. As the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words, and you want them all to be glowing. A professional looking photo of just you (no cropped pictures of your night out!) against a blank backdrop is best.
A Catchy Headline. Sure, you can just put your job title and the organization you’re with. Or, you can expand your title to include a little bit about what you do, which will encourage visitors to peruse your profile.
Crucial Keywords. A profile that’s carefully crafted with considered keywords appears in search results more frequently than those that aren’t. Don’t be heavy-handed, though! You want these keywords to actually reflect your responsibilities and values.
Your Summary. The professional summary shouldn’t be left blank. You have a great opportunity to highlight your specialties, background and passions front and center. Make it short and sweet, and include some pieces of media if they’re relevant for a digitally encompassing experience.
Groups. Don’t join dozens of groups for the sake of joining dozens of groups. Make sure to choose the ones relevant to your experience and education—say, your alumni or industry group. Be sure to join the groups that are active, with members interacting and content posted frequently. Lastly—and most importantly—be proactive and contribute! Share pertinent articles, comment on others’ posts and generally be an engaged member.
Recommendations & Endorsements. Though recommendations are an “optional” field, if you will, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have one or two from former colleagues and supervisors on your profile. Endorsements are also a great way to vouch for your connections, and for them to vouch for you. Don’t go overboard here, though, and make sure to endorse and recommend those you know for skills and merits they truly possess.
LinkedIn changed the face of networking from dry after-work events to a complex, algorithm based platform that’ll point you in the direction of mutual acquaintances in your industry of choice directly on your homepage. With a little elbow grease and time, a shining profile can be a fantastic tool to promote your skills, experience and personal brand to prospective employers!
Nurys Harrigan-Pedersen is President of Careers In Nonprofits, the experts in nonprofit staffing and recruiting with offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C.