Most people nowadays have some sort of online presence via social media. One such site, LinkedIn, is an extremely useful business marketing online tool. Used correctly, it can be a powerful way of keeping one step ahead of the competition in the market you are targeting. It can help to find and connect you with people. It can help to expand networks and find business opportunities. By creating an online marketing profile, you have now begun virtually networking.
Another benefit of LinkedIn is that you can gain endorsements from others, describing you as a person and what you are like to work with; a sort of online reference section. This is almost difficult to portray in a CV/cover letter and employers are keen to hire people that fit in well with the team, not just with the right experience and qualifications.
It is important that you create a positive first impression. Remember to be professional at all times and include a sensible photo. Having an unprofessional LinkedIn profile can portray you in a negative light, and can have a detrimental impact. A lot of employers nowadays use social media sites to find out more about prospective employees, (more on this will be covered in a later column), so it pays to be professional.
So why include a photo here and not on a CV? This is because anti-discrimination laws are targeted towards job applications, which is what a CV is for. LinkedIn is effectively a networking site, where not everyone is looking for a job. Some join just to establish contacts and network. You’re more likely to have your profile viewed if a photo is on. We are naturally a suspicious society, so people are more likely to think something is wrong if a photo is not included. If you were looking for something on eBay, would you be more likely to bid for the item with a photo? Of course you would. It’s the same for LinkedIn.
A regularly updated LinkedIn profile should include information about your skills and experiences. If you already have a CV prepared, take some information from the profile and key skills sections, including achievements and examples of projects you have worked on.
The most important parts are the summary and experience sections. I prefer to write the summary in third person, as it looks like someone else is talking about you in glowing terms and a positive light. But whatever way suits you is fine, as long as the content is relevant.
You can include as much information as you want to, as long as it is no longer than 2,000 characters. But make it effective. Within the skills section, include as many skills as you can; anything that can be justified in a future role. You can also add in any opportunities you are looking for.
Another benefit of using LinkedIn is that you can easily get involved in forums, groups and individuals in the same boat as yourself. This in itself can be an enormous support.
Large corporations are using LinkedIn more regularly to headhunting new talent. Even though you are not actively looking for a job, you never know when an unexpected opportunity may arise.