Eight things I've done wrong on LinkedIn (and you probably have, too)
- I wasn't on it. I was a latecomer to all social media (Facebook class of 2013) and LinkedIn especially. LinkedIn seemed boring and unnecessary and anything that could POSSIBLY venture into self-promotion territory made me want to stab myself in the eye. Plus, anything having to do with my "career" threw me into existential crisis mode. However, knowing that LinkedIn has incredibly high ratings in Google search results (I just googled myself and it was my second result), and knowing that whoever might be interested in hiring you is most likely googling you, it is highly advisable to have a vibrant, professional, presence on LinkedIn (the bare minimum would be to have an account that you update every six months or so). Just remember that even if you are not a job seeker right now, you most likely will be one day. Take it from me: Dig the well before you need it. Whatever your reason for not being on LinkedIn – I am here to challenge you to show up. Dig a little deeper and examine why you might be avoiding it. Why you REALLY might be avoiding it. And if you fall into that existential pit of despair, send me an e-mail and I'll help pull you out.
- When I FINALLY decided to sign up, about the time I knew I was going to transition into a new gig, I didn't include a profile picture. BIG MISTAKE. The one I have now still isn't great, but it's a professionally taken photo and my face fills most of the frame, which are the two biggies. Ideally, you'd get a professional headshot with a plain background: no duck face selfies, no pictures with your dog, etc. (unless you are an Instagram model or a dog trainer, of course). Some people resist the idea of putting their picture out there in concern that it might be used to discriminate against them, but here's an alternate point of view for you to mull over: "Would you want to work for a company that doesn't contact you because of something they see in your picture? If they are going to discriminate, chances are they will do it in an interview if they don't have the chance to make judgements based on your photo. And the fact is, you will almost certainly be discriminated against for not posting a photo at all, since people are naturally more interested when they have a visual picture of the person they are contacting." (See link below about "How to Write a Killer LinkedIn Profile" by Brenda Bernstein.) You can easily take a stroll through LinkedIn and see which pictures look great and which don't.
- I didn't complete my profile. It was a big deal for me to even sign up, so whatever. Baby steps. And, HELLO, I was born in 1978 and am not a "digital native!" What's your excuse?? BTW, my profile now has an All-Star Rating because, clearly, I'm awesome. Just kidding. You get to this point by filling out everything it asks you to fill out (including a picture). According to LinkedIn, a complete profile is more than 40 times likely to be viewed. And if you are hoping to be contacted by recruiters (something like 93 percent of all recruiters are looking for people on LinkedIn), you won't even show up in searches without a complete profile. *There's also a little option now on your Dashboard that lets recruiters know you're open to being contacted about new opportunities.
- I copied and pasted my resume. But isn't that what you are supposed to do? Nope. While you need to be careful that your LinkedIn experience section is consistent with the information on your resume (same dates, places, etc.), your LinkedIn profile can be much more than an online resume. For one thing, you have a lot more room to play around with on LinkedIn than you do on your typical one-page resume; anything that ended up on the cutting room floor because of space constraints can be used on LinkedIn to flesh out your profile. TBH, kind of forgot about my LinkedIn profile after I mentally checked the box of setting it up. A better strategy would have been to set a reminder on my calendar every month to make updates and stay active on the platform. There is a section to add your accomplishments, and you can give yourself a gold star if you add media of anything you've been involved with.
- I didn't send personalized greetings in my connection requests. Literally, ALL of the advice about LinkedIn preaches not to send the generic connect message. This is not Tinder; you can't just swipe right. Proper LinkedIn etiquette would involve sending a little personal note that says "Hi, ____! I enjoyed hearing you speak the other day at ____ about ____ and thought it would be nice to connect on LinkedIn." Depending on the situation, this kind of thing can give me hives, and I confess I send out the generic requests a lot of the time. I'm getting better, but going the extra step does keep your request from looking spammy. See the links at the bottom for some help with a good formula and verbiage.
- I didn't (and don't) have 500+ connections. This one really surprised me, because, seriously, what kind of crazy intense extrovert came up with that number?? However, I've read and heard from more than one LinkedIn "expert" that not having 500+ connections might be a red flag in some industries. While I would take that with a grain of salt, it has also really pushed me to broaden my scope of people who I might consider connecting with. Which is HARD. Because I don't like to feel vulnerable, and I feel vulnerable trying to connect with people who I might have never met – even if we have lots of people, places, or things in common. Because what if they think I'm a loser/stalker/weirdo?? And who knew that, of all things, LinkedIn would give me such ample opportunity to explore my hang-ups and anxieties relating to what people think of me and how I choose to show up in the world?? But lately, my motto in life has been "personal growth sucks." It's sort of an all-purpose motto, and you are welcome to borrow it, because the payoff is knowing that WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. And to my dear confident, extroverted friends who could come up with 1,000 connections in a couple days, I have a couple of things to say: 1) If you want to make the first move to connect with others, you'd be saving some people (like me) a lot of anguish, and 2) LinkedIn caps the number of people you can connect with at 40,000 so YOU might need to set up two profiles to accommodate your whole social network (<<< sarcasm).
- I had "skimpy" skills, recommendations and endorsement sections, and I didn't recommend or endorse others. This is the next LinkedIn challenge I have set for myself, which actually seems like fun. I get a thrill at the idea of sprinkling positive energy on other people's profiles. And if you are reading this and feel so led, look me up and endorse away! https://www.linkedin.com/in/carmenhoober/ Also, there IS a difference between recommending and endorsing someone. If you want to recommend someone, you click on the More… button underneath their profile picture. You can also request recommendations that way as well. For those of you who are transitioning out of MVS soon, NOW is a great time to ask your supervisors to do you a solid by giving you a recommendation on LinkedIn. Back in the day, 1) You would have asked for letters of recommendation from a boss or professor, 2) who would have kept forgetting to do it, and 3) you'd have to keep asking, and 4) once they finally did, you would have carried it around on a floppy disc, 5) which you would eventually have lost or broken … so YAY FOR TECHNOLOGY. Honestly, this is low-hanging fruit that you should totally take advantage of.
- I wasn't posting, liking, commenting, or sharing anything. According to my research, LinkedIn didn't start off trying to be a job bank, an online rolodex, or a place to paste a copy of your resume. It was designed as a place for to showcase your professional skills, build relationships, and share the story of your career. If you like marketing lingo, this is where you can establish your brand. Just like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. The fun challenge of resume writing and LinkedIn is finding a way to let your personality shine through your professional accomplishments. The LinkedIn Publisher platform is a newer feature that allows you to create original content. The idea is that the more content you create, the more you establish yourself as a "thought leader," which continues to expand your audience. If you have a website or blog (and I know some of you do), you could also use LinkedIn to drive traffic your way.
There are so many other things I am not doing impeccably on LinkedIn, and as a perfectionist, I will admit that it kind of drives me nuts. Also, there are SO many facets of LinkedIn I didn't even touch on here, but I've been continually reminding myself that Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a professional network. It takes time and a certain amount of hustle. The word networking leaves so many of us with a bad taste in our mouths – because it seems fake or superficial or self-serving. So forget about "networking" and just think about building relationships. Think about all the ways you can help other people and be open to asking (politely) and receiving (gratefully) in return.
The good news is that there are TONS of LinkedIn resources out there. The bad news is that there are TONS of LinkedIn resources out there. It can be, quite frankly, overwhelming (and whatever industry you are in may have slightly different expectations or norms). Here are some things to get you started.
How to Write a Killer LinkedIn Profile … and 18 Mistakes to Avoid by Brenda Bernstein (in its 18th version). I was able to get this book for free with my Kindle Unlimited subscription, but you also might be able to find it in the library. By far, this was the easiest, most helpful read I found on all things LinkedIn. You can also listen to the author share the same information on these podcasts:
What Your LinkedIn Profile Should Look Like in 2018
Want People to Accept Your LinkedIn Requests? Use These 10 Templates