If you use social media a lot, you’re not alone.
Facebook currently has a whopping 2.27 billion active monthly users all over the world (roughly the same number of people who live in China and India combined). 3.5 million of those users are in New Zealand; that’s more than 70% of our total population.
But while Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are great at making you LOL, they’re not so useful at helping you find your dream job or get better at the job you’ve already got.
That’s where LinkedIn comes in. LinkedIn is basically Facebook for professionals. You won’t usually see cat videos or funny memes here; LinkedIn is all about helping users connect with people who will help them grow in their current jobs (and hopefully find awesome next-jobs).
It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO of a multi-million-dollar company, a self-employed mechanic, someone who works for someone else, or someone who just graduated; LinkedIn helps users take their professional lives more seriously.
LinkedIn in a Nutshell
LinkedIn is like a networking event, except you do it all from behind your computer. It lets users find and build sincere connections with people in their area of expertise. Connections should be legit. Don’t send ‘friend requests’ to every man and his dog simply because they pop up as suggestions. If you don’t know them, haven’t heard of them, haven’t heard of the business they work for or are simply using them to boost your numbers, you’re doing it wrong.
Auckland social media strategist Cate Owen knows a thing or two about social media. She has worked in social media for loads of big Kiwi businesses and says the best bit about LinkedIn is that it gets job-seekers in front of recruiters.
“LinkedIn is basically an online CV,” says Cate. “Recruiters often use LinkedIn to post ads and put them in front of people who might suit them. To get those ads on your timeline, it’s really important that you make your profile as awesome as possible from the get-go. A great profile attracts great jobs.”
How to Create an Awesome LinkedIn Profile
“Make sure your profile is completely filled, including your qualifications, any relevant experience, and any clubs or groups you’ve belonged to,” says Cate. “Within your profile, include keywords about the kinds of jobs you’re looking for. For example, if you want to get into marketing, your profile might include terms like ‘marketing’ or ‘digital marketing’.”
If you haven’t done much with your career so far, don’t worry. LinkedIn is a great way to prove that you’re serious about your career, even if you haven’t started it.
Make your profile sound professional and articulate. Use your intro blurb to sell yourself. Include anything and everything that you’ve done and can do that might make you sound like the perfect person for job opportunities that might arise in the future.
Building Your Network from Scratch
Once your profile is looking pretty sweet, it’s time to invite people to connect with you. Start with the people you know: people you’ve worked with before, people you’ve studied with, people you know from indoor netball or high school - anyone. It is often ‘who you know’ rather than ‘what you know’ when it comes to jobs so it pays to be as connected as possible.
From there, invite people who know the people you know (these may be strangers), but who are still relevant to you and your career aspirations. These connections often pop up as suggestions on your profile. But just because LinkedIn’s automatic algorithms might suggest a connection, doesn’t mean you should automatically click ‘invite’. Be strategic with who you connect with; if there’s no way they’re going to help you professionally, ignore them.
Rubbing Shoulders with the People Who Make Big Decisions
The next thing to do is to find groups on LinkedIn that relate to the work you want to do in the future. This is really important if you don’t have much experience in the area you want to work in or if you’ve recently graduated.
“Find groups that are specific to the job you want, but also ones that are New Zealand-based,” says Cate. “That way you’re more likely to find local opportunities and connect with real people who could be working just down the road from you.”
You can also search for organisations and discover the people who work for them. For example, you might want to work in sales at Fonterra. Find Fonterra as an organisation on LinkedIn then look at the full list of people on LinkedIn who say they work at Fonterra. If you find someone who looks interesting on that list, don’t just click ‘invite’ and hope they accept you; add a personal message about why you’re inviting them and what you’re hoping to achieve from your connection.
Actively Engage with Your Network
“Just because your profile looks good or you belong to a professional group, doesn’t mean anyone is going to notice you,” says Cate. “If you’re serious about using LinkedIn to further your career, you need to put in a bit of work. Actively contribute with the groups you belong to by liking and commenting on other people’s posts and asking questions. Share interesting articles on your own timeline. Reach out to recruiters in your area of work and let them know you’re available.”
Remember: keep things professional. If someone wanted to take a quiz to find out which Spice Girl they were, they’d head over to Facebook. It’s not a good look if your timeline or profile is filled with junk that doesn’t relate to work and doesn’t make you look like you’re serious about your career.
Posting Your Own Content
When it comes to posting your own content, LinkedIn has plenty of tools to help you figure out where to start. This article talks about the rule of thirds: Personal, Point, Promote.
Personal: Tell your network more about you, your business or your brand. These posts aren’t salesy; they’re informational and casual ‘nice to meet you’ posts.
Point: Share articles, blogs, videos or other content that your network might find interesting and valuable. News websites are good but industry-specific blogs and publications are better.
Promote: Sell yourself – but always do it from a helpful point of view. Your network wants to know what they're going to get out of a relationship with you; they don't just want to read about how awesome you think you are.
Cate Owen’s Top Tips for Making an Awesome LinkedIn Profile
Use a medium close-up profile picture (a headshot) so people can see your face clearly. Make sure you come across as friendly and approachable. Get rid of the sunglasses.
Completely fill out your profile.
Join relevant groups and engage with them professionally.
Research what keywords might help you find the people and jobs you’re looking for and use them appropriately (this article about keywords by LinkedIn is a good read).
Consider writing mini articles that can live on LinkedIn so people can see that you know what you’re talking about. These need to be business-oriented. If you want to tell stories about your kids, start a personal blog.