"I have a profile, but I don't really use it."
"I set that up a long time ago, but I don't do anything with it, except to connect with co-workers or people I meet through work."
"I look at job openings just to see what's out there, but other than that, I'm not really sure what to do."
These are some of the more common responses I hear when I ask clients how they use LinkedIn as part of their career development strategy. LinkedIn is more than a platform to connect with other business professionals, it is also a vehicle for sharing insight into who you are, beyond just your work experience. And today with so many of us meeting one another on Zoom calls or through Microsoft Teams or some other virtual space, more than ever before we need to lean on tools like LinkedIn for the opportunities provided to get beyond business small talk like "So, what do you do?"
If you can relate to any of the responses above, here are two changes I suggest to start moving from being a passive user of LinkedIn to becoming a more active and strategic user. And keep in mind, these two changes are just the beginning.
Keep Their Attention
It is first important to recognize that a person who visits your profile is doing so to learn more about you for some reason or another. If you are in an active job search, perhaps someone just suggested you might be a good fit for an open position, or maybe someone is reviewing your resume and they decided they want to learn more. If you aren't in a job search, perhaps your name came up as someone who might be interested in a non-profit organization's volunteer board position. No matter why they are looking at your profile, it's in your best interest to keep them there.
Of course, there are those shiny objects all around us. And while you can't keep the person's phone from ringing or their email notification from dinging, you can turn off one of the "features" in LinkedIn which often becomes a distraction. You've probably already come across this when you were looking at someone's profile. It's a column that appears on the right side under the heading 'People Also Viewed' and it serves up a list of people who have a similar profile. If a person in that list is someone they know or just simply looks familiar or interesting to them, CLICK - they're gone.
To help ensure a person stays focused on your profile once they've arrived at your page, it's best to turn this feature off. Here's how you do that:
- Click the down arrow that appears next to your profile picture in the top navigation bar of LinkedIn. (If you don't have a profile picture in place yet - which I strongly encourage you to do - then look for the generic avatar in this same area.)
- Select Settings & Privacy.
- From this page, click the Account Preferences tab from the left side navigation.
- Scroll down until you see the words 'Viewer of this profile also viewed.'
- To the right of those words, you will see a toggle function. Slide it to 'No'.
Give Your Headline a Personal Touch
The second important change to make on LinkedIn is your headline. Many people will simply accept their headline as it appears automatically based on their current job title combined with the company they work for, as an example, Account Manager at ABC Company or Process Analyst at XYZ Corporation. In my opinion, when it comes to headlines, you could do better. Besides, aren't you more than just your job title? Of course you are! But reducing the long list of roles you play in life into a succinct line of 120 characters takes some effort. Also, the job title you have at ABC Company is already listed further down in your profile in your experience section. Why be redundant? Consider using what you are known for, your strengths, as a part of your headline.
I work with clients in my Career Conversations program to dig deeper into their inherent strengths by having them take the Clifton Strengths Top 5 Assessment. This is a very quick and easy process to discover and understand what makes you tick. The Top 5 assessment is only $20, can be completed online, and I've found it provides just the right amount of information to gain a better understanding of those inherent skills and abilities that make you unique. The Top 5 are likely to be the innate strengths you've been using your entire life without really even thinking about it. They are how you show up, not just at work, but in your personal life as well, and they are likely the strengths that have been providing the foundation for where you are today. After taking the assessment, you will be provided with two downloadable PDF documents. Dig into each of the descriptions that accompany your list of 5 strengths and reflect on each of them. It is likely a couple of them will hit really close to home and those are the ones worth considering as part of your headline. While you could simply list the word or words themselves, consider taking it a step further and make it more personal. For example, are you a sales professional with the 'Achiever' strength who loves to compete in road bike races? Then try a headline like this: Sales Professional | Fierce Competitor | Cycling Enthusiast. Doesn't that sound much more compelling that Account Manager at ABC Company?
The idea is to help you paint a picture with your headline so the person reviewing your profile will want to continue reading and eventually be compelled to the point they reach out in some meaningful way to make a connection.
And You're Off!
These are just two of the first updates I recommend making in LinkedIn as you work toward using it as a strategic tool in your personal development journey. I encourage active job seekers to carve out 30 minutes a day (and no more!) to use LinkedIn more strategically as part of their search. For those not in an active search, but who may want to start taking a more proactive approach in growing your career network, an hour a week is a solid investment to make more meaningful connections.