Using LinkedIn to Jumpstart Your Job Search
Until my job search really got going, I had a LinkedIn profile but it was pretty barren and pathetic. Does that sound familiar to you? If so, you might want to consider taking another look at your profile and instead of letting this resource sit idle, using it to improve your chances in the job search. Cleaning up your profile not only can help you snag better job opportunities, it can also prevent potential employers from seeing your LinkedIn page and getting a negative impression.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, setting one up is easy and the basic account is completely free. The main part of your account is what is called your “profile.” The profile is like a virtual resume that your connections will read to learn about you, so when you set up your account be sure to spend time carefully constructing this piece. A few tips for setting up your profile:
- If possible, use a professional photo or at least something appropriate for the workplace, as this is often the first thing a visitor’s eyes are drawn to.
- Make your profile public and customize the URL so it’s easy to read and remember. This URL can then be included in your website, professional blog, and/or your Twitter—really anywhere else your professional connections might go in search of information about you.
- Potential employers may look for profiles by using a search engine (either in LinkedIn or in a larger search engine like Google). To ensure that you can be found, use keywords that are important for your area of librarianship. For example, instead of saying “I taught students” use keywords like “library instruction” or “assessment.”
- The summary part of the profile can be confusing; make yours compelling and succinct. End with a clear call to action, such as “Please contact me to learn more about my experience at the following email address.”
- Make your profile thorough! Unlike a paper resume, the page count doesn’t really matter, as viewers can quickly scroll to the most relevant sections. There’s a lot that LinkedIn allows you to add, from links to specific projects to certifications to courses taken. You can also strategically arrange all of these sections so the most important ones can easily be seen at the beginning.
- View profiles of people you admire and imitate them. Think of major players in your field and see if you can find them, or even scan the profiles of colleagues and classmates whose work you respect.
While it’s great to have a stunning profile, it’s no use if you don’t have any connections to view it. LinkedIn is structured so that to make a connection with someone, you must indicate how you know that person and the person has to agree to connect with you—a little more stringent criteria than say, making a friend on Facebook. Keep in mind when choosing connections that your LinkedIn network should be a group of people that you both know and respect. Here are some ways of carefully building a base of connections:
- If you use the Export Connections tool, which uses your email address to find potential connections for you out of the people you already know, there’s a better chance your connections base will be strong.
- After connecting with someone, especially if you haven’t spoken in person for a long time or ever, send a quick thank you note or a note of introduction.
- You can also find potential connections from LinkedIn groups you’re a member of (more on that below) or from people who have viewed your profile. Again, make sure you have some kind of overlap in interests before extending a request to connect.
LinkedIn has many other features that can be used to your advantage as a job seeker, and it can take some exploring to find them. Here are a few that I’ve found especially valuable.
- Join some LinkedIn groups. Groups are a great way to meet people with similar interests and add your voice to a community that aligns with your professional goals. If you contribute to discussions in these groups, you can also start to build name recognition in your area of interest.(editor’s note: INALJ is on LinkedIn too and can recommend these other groups)
- The Endorsements tool allows you to endorse your connections for skills they’ve listed in their profile (or any other skill), and your connections can do the same for you. The more you endorse others, the more likely they are to endorse you, building up both your profile and your positive connections with colleagues.
- One of the coolest LinkedIn features is the Recommendations tool. This tool allows you to ask for recommendations from connections for any or all of your employment positions. This is more personal and descriptive than an endorsement and can look fantastic to an employer. Don’t forget, if you write recommendations for someone else, it’s more likely you’ll get some recommendations of your own!
While the job hunt can seem daunting and discouraging at times, pumping up your LinkedIn profile can be a quick, easy way to improve your odds. Putting together a detailed profile and connecting with your many colleagues and friends can also be a great reminder of how awesome you are!
My profile is far from perfect, but feel free to take a look to get some ideas: www.linkedin.com/in/mandigoodsett/ . In the meantime, happy job hunting!
Mandi Goodsett is Reference Librarian/Assistant Professor/Government Documents Coordinator at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, GA. She earned her MLIS degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated in May 2013. Her professional areas of interest are instructional technology and music librarianship. When she’s not hard at work teaching or fielding reference questions, she likes to bake, ride her bike, and make music on her viola.