I’ve been experimenting with LinkedIn since 2009 when a colleague challenged me to best his LinkedIn profile and network. I’ve given away loads of hours of tips and tricks to friends and colleagues helping them to understand LinkedIn and of all the many things you can learn to do on the platform, these are my all time top three tips. The average LinkedIn member is a university-educated 43-year-old earning over $100,000. With a reputation to uphold, here’s what executive-level candidates should consider when using LinkedIn:
1. Get familiar with your privacy settings
Privacy controls are found under Settings. You can choose to turn off activity broadcasts and this means your connections won’t be notified when you update your LinkedIn profile, write or receive recommendations, or follow companies (otherwise, these types of activities will appear in their news feeds). Many executives choose to err on the side of caution for the sake of confidentiality. They’re approached more often by recruiters, and may be accountable to board members or high-level investors. You can control who sees your real-time activity on the site. This is especially important if you’re updating various aspects of your profile at once.
However you may want to make your activity feed public. That means if you post industry articles to LinkedIn, for example, your contacts will see the link. Sharing useful links demonstrates thought leadership and helps keep you on the radar of your connections. Another setting to adjust relates to what others see when you view their profiles on LinkedIn. Members are notified when somebody views their page, so if you don’t want anyone to know that you’ve looked at their profile page (for example, if you’re vetting competitors, recruiters, or staff) then you can choose to browse profiles anonymously. This is done under ‘Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile’. You may also want to hide the ‘Viewers of this profile also viewed’ box, or limit who can view your list of connections. Remember you can always switch these off and on as needed.
2. Build your network carefully
Once you’ve joined LinkedIn and set up your profile, the next step is to build your network. A good place to begin is to select a high profile industry colleague that you trust and respect and look through his or her connections on their profile page. Look through some of your colleagues connections and note how people populate their LinkedIn profiles. Though LinkedIn has some basic standards of how to build a profile, each industry has nuanced behaviours that may inform your decision around what to include. For example entrepreneurs and scientists will typically include publications and patents to demonstrate their skills and experience to potential investors doing due diligence. Apply the filter of ‘No friends, family or foes’ to your selection of who to connect with. Keep it professional. Other people will judge you by the network of contacts you have built. This is a circle of influence so make sure you focus on quality not quantity. Make a habit of following up with a LinkedIn connection request when you meet new people in the course of work. There’s no magic number to aim for here, but 200 connections is generally a sound tipping point. As your circle of direct connections expands, so does your network of second and third degree contacts. If you have fewer than that, others may write you off as a networking amateur. Carefully vet any connection requests you receive. You don’t have to accept all invitation requests. It’s perfectly OK to say no. A high value network is a genuine network. If someone asks to make an introduction, make sure you actually know the people you are connected to or at least have a strong second degree connection. In short – don’t connect to strangers is my tip, but other LinkedIn experts don’t always agree with this one.
3. Craft your LinkedIn profile strategically
Consider this your online CV that everyone can see. LinkedIn is just a big bulletin board and for the first time your education and work history is available for everyone to view. It goes without saying – but I will – make sure your education and work experience claims are accurate. Universities and companies regularly look at LinkedIn and will check claims. Fully fleshing out your LinkedIn profile – headline, summary, professional-looking photograph, work history, education, and contact information – is a must. Be strategic about every sentence and every word that you include. Students and parents returning to work after a break often ask me advice about the gaps in their profile. It is an advantage to document periods of your work history that involve caring for family, travelling on an adventure, study or personal illness. It might be the thing that others are interested in and makes you easier to talk to or connect with. I have often advised people who are unemployed or underemployed not to be concerned about these facts and certainly not to hide them. Document that you were retrenched from a role (there is no shame in this) or government funding or your contract concluded. Fill up the gap between paid employment with the things you were doing during the period; renovating your home, caring for family, study, charity or volunteer work. Demonstrating your career trajectory over the years. You didn’t start out at the C-level, so show how you’ve risen through the ranks and progressed to bigger challenges at every step of the way. Position yourself at an executive level by weaving key achievement-oriented terms and phrases into your profile summary to reinforce your professional brand, and even into your skills and interests sections. Enjoy. Network. And remember effort and time you place into your profile now you’ll be grateful for when the time comes again to take the next step in your career. You can always contact us at The Social Science to chat more.