Are you on LinkedIn? I am, but I probably wouldn’t be if it weren’t for Amanda, the Marketing Director at Big Pow! She helped me get started, and now I’m handing over the blog to her to tell you how you can get started on LinkedIn too!
First off, I’m sorry. I know you’ve been putting this off for years. You’ve got more Facebook friends than you can handle, you don’t even understand half of the pseudo-language that streams constantly across your Twitter feed, and you haven’t wanted to add another social media site to your overflowing plate. But you keep hearing about friends who got jobs through LinkedIn, and Zynga hasn’t put out a game worth playing in way too long. So you’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon. It wouldn’t surprise me if you’re crying right now.
And I totally understand. I also wish I didn’t have to use LinkedIn. I too yearn for the blessed days of yore when all business was conducted during city-sponsored potlucks and you could make all the money you needed just by selling things to the people in your neighborhood. Like you, I also held out longer than I should have, hoping against hope that the Internet would prove to be a crazy fad. And you never know. That still might happen.
But between now and when we voluntarily decide as a planet to give up electricity, we’ve got these social media things to deal with. And since you’ve already decided to give LinkedIn a shot, let me give you a few ideas that will make the process as smooth, painless, and useful as possible.
1) Choose a professional profile picture! Lots of Facebook profile pictures involve people hugging dogs. Some profile pictures just have the dog. But if you want to be taken seriously on LinkedIn, your best option is a nice headshot of you in business attire. That means no pictures of your kid (am I doing business with a 10 year old?), no pictures of you in a wedding gown (unless you’re a wedding gown maker), and no pictures of you at the beach (unless you are somehow a beach). How you look says a lot about who you are and what you value, and your beach photo says, “I’m not all that interested in working unless it involves a lot of Mai Tais.”
2) Pick a better location than where you actually live! Do you live in Des Plaines, IL? Congratulations for you! I’ve been there, and it is adorable. But the rest of the world has no idea where Des Plaines is, and they’ll probably make fun of you. So put Chicago instead. I won’t tell anyone – and more importantly, you’ll show up in search results more often.
3) Don’t get too creative with the job titles! I actually got a business card once with the job title of “Chief Kraken Releaser”. Seriously. I can only assume he did the special effects for Pirates of the Caribbean II. However, it might surprise you to learn that most companies have all their kraken-releasing-related jobs filled for the foreseeable future. So if you’re joining LinkedIn as a way to look for a job, you should probably pick a job title that other people have actually heard of. Recruiters are searching for terms like “sales manager” or “marketing director,” not “Chief Guru of Marketing Ninja Awesomeness.”
4) Fill in as much of the profile as possible! Your LinkedIn profile will take longer to complete than Twitter or Facebook, and it will eventually annoy you. After you’ve yelled at your computer a few times, though, you should go ahead and keep working until you finish your profile. Remember, this is a tool to look for work, network with clients, and prospect for new business. LinkedIn will tell you what percentage complete your profile is, and you should aim for 100%. Unless you want to hit 75% and say, “Hey, that’s a C, and I think people should know that I’m comfortably average.”
5) Ask for recommendations! Just like in business, referrals trump everything. Your profile will say that you’re amazing, but everyone knows that you’re probably lying. However, if other people say you’re amazing, then it might actually be true. So if you know someone who might give you a nice recommendation – a former manager or coworkers (best), or a professor or classmate (2nd best) – send them a message that says, “It was great working with you on the thing we worked on together. I’m wondering if you could please write me a LinkedIn recommendation. It would be great if you could mention my (several impressive) skills. I’d be happy to return the favor.” Then actually return the favor. If you don’t you’ll earn bad karma, and that means you’ll probably get sick with dysentery or something appropriately horrible.
6) Don’t make connections with people you haven’t met! LinkedIn has different etiquette rules than other social networks. Twitter is sort of like a house party, which means connecting with random people is completely normal and encouraged. With LinkedIn, however, you should only connect with people you have met in person. If you want to connect with someone you don’t know, ask for an introduction.
7) Make LinkedIn connections with everyone you meet! When I get home from a networking event I take my stack of business cards and go through them and connect with everyone on LinkedIn. This also helps with office clutter because then I can deposit said business cards in the circular file. (That’s code for trash can, by the way. And don’t judge me – I know you do it too.)
8) When you connect with someone, don’t be generic. Anytime you want to connect with someone on LinkedIn, it will provide you with a default message that says, “I would like you to join my LinkedIn network.” This is the equivalent of going up to a stranger at a bar and saying, “I couldn’t help noticing you standing here. I don’t actually care who you are, and honestly you could have been anyone standing at this particular spot. I’m just extremely lonely and wanted to talk to someone. You’ll do.” Bottom line – be more specific. “It was great meeting you at that Specific Networking Event last night! I loved hearing about your work with llamas in New Mexico…”
9) Post a relevant article on a regular basis! You’ll get out of LinkedIn what you put into it. I hate saying that, because I know that I now officially sound exactly like my parents, but it’s true. Posting content tells people that you are keeping up with industry-related news, and it makes you look smarter than all the slackers who “would like you to join my LinkedIn network.”
10) Keep your posts business related. And last, and most unfortunately, LinkedIn is kind of mean. It doesn’t care about your cat, or whatever cute thing your kid did last night. It doesn’t want to see a picture of your delicious home-cooked dinner either. Facebook and Instagram care deeply about those things, but LinkedIn is just for business. That doesn’t mean you have to be boring – I, for example, once worked inside of a giant hot dog, and that involved some fun stories – but just remember to stay focused on business.
And that’ll do it! If you think of LinkedIn as an extension of the things you’re already doing – networking, chasing leads, following up with current clients – then it really won’t feel too overwhelming. And if you’re looking for some articles to post, feel free to steal ours from the Jeff Havens blog, or wherever else you can find them. You can even send me a picture of your adorable baby playing with your cat and eating the delicious home-cooked meal you just made, because I am interested in more things than LinkedIn is.