LinkedIn continues to be critical for companies, recruiters and, of course, job seekers. You’re probably comfortable using it to connect with and stay in touch with current and former colleagues, but when it’s time to search for a new gig do you know how to use the social network? Are you properly highlighting your experiences, accomplishments and skills when you’re looking for a new role? And are you harnessing its full power so a recruiter can look and know that you're the professional they should hire?
After reading these 15 tips — you will. Here's how to truly connect to LinkedIn and make it work best for you.
15 Tips for Using LinkedIn
1. LinkedIn is different from your resume.
This tip is worth repeating: LinkedIn is different from your resume. Your LinkedIn profile, like your cover letter, professional portfolio or other application materials, should be distinctly different from your resume. But they should still work together.
Your resume highlights your most relevant work experience and tailors it for a role. Your LinkedIn tells a story about you and your career, along with your academic progression and interests, while also identifying similar professional connections. Your resume and LinkedIn profile content should not be redundant or compete with each other.
2. Keep your LinkedIn high-level.
It can be tricky to make your LinkedIn distinct and complementary. To help, here’s something I suggest to all my job search clients: keep your LinkedIn profiles “intentionally broad,” particularly if you’re interested in multiple types of work. Why? Imagine you’ve been working in HR for years and are open to a new role in that category, but really hoping to transition to operations. Your resume will be tailored very differently for those types of roles. Your LinkedIn has to work for both.
Even if you are only interested in a specific job function (like HR operations) you might be interested in moving industries (like, as an example, from financial services to non-profit arts). You want your experience to be transferable, which is done through being thoughtfully high-level. Your professional network should see that you have skills for multiple roles and that you are more than your job title.
3. Focus on the highlights.
An important piece of keeping your LinkedIn intentionally broad is to include the high notes of your career. Don’t include all the accomplishments from your resume — just the best ones (and if your resume doesn’t highlight accomplishments here’s how you can rewrite it to do so). Rather than bulleting out your key accomplishments, you can choose to have one or two strong sentences that make a statement about your professional brand.
4. Be sure your work history makes sense.
This is key particularly if you have held different types of roles. It’s your job to have your career progression make sense to a recruiter. LinkedIn is a great medium to tell your story by extracting the key pieces of your career. Be sure someone can read your profile and understand what you're professionally about. Take advantage of endorsements so your connections can stay up-to-date on your skills and experiences.
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to let go of unrelated experiences or to leave out work that doesn’t fit into your LinkedIn profile if it doesn't add to your story.
5. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Not sure how to best explain your work or what you’re looking for? Get inspiration from people and job postings that are in the same job functions as you! LinkedIn is an excellent resource for this because you can quite literally find people who are also in your job family or the field you want to be in.
If you think your job is so nuanced and complicated that you'll never be able to describe it, try finding job postings that are similar to yours and notice how that role is described. In fact, you should be searching and reading profiles of other people in your industry on LinkedIn. If you like something you see on a posting or on someone’s profile — take some inspiration and using similar phrasing on your profile! A potential employer is more likely to send you a connection request if you use common keywords in your summary (and here's how to write a great LinkedIn summary!), job description and endorsements.
6. Search for people!
LinkedIn is more than a social media network — it’s a search engine for nearly everything work-related! The same way that Zillow is a search engine for real estate, LinkedIn can be used as a search engine for all things work — companies, c-level executives, jobs and more. You’ve likely already used it to explore job opportunities, learn about companies and research people before an interview. But have you used it to learn about the career paths of people in roles you might one day want? If not, you should! Literally type “Finance Manager” into the search bar and select the category “People.” Then start clicking on profiles! You will be exposed to people who have had similar paths and different paths to you. There’s no better way to learn about career progression than from actual examples.
Pro Tip: On LinkedIn, most users can see when others view their profile. Sometimes, my clients tell me this causes anxiety and it might deter them from viewing a profile. This is the exact opposite of how you should think of it! It's not a dating website and it's not revealing that you're looking at someone's Instagram post from 3 years ago. Rather, you're reading about someone's professional experiences. The fact that people can see you viewed them is great — this can turn into a new connection, a conversation or even an opportunity!
7. Cold contact people.
Now that you’re familiar with finding people of similar or super impressive backgrounds, don’t stop there! Come across an interesting person or someone at your dream company? Contact her! It’s always amazing to me that we’re taught that we can (and should) apply to jobs cold, but that cold contacting people is a no-no.
When you reach out, don’t be over the top, ask for something outrageous or expect a response to include an immediate job offer (if you get a response at all). Simply send a thoughtful message (or send InMail, if you're in on the LinkedIn lingo). If your note sparks interest, it can take you a long way.
8. Keep your profile current, even when you’re not job hunting.
Would you patch a roof in the middle of a snowstorm? No, you’d patch it (or hire someone to patch it) in advance of the storm. Likewise, you need to add updates to profile when you're not looking to leave your company.
Even if you’re not actively searching, you never know who might come across your profile and want to connect. New business contacts could result in an opportunity down the road, or you'll just have the opportunity to be a good and kind person and help someone else.
9. Ensure your title makes sense.
Along with having your profile up-to-date, have a current and relevant professional headline. LinkedIn defaults to using your current job title as your headline, but you can (and probably should) change this, especially if you have multiple professional interests, are making a transition or are in school. Use “seeking new opportunities” sparingly. If you use it, be sure to only do so after describing what you actually do. Something like “Data Scientist – Currently Seeking New Opportunities in Chicago or Miami Areas” will work wonders.
10. Respond to messages that seem legit (even if you’re not interested in a new role).
Note that I didn’t say "all messages." There’s a fair amount of sales-esque spam on LinkedIn, but when a recruiter reaches out with an opportunity, respond and connect with her. When someone messages you to learn about your path — respond! Connect! The world is small and tools like LinkedIn make it even smaller — be kind, be responsive and you never know where it will take you.
11. MAKE YOUR FULL PROFILE PUBLIC.
Caps are necessary here! Did you know that, by default, your full LinkedIn profile might not be public? What is that doing for you, especially if you’re looking for a new job? Be sure your settings are public so people can learn about you easily.
12. Be human — make your summary approachable.
At the end of the day, LinkedIn is a social network — it exists for humans to be social! If you want to be contacted (and if you’re actively looking for new work, you should want this) make it easy for people to contact you! Include your preferred email address in your summary. I've been told in the past, “I couldn’t find your email address so I thought I’d connect/send a message.” Personally, I’m totally fine with this and welcome new connections (hint hint — connect with me), but sometimes email is easier. Make sure your preferred contact method is easy to find.
13. Use the “send notifications” toggle bar to your advantage.
Imagine this: You’re ready to start actively looking for a new job but you want to fly under the radar with your current employer. Sound familiar? Be sure to change this setting on your LinkedIn profile. On the right toolbar, when you’re on the “My Profile” page, you’ll see an option to make your activity public or not. If you want to operate discreetly, turn this off.
Pro Tip: Sometimes, you want this to be on so remember to adjust accordingly! When might you want it to be on? If you lose your job and want your profile changes on feeds or if you just started a new job and want to alert your network.
14. Be active on the platform.
Beyond an alert that you started a new full-time job, the way to show up on feeds and get more exposure is to engage with posts. How? Like and comment on them! Consider writing your own! Not just with your own connections, but in LinkedIn groups as well. While being active on your newsfeed won’t land you a job on its own, engaging with posts about your industry can add to your credibility and personal brand.
15. Check it regularly — but not too many times.
LinkedIn is really an exceptional job search tool, but you need to use it. Check the network frequently, but don’t obsess. Logging in once a day or every other day is fine if you are actively looking for a new role. If you're not actually in the middle of a job search, a couple times a week is ideal (since you may be actively searching one day). Like any social media platform, you don’t want to become a slave to it. Limiting your time on the platform while job searching will help ensure a meaningful and deliberate job search.
There you have it! All the tips to help you make the most out of LinkedIn when searching for a role. If you haven't opened up LinkedIn in the midst of reading this, do that now!
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Jane Scudder is a certified coach, facilitator, and workplace & leadership consultant based in Chicago, IL. She helps individuals and group navigate their careers, teams, and personal lives. Find out more at janescudder.com.