If you’re like anyone else who has a job or is hoping to get a job, you’ve got a LinkedIn profile. Hell, even my dad has a LinkedIn profile, and he still uses our family’s 15-year old AOL email address. So it’s safe to assume that your current or future employer is on LinkedIn. It’s the ultimate online tool for professional self-promotion. Sure, there are other outlets like About.me or TheLadders (wishful thinking) out there on the web, but LinkedIn is the most comprehensive professional network out there, and should’ve all but killed the resume and cover letter as we know it when it launched.
The only problem with LinkedIn is that it’s so tough to figure out what you’re doing on there. As a 20-something who grew up in the social media age, we’re used to posting drunk pics on Facebook and retweeting @DadBoner. The internet isn’t for serious business, right? RIGHT? Wrong.
Here are 10 ways to avoid looking like an idiot on LinkedIn.
1. Be visible.
Add connections. This isn’t a bad thing like following 1,000+ people on Twitter. Everyone gets an email when you connect with them. Odds are somebody’s gonna land on your profile and hopefully like what they see. Some guy you haven’t seen since third grade might help you land a job.
2. Connect people back to you externally.
Don’t just aimlessly add connections and hope that gets you a job, because it won’t happen. That’s like fishing without bait. Link your profile in your email signature, and put a link in your Twitter bio.
3. SEO, SEO, SEO.
Optimize your profile with keywords about your experience. Include anything in your profile that people looking for candidates in your field might be looking for. Link back to a personal blog that showcases your creativity and how “down” you are with the whole internet thing.
4. Do a reverse background check.
Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Write that down. Headed in for an interview? Do your damn research on the company. It’s the basic rule of interviewing, besides wearing nice clothes. Any company worth two dumps is going to check your references before hiring you, so why wouldn’t you do the same with them? LinkedIn is an awesome tool for easy research on a potential employer.
5. Research your interviewer.
Find out who is going to be interviewing you for your position and do a little LinkedIn stalking of your own before you sit down with them. It’s not so much an interview as it is a “get to know you” process, and the more information you have about the person you’re conversing with, the smoother it’ll go.
6. Be relevant.
Back to keywords. The more, the better. Again, think about things that a potential employer is going to be looking for. They won’t really care which sports teams you root for, at least not in the initial candidate search. It’s just like choosing a Facebook profile picture. Whatever makes you look the most attractive.
7. Measure the health of the company.
What kind of turnover rate are they operating at? Do they fire a lot of people? Have they downsized recently? It’s all about finding out about the long-term sustainability of a potential job, and whether or not this job could turn into a career. A place that will hire anybody is a place that will fire anybody. Do an advanced search for the company’s name and uncheck the “current companies only” box to see which people have jumped ship in the last year or so. It can be pretty telling.
8. Measure the health of the industry.
Check out how many companies in the same industry have recently failed or prospered. Search for employees of competitors. It all comes back to research.
9. Seek out startups.
Include “startup” or “stealth” in an advanced search. Startup companies can be risk-reward, but if you’re in on the ground floor of the next big thing, you’ll never have to look for a job again, and if you do want to switch jobs, people will seek you out.
10. Scope out competitors.
Give yourself an edge before even walking in the door. Know the market and familiarize yourself with people who will be competing for your potential job or future business. Know thy opponent.