TIPS: Thirteen “Big-Picture” LinkedIn Lessons for 2013

By Andy O’HearnLinkedin

 “Give a person a fish and you feed him/her for a day. Teach a person to fish and you feed him/her for a lifetime.”

“Tell me, I’ll forget; show me, I’ll remember; involve me, I’ll understand.”

In August 2011, I helped create handouts for PSGCNJ’s job-search training program explaining how to set up and maintain a basic LinkedIn profile. While these handouts were factually complete and correct –“what” and “how” to do—they did not explain the underlying process—“why” and “how” these steps will help attain the greater goal of landing the right job. In December 2012, the PSGCNJ Accelerated Career Training (ACT) team went through all of its training presentations, slide by slide, to establish best practices that are more likely to stand the test of time (and membership turnover!)(register for PSGCNJ’s free job-search training program).

As a part of that effort, I revised the LinkedIn training materials. The larger lessons of social media now take priority, with the understanding that ample online resources exist for PSGCNJ members to refresh themselves on the details. Each key step now has its own slide, with dedicated trainer notes – so the class can stay laser-focused on the areas where users need help most urgently:

Larger Lesson #1: LinkedIn is a means to an end (i.e., an activity or tool) not an end in itself (i.e., the goal you hope to achieve, such as finding a job). The intermediate goal is not to build the perfect LinkedIn profile; rather, it is to use LinkedIn as the springboard for direct, two-way conversations about advice, insights/information, and referrals/recommendations (“A.I.R.”).

Larger Lesson #2: LinkedIn is not the only social media tool at your disposal. Facebook reaches five times as many people. Twitter and YouTube do a much better job at transmitting news and “infotainment” virally. Google Tools (Plus, Alerts, etc.) work more seamlessly. Meetup often does a better job of bringing like-minded interest groups together.

Larger Lesson #3: LinkedIn is not your resume online. It is, however, a place to sprinkle keywords like catnip, so that your profile is not only found, but also posts higher in the search rankings than your competitors. It is not a mere recitation of job-description language, but rather, the place to tell your story distinctively, in your own words, so that your personal brand becomes both memorable and credible.

Larger Lesson #4: LinkedIn is becoming more social. Taking pages out of the Facebook and Twitter playbooks, LinkedIn has finally decided, if you can’t beat ‘em (by guarding the ability to connect with select, “known” professionals), join ‘em (by leveraging the power of its users’ total social networks). Which brings us to . . .

Larger Lesson #5: Just like today’s banks, LinkedIn is charging for services it used to provide as a courtesy to its users (and to build critical mass). It’s basically selling “guaranteed” access to hiring managers and recruiters—but in a way that is clearly identified as a “sponsored” connection, which may not have quite the same impact (think paid vs. organic Google search results).

Larger Lesson #6: LinkedIn favors users with bigger networks. Per LinkedIn expert Andy Foote, “to rank in LSEO (LinkedIn Search Engine Optimization) terms, you need to have lots of connections to ‘narrow’ the distance of the search. The LinkedIn search algorithm favors people with large networks. If you have a small network on LinkedIn, you are practically invisible in search terms.” So don’t just preach to the “choir” of your known connections. Benefit from the Strength of Weak Ties. Weak ties in and of themselves are not especially valuable; what is valuable, however, is the breadth and reach of the network. For example, over the holiday break, I went through my list of 6,056 first-level connections, discovering that I actually knew just over 900 (about 15 percent). Many of the remaining 85 percent, however, had at least 500 connections apiece – so the overall span of my network was nearly 19 million professionals!

Larger Lesson #7: LinkedIn is not a “one-and-done” type of application. You can no longer get away with just slapping up segments of your resume text, pressing “publish” and then walking away. You have to work at it a little bit each week. Post status updates. Interact with Groups. Use Advanced Search to find contacts into target companies. View the many video tutorials on LinkedIn, YouTube and elsewhere. Subscribe to blogs, or “follow” LinkedIn visionaries and experts. Better to go as close to all in as possible, than to be judged negatively for a paltry, static profile.

Larger Lesson #8: LinkedIn Endorsements are not a warning sign of an imminent apocalypse. Yes, it is a beauty contest to see who can garner the most “likes” per skill. The trend toward “game-ification,” however, is not going away . . . so you might as well get better at it!

Larger Lesson #9: Test the keywords you use with your (“100% complete”) LinkedIn profile. How are you being found now? How you would prefer to be found? Reverse-engineer the process, as if you were the recruiter seeking someone like you. Advanced Search is good for this . . . also, TagCrowd your profile, then compare it against job descriptions. Many more keyword tools are available; try a few out and then Google yourself.

Larger Lesson #10: Be a social media giver, not a Netiquette-negating taker. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman said it best: “Good intentions are never enough. To give helpful help, you need to have a sense of your friend’s values and priorities, so that your offer of help can be relevant and specific . . . Finally, once you understand his needs, challenges, and desires, think about how you can offer him a small gift; i.e., that costs you almost nothing yet still is valuable to the other person.” Remember the Golden Triangle of Networking: Offering, Asking, and Thanking those that know, like and trust you.

Larger Lesson #11: Become a LinkedIn “Bloodhound.” Spend 75 percent to 85 percent of your time identifying, tracking and following contacts in your professional network who work for companies that have the right cultural reputation and that will allow you to be challenged, impactful, and professionally happy. The “hidden job market” is real, not a myth. Long before a job is posted, it exists as a quandary in the hiring manager’s mind, to be solved by a person with the right “combination” of skills and personality fit.

Larger Lesson #12: Operate in concert, not in isolation. Job search is a team sport – and nowhere is that more true than through social media. Get involved as a volunteer, step up and take on responsibilities for a committee, use LinkedIn Answers/Groups or Quora to engage yourself in a productive and collegial discussion, reach out to alumni groups, past company employees, sports-related groups, the list is almost endless . . . and find ways to leverage and cross-reference the power of those relationships acquired in less conventional settings.

Larger Lesson #13: Manage your LinkedIn contacts (connections) systematically. This could be as simple as assigning tags of your choosing to different types of connections . . . to upgrading on LinkedIn so that you can use its built-in Profile Organizer . . . to exporting your LinkedIn connections to a contact management system, such as ACT!  Just click on “Contacts,” “My Connections,” and then scroll down and click “Export Connections.” You have the option of either exporting as a .CSV or .VCF.

In 2013, while the stress of the job search will occasionally compel you to get enmeshed in the details, I do hope you will “come up for air” periodically, and in so doing, see the big picture and thus the larger lessons to be gleaned from the ever-shifting sands of social media.

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