Source: Fast Company – work-life
Author: Jennifer Lewi
Any successful career strategy involves taking intentional steps now to create a more meaningful future. As an executive coach and career strategist, I encourage my clients to embrace LinkedIn when looking to change jobs, build thought leadership, and grow their personal brands. With more than 900 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is perhaps the most powerful professional networking and recruiting platform available to job seekers.
The primary way to stand out on LinkedIn is not to try to game the algorithm, because it changes. In fact, LinkedIn recently changed its algorithm to focus on knowledge sharing. Instead, use LinkedIn to support your career goals and strategy. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish professionally: Switch to a new job? Stand out to recruiters? Attract more clients? Establish thought leadership?
No matter your goal, you can use these five proven techniques to build a career strategy on LinkedIn.
1. Establish a strong profile
To build your career strategy on LinkedIn, you should start by Googling yourself. Most people’s LinkedIn profile first comes up in a Google search.
Consequently, someone looking to learn more about, or hire, you will likely start on LinkedIn. Your profile should tell your professional story and weave together your experiences and skills to set you up for what you want to do next professionally.
Be selective about what to showcase. LinkedIn is not your résumé or a laundry list of all your professional experiences. “Think of your profile as your professional portfolio that reflects your unique accomplishments and career goals to potential employers,” recommends Rohan Rajiv, director of product management at LinkedIn.
Ensure your headline is compelling, concise, and highlights your unique skills and expertise. Optimize your profile to align with the desired job or area of expertise for which you seek to be recognized. For instance, if you are a marketer interested in transitioning to human resource management, find a way to showcase expertise in both areas. Don’t limit your headline to your current title (like vice president of marketing) unless it accurately represents what you want to do next.
Include a good headshot. Members’ profile pictures “get 9 times more connection requests, 21 times more profile views, and 36 times more messages than LinkedIn members without profile pictures,” says Lydia Abbot, senior content marketing manager at LinkedIn. Your headshot should be well-lit and professional, and it’s best to avoid personal elements like kids or pets.
2. Boost your discoverability
Highlight your relevant skills to maximize your profile’s visibility and attract recruiters and other professionals seeking those specific skills. Rajiv recommends emphasizing your skills because recruiters and hiring managers often use the LinkedIn Recruiter tool, which leverages advanced search filters to discover candidates based on the skills listed in their profiles. It’s worth noting that over 45% of hiring managers rely on skills when searching for candidates using LinkedIn’s skills menu.
Incorporate relevant keywords from job descriptions that align with your skills. “Look at job descriptions for roles you’re interested in and include any skill, education, or experience requirements you have, along with a summary of your career goals in the About section of your profile,” recommends Rajiv. “This will help ensure you’re using the same keywords recruiters would search for, increasing your chances of being contacted.”
By using keywords that support your expertise and professional brand, you effectively associate yourself with the topics you wish to be recognized for. Apply this strategy to stand out in your area of expertise. Taking cues from search engine optimization (SEO) commonly applied to websites and articles, Melanie Borden, Managing Member of The Borden Group, a social media consulting agency, advises that applicants “make sure your profile is optimized for SEO for maximum visibility for the LinkedIn search engine.”
You increase your discoverability by strategically integrating the keywords that meet your professional objectives throughout your profile, including in your headline and within your “about” section.
3. Strategically expand your network
Use the platform for its core purpose: to network and connect with people who can help each other. Borden suggests LinkedIn users “compile a list of 5 to 20 people they aspire to connect with” and aim to establish meaningful connections with the right people rather than simply expanding their network randomly. She emphasizes the importance of active engagement by sharing information with your network in areas that are also your expertise.
“When connecting, ask questions, show genuine interest, or share something new about your industry,” says Borden. “Then engage with their posts to maintain relevance and be part of their network. Then when you have established a rapport, ask them to connect with a personalized request. Be real and professional.”
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable at first. Initially, some of my clients approach adding new people to their network with reluctance. They often worry they are too pushy and fear rejection. However, as they experiment with the platform, they typically learn how to make meaningful connections. They even discover genuine enjoyment by actively participating in the community and sharing their ideas.
4. Experiment with LinkedIn’s custom tools
I strongly recommend that professionals experiment with the formats that are unique to LinkedIn’s platform.
For instance, you can publish articles directly on LinkedIn. Since these articles remain within the platform, the algorithm is more likely to promote them than externally published articles. Use the Featured section to highlight previous articles, presentations, speeches, and videos. These are excellent ways to demonstrate how you have applied your skills and expertise.
Job seekers can also use the “open to work” feature to share their career preferences and indicate they are open to new opportunities, either privately to recruiters or to the broader LinkedIn Community through a simple LinkedIn profile photo frame. “Turning on ‘Open to Work’ doubles your likelihood of getting a recruiter message,” says Rajiv.
However, as a career coach, I recommend caution when using these features. Signaling that you are open to working while in a job you want to leave could tip off your current coworkers that you are considering quitting. This can compromise trust, exclude you from future projects, and even jeopardize your job.
I also recommend that users explore LinkedIn’s recently launched Collaborative Articles feature which combines AI with the LinkedIn community’s expertise. Melissa Cohen, a LinkedIn top voice on personal branding, describes them as “AI-generated prompts waiting for insights from the community to provide real-world experience so that we can all learn from each other’s shared experiences.”
LinkedIn rewards users who leverage its custom tools because it demonstrates how active they are on the platform.
5. Maintain consistency
Regularly posting and engaging with content allows you to remain at the forefront of people’s feeds and actively contribute to the community. Try to participate beyond simply liking comments. Instead, remember it’s a social network—respond, ask questions, and foster meaningful dialogue.
LinkedIn experts also believe that the more consistently you make updates that tie in with your expertise—like updating your profile and writing posts—the more likely the algorithm will boost your profile.
You can start by dedicating just 10 minutes a week to posting at least once per week and engaging with a few of your connections.
By implementing these techniques, I believe anyone can accomplish their goals, all while unlocking the full potential of the LinkedIn platform. I value LinkedIn’s culture of experimentation with its community. Like many of my clients, you may be surprised to discover you enjoy the process and even become a LinkedIn power user.
Jennifer Lewi is the founder, executive coach, and career strategist at Design Your Next Step and vice president of career development and conferences at the School Nutrition Association.
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