Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

LinkedIn is key to getting a job, promotion

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My informal survey suggests that LinkedIn may be the most popular social media website among seasoned professionals.

Harder evidence of LinkedIn’s indispensability: According to a Jan. 27 New York Times article, “In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed,” some large companies are finding qualified candidates by recruiting new hires from the LinkedIn networks of their current employees. In the process, they are bypassing reams of nameless applications from recruiters and job boards.

So if you’re seeking a nonfederal job, it is practically de rigueur to create an impressive LinkedIn profile. And if you’re seeking a federal promotion, the same is becoming increasingly true. In light of the popularity of LinkedIn, you can expect federal hiring managers to review your LinkedIn profile before they meet with you.

But LinkedIn is important for more than job hunting. These days, whenever you’re exposed to new professional contacts, some of them will probably review your LinkedIn profile. These contacts may include new managers; colleagues and subordinates at your job; your interviewees; fellow attendees at meetings and conferences; people who hear you speak at events; editors considering publishing your work; and journalists.

Some tips for improving your LinkedIn profile:

  • Maximize your name’s reach. Include nicknames and maiden names in your profile name, if you want to be found by people who know you by such names. Follow your name with the letters that represent any advanced degrees or certifications you have.
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile shorter, less comprehensive and more conversational than your résumé.
  • Be selective. Exclude jobs too dated or too unrelated to your current persona to matter anymore.
  • Be descriptive. Job titles don’t speak for themselves. Each job listed in your LinkedIn profile should be accompanied by a job summary.
  • Be concise. Limit each job summary to several bullets or a short paragraph that captures your salient achievements. Emphasize achievements that most parallel your current goals — no matter how little time you may have spent on them. And exclude achievements that don’t parallel your goals — no matter how much time you may have spent on them.
  • Purge vague, overused clichés such as “team player” and “results-oriented.” Instead, prove that you warrant such descriptors. Did you, for example, lead a team, reconcile differences within a team, contribute to a team’s success or win a team award? And identify your results — if possible, with metrics. Did you, for example, manage a large network, save staff time by streamlining procedures, produce more with less or manage a budget? How big? How did you do it differently and better than others?
  • If you’re job hunting, exclude any information that may alienate hiring managers, such as your political affiliations — unless you’re seeking a political job.
  • Order information strategically. Order your jobs in reverse chronological order — unless a previous job is more relevant to your current career goals; in such cases, order your jobs according to their relevance to your current goals. Similarly, if your volunteer experience or education is more relevant to your goals than your job history, give such information top billing.
  • Cite relevant websites in the “Summary” or “Projects” sections of your profile or in the appropriate job summary. These websites may include online portfolios or sites that showcase your projects or positive press coverage of them.
  • Use quality controls. Run all profile text through a spellchecker before posting it on LinkedIn, which does not check spelling. Mistakes such as “detail-oriented edtor” [sic] are instant credibility-busters. Also, review the final version of your profile on LinkedIn to catch formatting mistakes.
  • Make your profile public, if you feel comfortable doing so. A hidden profile won’t generate traffic.
  • Increase your wow power. Regularly update your profile. And review other profiles to collect ideas on how to improve your own.