Your Personal Brand - part 1

I have been asked by a few people in the past few weeks about the effectiveness of Linkedin in searching for that new dream role. What I advise is not to think of it as how do I use Linkedin, but rather how do I build my social media/ online presence?? This mean using other mediums as well, as having a professional and unique web presence may just be what one needs to stand out from the rest of the crowd these days. 

Currently I use 4 public accessible ways to enhance my online existence or personal brand:
  1. Linkedin 
  2. Twitter
  4. Personal Blog/website
The are all linked to each other and maintain a consistent feel, especially with content. And the best part, they only cost is your time to set them up and more importantly maintain them.

First lets look at the obvious social networking site for professionals. Think about your goals. Why are you on LinkedIn? To find new employees, partners, and contractors? To be found? A mix? Your goals should drive your entire presence. So the question you need to ask yourself is: How do I use linkedin effectively?

Ok, so you have got your basic Linkedin set up, so what is next? 

Remove that blaring “I’M LOOKING FOR A JOB” text on your LinkedIn profile. Tone all job search references down – concentrate on making yourself look more desirable and less desperate. Your profile should reflect an accomplished professional in the exact field and industry in which you want to get a new position. You’re not looking for a job. Repeat that to yourself again. You’re instead a professional open to opportunities in ABC. You want to make your career with a company that ABC.
  • Firstly make sure your profile is 100% up to date, that all sections are filled out entirely. And pay attention as Linkedin is constantly adding new way of presenting data, so keep up to date.
  • Do not embellish to the point that the truth becomes distorted. You will be found out.
  • Make sure you have a great photo. For this ensure that there are no background distractions and that the colours do not clash. A well taken B&W photo is powerful. I would recommend a cropped head and shoulder picture and perhaps even have it professionally taken, invest in your future. Smile for the camera – even in a photo it sends a feeling of health and trust. Dress appropriately – this doesn’t mean a suit, but the clothing right for your profession. Ensure you upload the picture with a size of at least 250x250 pixels, as when someone click on your picture you want the zoomed version to be clear.
  • Custom URL – you can personalise you URL, look at mine it is not a collection of random letters and numbers like the default Linkedin sets up:
  • A great rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t put it on a CV, or say it in an interview, then it’s probably not for LinkedIn either.
Your headline: This is debatable as to what you should put down. One school of thought is to have your actual current title, for instance: "Recruitment Consultant". And then the second school of thought is to be more descriptive - Say WHAT you are, WHO you help, HOW you make their life/work better. An example would be: "Executive Recruiter who helps Fortune 500 companies find top tech talent". I like going with my actual title, I use the buzzwords and clich├ęs on other sites that I tie back into to my Linkedin profile. 

Format: You need to decide what format you will use, but keep it consistent. But common to any format is to ensure you set out your roles chronologically and in the way you would like to see them forever, as there are other dependencies that come in later, for instance recommendations – if you delete a position for some reason, you loose the recommendation as well.

Format 1:
  • Summary: A rich but brief introductory paragraph giving key information and highlight achievements. Possibly written in the third person. 
  • Experience: Headline only. Meaning you only put the company name, position held and dates you were in that role. Make sure that when you write the company name you use the Linkedin suggestion to link it to company page within Linkedin. It make your profile more searchable.
Format 2:
  • Summary: Your summary and experience section should tell a clear and concise story about your work history. Most managers will scan this section fairly quickly, so make sure that the most important information is at the beginning of the summary to catch their interest and draw them in. Use specific examples and clearly point out your results in past jobs.  
  • Experience: After completing the headline as above add detail for each role. Put key responsibility areas and also some key achievements. Do not copy and paste your entire CV, only use the strongest points. Also be sensitive that certain data you may be ok with quoting on your CV to potential employers, might not have any place on a public website. Ensure consistent formatting, especially the type of bullets used and also spacings. And, please please run a spell check – nothing says I do not pay attention to detail better than wrongly spelt words. The easiest way that I have found is to prepare everything offline and then copy it out of Word or whatever program you used. Your profile should shadow your actual CV, but only contain the main points from your CV as the CV is still your main document to use with potential recruiters (another reason is you do not want colleagues or peers copying your profile and you end up with them having similar looking CV's).
Section: Add sections to your profile. LinkedIn offers several sections beyond the standards so users can showcase volunteer experience, projects, foreign languages, even test scores. This is especially helpful for young networkers who may not have extensive work experience, but adding more sections can add weight to any profile.

Keywords: Take a look at job descriptions of the type of roles you are targeting, are those same keywords appearing in a natural way in your profile and CV? Make sure they do, otherwise you will not feature in any searches, whether via Linkedin or companies repositories of candidates. And the "trick" of putting keywords in white font in your CV will be found out by the automated software and you will be eliminated before a human ever gets a look at your CV. The specialties section is a great place to put keywords for search, but do not overstuff. Recruiters look for people who use the same vocabulary as their clients. 

Recommendations: These are essential for good profile but choose how you do this carefully. Firstly select who you want to give these, ensure they are meaningful – from direct reports, people who managed you, senior people within your company that you had contact with to effect your role and also use trade partners/customer/clients. But, only choose people who would be prepared to give the same type of recommendation over the phone of face to face if called upon to do so. Do not use casual acquaintances, friends or family, there is no credibility in that at all. Only feature a couple of recommendations, as more than that can be overkill and can jumble your profile. Any old or outdated postings should be removed when you are starting your job search so that recruiters can see the most up to date and relevant referrals. 

Jobs section: LinkedIn does actually have a dedicated jobs section. Employers post vacancies in the hope that a savvy jobseeker like you will come across them and turn out to be the ideal candidate. Click on the Jobs tab at the top of the homepage and you’ll be taken to a keyword search box as well as a list of suggested vacancies based on what your profile says. You can also set up alerts (up to 10) to e-mail you results on a daily/weekly basis matching your search criteria. Sometimes the recruiters details are visbile as the poster of a role, also connect with them directly to strike up conversation around the role.

Premium Features: I have found value in some of the premium features namely the full list of who has viewed my profile (you can use this to initiate contact, even to initiate new business relationships) and then the Feature Applicant status where if you apply for an advertised role on Linkedin you are moved to the top of the list of applicants when the recruiter logs into their page of applicants. Watch the graph showing how many times people are viewing your profile to see if what you are doing is driving people to your profile. Also focus on the graph on search results – which shows how many times you have appeared in a search, it also shows you the countries people are searching from which can also help you shape you journey to that next dream role.

Linkedin Etiquette: Like any social networking site or even real life relationship, you will only get out as much as you put in. You need to participate to see results. Join groups within your niche or expertise and contribute to the discussions. Comment on what other people are talking about. Remember almost every-time you contribute you appear on the timeline of your connections keeping you top of mind. Help others, if you see someone posting a role that you might be able to refer someone to, let the recruiter know – reach out directly, they will remember you as someone helping them achieve their goals. Don't just send the default connection request, personalise each message ensuring you address the person by name and give the reason for your connect request. And it would be polite to view their profile first – I generally decline a connect request if the person has not even taken the time to view my profile. It also does not achieve much writing to every recruiter you can find starting out by requesting a job - "Hi, I am looking for my new role can you help?" sounds much better written this way: "Hi, I viewed your profile and decided to reach out to see if you are working on any exciting opportunities either current or pipeline roles." And when someone accepts your request, why not respond with a mail or inbox thanking them, that is true relationship building.

Tips & TricksPrivacy – under Settings > Privacy Controls you can change whether or not profile changes show on your timeline – use this if still employed and you do not want fellow employees to see your are updating your profile. Show up more in timeline – when you have a number of connect requests, stagger accepting them over a few days so as to show up multiple times in connections timelines. Timing – make contributions and changes during a working day so you do not get lost in the timeline. Linking – no one cares to see your Four Square or similar feeds, so do not connect them, but do list your blog and Twitter (only if you manage your Twitter with your career in mind otherwise do not link). Connecting – actively seek out new connections that you believe will enable you to reach your end goal. Especially on headhunters pages, look on the right at the list headed "Viewers of this profile also viewed" as you will see their peers or competitors there as well for you to try connect to. Who has viewed your profile – Check this on a regular basis and connect to people who are viewing your profile as this could open up discussions you were not even thinking of. Connect with Care – Remember that LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. Only connect with people you want to work with. I’m really strict about my LinkedIn connections. Ignore connections where you believe people are just trying to use you to bolster their profile as opposed to networking. I also view the profile of a connection request before accepting, and by so doing have rejected many fake profile requesting a connection – I laugh as I watch colleagues connecting. On LinkedIn, your professional network is a reflection of you and one of your most valuable assets - so make sure it says the right thing. I regularly go through my contacts and purge the one which are not inline with my objectives.

Sleep on it, then re-read it. Does it make sense? Is it coherent? Have you eliminated any typos? Do you seem like someone you'd like to get to know? Excellent! 

Part 2 coming soon: Blogs and Twitter.

[Grant Marais]