The development and popularity of social media has transformed the way we communicate, how we gather and disseminate information (whether personal or professional), the way in which we share our opinions, and the method by which we brand ourselves. Yes, brand. We disclose what we think, expose what is important to us, essentially lay bare who we are through our online presence. Who we are on the Internet becomes, for better or worse, our own personal brand. Over time, we establish an online personality which may or may not be consistent with the impression we want others to have.
From a career standpoint, the wise use of social networking sites (SNS) can benefit your job search. LinkedIn is generally considered to be the best SNS site for professionals, useful in making connections with other professionals and sharing information, especially when engaging in that job search.
If you’re not using LinkedIn and other SNS, you should. Relying solely on the traditional job search strategy of submitting resumes and cover letters is no longer good enough, especially since more and more organizations employ Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen applicants.
Effective use of LinkedIn requires more than just having a profile, however. Just as companies are researched, evaluated, and often ultimately judged by their website, your online presence is too. How you present yourself on the Internet stays on the Internet.
There is another thing that a company website and your LinkedIn profile have in common: They should establish a vibrant online presence, one that engages visitors and provides them reasons for coming back. A well-designed, regularly maintained Internet presence will satisfy that need; a poorly-designed, neglected online representation will not.
Not surprisingly, then, there are do’s and don’ts associated with effective LinkedIn networking. Here are some important things to remember when it comes to utilizing LinkedIn, whether to enhance a job search or otherwise establish your personal brand.
- Read the fine print. Before you get too far down the road in trying to figure out what you want to do, be sure that you review what LinkedIn requires you to do. The LinkedIn User Agreement sets out rules governing LinkedIn accounts. Ignore at your peril (consequences include the possibility of an embarrassing shut down!)
- The facts ma’am, just the facts. Ensure your profile is complete, factual and professional. Include only information that is likely to enhance your image. You’re building a brand, remember?
- If not now, when? Keep your profile current. Allowing it to go stale gives the impression that you aren’t detail-oriented. You also run the risk of allowing outdated information to represent you long after it’s relevant, something that may doom a job search.
- A picture is worth…. You know how you hate your driver’s license picture but you’re stuck with it because you had no choice? The LinkedIn profile photo function lets you introduce yourself visually to other professionals and prospective employers using the photo you think will make the best first impression professionally.
- Use your primary personal email address. Why? So you don’t have to worry about changing it if you change jobs, locations, etc.
- Choose wisely. Do not connect with those who could potentially harm your brand or hurt your career, either now or in the future.
- Don’t spam. Ever. Remember the User Agreement.
- Do. Not. Link. To. Your. Personal. Social. Media. Accounts. Just don’t. Trust us.
- Do link to other professional online presence. Do you blog? Are you a published writer? Have you been interviewed for radio or TV? If so, provide links.
- Customize your communications. Your invitations to join, your responses, etc. Be a real person. Be authentic. Be friendly and helpful. Nurture your relationships.