Everyone engages in promotion of one form or another; it’s a necessity. If you’re an individual, some of the most traditional forms of promotion include business cards and resumes. The smart job hunters always include a customized cover letter with their resumes, written after performing a little research on the company. Most of the areas I’ve covered on a LinkedIn profile equate to the information you’d see on a resume. My profile is now 55 percent complete. It’s time to work on the “cover letter.”
I’m talking about the “summary” area. I’ve seen it referred to by LinkedIn employees as the “elevator pitch.” You can’t be sure who’s going to read it, but you can be sure of one thing – people search on the words you use in this area, especially the ones you put into the subsection marked “Specialties.” Guess what? Mine is blank, but it’s not going to stay that way.
The first thing I notice is that I can change my professional “headline” here; it has defaulted to my current job. So I decide I’m going to change it to “Experienced Technology Writer/Editor.” I can also change my primary industry of expertise, but since it’s already set to “Internet,” I leave that alone. Summarizing my professional experience and goals is tricky, but after looking at some examples, I write something that is at least okay for now. Polish can come later, as it’s often easier to polish a second draft than try to get it perfect the first time. I add a few specialties, and voila:
So what do I have left to add? Well, starting from the top, I can add a photo. I’m still skipping that for now. I can get recommendations for previous positions I’ve held; likewise, I can give recommendations. I can add my interests, groups and associations, and honors and awards. I can add two more web sites.
Finally, I can decide on my contact settings – how and for what I wish to be contacted. Here you can choose to accept introductions only, or introductions and InMail. (It appears that InMail is currently a paid feature). You can give users advice about contacting you, and choose to be contacted for eight different opportunities (career opportunities, consulting offers, new ventures, etc).
I decide to make a recommendation; if I do it right, I figure I can get one in return, and I sorely need one. Here’s the first screen:
The pop-up showing here is what I got when I clicked on the link that said “select from your connections list.” So I make my choices and continue. Here’s the next screen, before I’ve added anything:
The positions listed in the “Choose a position” drop-downs are the ones both you and the person you’re recommending have included in your respective profiles. The ones listed under “Basis of recommendation” are designed to cover most situations, including direct manager/subordinate, working with each other in the same (or different groups), and a more indirect relationship where one person was junior to the other, but did not report directly to them.
Once you recommend someone, they receive a message notifying them of your recommendation. Your profile also changes to note that you’ve made the recommendation (you can always change it).
Meanwhile, other changes I’ve made to my profile may be starting to pay off. LinkedIn’s system is set up to spot commonalities in people’s profiles – in this case, people who have worked at the same company at the same time. So LinkedIn may not have a separate profile for Faulkner Information Services, but it recognizes the company name well enough to spot it in the profiles of three other people who worked for the company at the same time I did. Unfortunately, I don’t recognize their names immediately, but I can always look up their profiles later to see if it jogs my memory. Incidentally, this is a good reason to upload a photo to your LinkedIn profile (which I plan to do after I finish this article). At any rate, LinkedIn makes it easy for me to connect to these people:
I found out about these people in the first place because a registered user’s LinkedIn home page includes network updates that are relevant to them – so this information showed up when I added the older job.
Your raw profile is just one part of your LinkedIn account. You have a home page that keeps you up-to-date, a contacts page that keeps you informed of your colleague’s activities, an inbox, and groups. Something very interesting that you can find on your home page is modules, which I covered not too long ago. There are still three default modules: People you might know, Jobs, and the one that delivers questions you might answer.
The Jobs module found me 60 jobs that are exclusively available through LinkedIn and are within 50 miles of my home zip code. I can refine the search module to look for particular keywords, a specific job title, any of seven experience levels, and so on. I can tell it to limit itself to jobs posted during certain time periods, in specific industries, that feature particular job functions. You can also control the location in which it searches, of course. Anyone who has used an online job hunting search engine will be completely at home with this module.
The module that tells me people I may know is not terribly helpful to me in this case; it lists one person I’ve never heard of. The module that lists questions you can answer looks a lot more interesting though. Here’s what I get when I click on More:
You can see above a list of open questions from the particular technology area that LinkedIn thinks I fit well. I can choose to answer one, or I can look for more questions in this category. I can also click other categories to find open questions to answer. By answering questions, I can get my name seen, and show that I have a certain level of expertise. In this way I can build my reputation.
Below the place where I cropped this screen shot is a list of experts in this particular area. If you answer enough questions well enough, you can get listed here. Again, it’s a way to get yourself seen, and build your reputation as an expert. There is a voting system; those who ask questions can designate a “best answer,” which earns points for the person who gave that answer.
I’m constantly learning new things about LinkedIn. If you take a close look at the screen shot above, you’ll see little blue circles next to the names of people who have asked questions. I noticed that within the circles were designations like “2nd” or “3rd.” When I hovered over one of these icons, it explained that the person was a second-degree contact – a contact of someone I’m connected to, in other words. Presumably, using other tools in LinkedIn, I can figure out who in my network knows this person and request an introduction.
So what are these company profiles that LinkedIn now offers? LinkedIn describes them as “a new research tool that helps you find and explore companies that you may want to work for or do business with.” LinkedIn now boasts more than 160,000 company profiles. They include an overview of the company’s industry data and LinkedIn data about the company (remember the information you include in your profile about what company you work for?).
You can find a company profile in a number of ways. One way is to look in an individual’s profile for a logo right next to company titles in their work history. In that case, clicking on the company name will take you to the profile. Or you can search for the company directly. I did that for eBay, and was mildly dismayed to discover that there’s no way I can show you the complete profile in one image. But I can show you some of it and paint a picture with words. So here’s a screen shot:
As you can see, it’s a two-column format. Starting on the top left, the company profile includes a description of the company, with the ability to flag the description if it’s wrong. Just below that are the eBay employees that are in your network. The next thing you see below that is a list of new hires. Below that list come two things that didn’t make it into my screen shot: a list of recent promotions and changes, and popular profiles from the company.
Now let’s look at the right side. It starts with a list of related companies. How are these companies related to eBay? Well, the first set is divisions. But the second set tells you where eBay employees have worked before taking jobs at eBay, and after leaving eBay. And the third set tells you what companies eBay employees are most connected to – that is, if I were employed by eBay, where are the folks I’ve formed connections with through LinkedIn most likely to be employed?
Continuing down the right side, we come to a set of key statistics. These include where most people working for the company are located, how large the company is, when it was founded, what type of company it is, common job titles, median age of employees, etc. These are the kinds of things that can give you some sense of what it might be like to work for the company – a bare-bones sense, granted, but at least it’s a clue. Finally, again in an area that didn’t make it into the screen shot, there is a list of openings at the company that have been posted on LinkedIn.
I’ve seen one complaint about the Company Profiles feature, coming from someone whose company has not yet been listed. It sounded like sour grapes to me. While the feature is in beta, and LinkedIn’s blogs emphasize how much work it took to get it where it is, I can already see its usefulness. LinkedIn is all about business, and the information in a LinkedIn company profile would be invaluable to someone looking for a job.
There are tons of social networks out there, but it looks like there’s only one that really means business. If you’re serious about networking, you need to be a member of LinkedIn, and you need to make the most of your profile. Good luck!