LinkedIn is one of the most valuable tools for the unemployed. It allows you to present your case more broadly than you can by simply submitting a résumé, while simultaneously reinforcing your ability to rely on your network of professional contacts to forward you information about new opportunities.
Here are the top 10 tips for leveraging your LinkedIn to find and apply for the most job openings you can.
1. Define Your Professional Brand
Before you do anything, you must know what product you’re trying to sell. Think of your professional talents as a service you are advertising. It will help if you can write a 10-word slogan, not necessarily to publish on your page but to help keep the theme of your LinkedIn profile on track.
Begin by picking your top 5 skills. Or, if you prefer, write a long list of phrases that describe yourself. Then you can combine the phrases that sound similar and categorize them. You should start to notice a pattern that reveals categories that can be summarized like, “I enjoy researching solutions to problems,” or “I am good at brainstorming new ways to reach an audience.”
2. Keep it Positive
Don’t let your lack of employment get you down. Even if you’re struggling with long-term unemployment, there is always hope. By tailoring your LinkedIn profile and relying on your network of connections, you will be able to find more opportunities.
If your profile reads too desperate or jaded, you’re not doing yourself any favors in the eyes of recruiters. Whenever possible, turn negative experiences into a positive. Count mistakes and missteps as lessons learned, especially if you can apply a broader advantage your experience gives you when working for another company.
3. Let People Know You’re Looking
Sadly, many people hide their need for a job out of embarrassment or for privacy reasons. There are few worse things you can do for your job hunt than hide your status.
Use LinkedIn to let your Connections know you are “available for a new opportunity.” Post this on your feed once every few weeks to make sure you whole network sees it. Then begin personally reaching out through e-mails and phone calls. Spend a few minutes learning what the person is up to in their life and career, and then let them know if they need anybody in your field or come across any opportunities, you are available.
This type of networking is not easy, but it can definitely pay off. It’s the modern day “hitting the pavement” advice that has been proven to work time and time again.
Finally, don’t be afraid to mention your availability on your LinkedIn profile itself. Recruiters tend to skip over profiles where the person appears contently employed. End your last position date with the actual time you let rather than leaving it “–Present.” This is a subtle cue recruiters immediately look for to make sure they’re not wasting their time reading the rest of your profile. You can even include a separate line at the bottom of your summary explaining your openness to a new opportunity.
3. Do Your Research
Spend some time looking up job descriptions for the type of position you are hoping to obtain. These will give you an idea of what companies are looking for. If you see certain things consistently throughout multiple job postings, you can use this information to help shape and refine your professional brand.
You can also look up people on LinkedIn who work in similar positions as well as those above and below in the career trajectory. Check what kind of training they received and their work history. These will give you indications of what level of position you are most likely to receive so you can try to avoid the under- and over-qualified applications.
4. Update Your Profile with Keywords
Once you’ve collected some sample job descriptions, you can find the keywords similar among them. These will be the same keywords recruiters use to search LinkedIn for qualified candidates.
If possible, add these specifically to your “Skill Section.” Search for the keywords in the LinkedIn skill database and click add. You can have a maximum of 50 skills, so try not to overlap them too much. Reorder your skill list to make sure your top 5 defining ones are at the top.
5. Gain Experience
While you’re looking for a job, keep adding professional experience to your résumé.
There is a separate section on LinkedIn for volunteer work, which can play very well with hiring managers and recruiters. You can start by looking for unpaid volunteer gigs. Consider running for a community office, PTA or HOA board. Donate your skills to a charitable organization.
LinkedIn can also serve you well at this point looking for freelance work. Post to your feed letting your Connections know that you are offering your work on a temp or contract basis.
Finally, continue adding new skills to your repertoire. Seek education, even from free online sources. Obtain certificates when possible. Do anything you can to show your potential new employer that you are open and able to learn new things.
6. Recommend Others
There are a few benefits to spending some time writing recommendations for others’ LinkedIn profiles.
First, your kindness and thoughtfulness is likely to be returned. If you write at least 10 recommendations, you’ll probably receive at least one recommendation in return. You’re also going to be putting your name in their short-term memory bank if they happen across an opportunity that may fit for you.
Another nice benefit is that your name will show on their profile. Your name will become a hyperlink to your profile, giving you more presence and likelihood of being found.
7. Ask for Recommendations
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your connections and ask directly for a recommendation. This is especially true of more senior former colleagues who may not qualify for tip #6 above. Considering these professionals are more likely to be very busy, you can offer a rough draft of a verbal recommendation they gave you or ask for their recommendation based on a specific project you completed for them. It’s usually best to call or e-mail the person to let them know you need the help, then send the formal “Request Recommendation” form through LinkedIn.
8. Contact a Recruiter
This tip can be a little daunting, but you’ve nothing to lose, so take a deep breath and let’s get to it.
Start by researching recruiters in your field. You can use LinkedIn’s search database to find the keyword “recruiter” and then choose your industry from the dropdown menu. If you have a paid LinkedIn Job Seeker account, then you can view all of the people who visited your profile in the last 90 days. Some of these may be recruiters. (Don’t be discouraged if they visited but didn’t message you. They may be adding your profile to the next round, or you may not have been the right fit for their current opening.)
Now that you have some names, you can send a message introducing yourself. Summarize your experience and name your industry; try to keep this to 1 sentence. Then let them know you would appreciate being kept in mind for future opportunities that fit their needs. Thank them and sign off. You may not hear back, but you will likely be kept in mind as they continuing receiving new positions to fill. If you do not have free InMails, use their LinkedIn profile information to Google their company e-mail address.
9. Paying for LinkedIn Job Seeker
We’ve already outlined a few reasons why the Job Seeker plan can help. You are able to apply for jobs through LinkedIn as a “featured applicant.” You can send more InMail messages, which can be sent to people outside of your current network, like recruiters. You can also see how you rank among others who have a similar work and education history. Another benefit is the keyword suggestions that pop up when you try to edit your profile.
For what it’s worth, paid premium members do receive a “badge” on their profile and an increased presence in search results. These can help identify you as someone serious about looking for a job.
10. Getting Third Party Insight
Your best bet to receive results-oriented help with your profile is to hire a professional LinkedIn profile writer. They’ll be able to ascertain what makes you stand out from others in your field and convert it into a compelling profile. They also understand the most “in” keywords, top skills to list, how to build out your shared content, and how to take a professional photograph for your profile picture. Professional LinkedIn consultants usually have very fair fees considering how well they can help you land a new job.
If you just can’t afford these valuable services, you can try to reach out to your college alumni career center. Your last resort should be friends and close colleagues, who may not have the professional and experienced outsider perspective to give you the best advice.
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