If you’re in the middle of job searching, you’ve probably already read a million articles telling you how to optimize your LinkedIn profile. (We’ve covered the topic of using LinkedIn for networking as well, so check this post and this post for tips on how to do that.) But I want to talk to you not just about how to optimize your profile. I want to talk about your LinkedIn strategy. What do you want to accomplish with LinkedIn? Because your goal determines what you should be doing and how to prioritize your actions. By establishing your LinkedIn presence, this can directly result in furthering your career.
So let’s talk about three big reasons people lean on LinkedIn: To land a new job, to grow their network, or to get a promotion. These goals comprise similar but different strategies, so let’s talk about how to get from where you are now to where you want to be for each target.
Using LinkedIn to Get a New Job
Using LinkedIn to get a new job is a lot like using LinkedIn as a resume, and all the regular rules apply:
- Use metrics-driven accomplishments in your job descriptions
- Make sure your LinkedIn title reflects the job you WANT, not the job you have
- Be sure you’re active, posting an industry-related update or comment at least once a week
In addition to the above, you want to make sure that you’re following the companies that you’re interested in. Stay abreast of industry trends that affect them. Understand their challenges and opportunities. Having this knowledge will help you speak knowledgeably at your interview once you reach that stage.
Speaking of interviews, you did look up your interviewer on LinkedIn, didn’t you? Take notes. Do you have common connections? Can you reach out to those connections for tips? This isn’t the time to risk your neck asking people you barely know for inside information, but if you have a close colleague who happens to be a mutual connection, you can ask for an introduction. Or barring that, you can ask if they have any insights that may be helpful to you. For example, they may know that while the job you’re interviewing for is a mid-level posting, they’re really looking for someone more senior. That might tell you that you can up your game during your interview and play up your experience without worrying that you’ll come off as overqualified.
Grow Your Network to Establish Your LinkedIn Presence
If you’re using LinkedIn to grow your professional network, you probably already know that a big network doesn’t necessarily equal a better network. We’ve talked about this on the blog already, so I won’t rehash that discussion. Only you can decide if you want a huge network or a smaller network comprising only people you know well and trust. There are no wrong answers here.
Make It Personal
When you’re making a connection request, make sure to make it personal. Why do you want to connect with this person? What do you have in common? Do you have mutual connections/friends? Did you read something they wrote and you’re excited about their thoughts or ideas? All of these are salient to include in your introduction.
What’s In It for Them?
Play on the natural human inclination to prioritize activities that are in their own best interest. Just like when you talk to a potential employer, you never sell yourself on how great the job will be for you; you sell them on how great you’ll be for the job. A similar approach to networking will serve you well. Let people know they are admired, let them know your request isn’t willy-nilly, and let them know your connection is likely to be mutually beneficial.
But don’t be disingenuous. If you’re quite junior and you’re asking for a connection with someone late career, don’t try to pretend you’re something that you’re not. Just be genuine, and things are more likely than not to work in your favor.
Using LinkedIn to Get Promoted
This is probably the most overlooked use of LinkedIn. And here’s a secret: if you’re NOT using LinkedIn for the other two reasons, you should absolutely be using it for this reason no matter if you’re trying to get a promotion or not. Unless you actively don’t want to be recognized for your work at your current job, you should be using these techniques to become and stay visible.
If you work at a smaller company, getting promoted can be as straightforward as demonstrating you’ve earned it. But if you work at a larger company, chances are you have to do more than that. You may have to compete against other employees for your promotion. In many cases, an organization will only allow X number of promotions per half. So everyone who is up for promotion is competing for those same spots. So even if you can demonstrate you’ve earned it, you still might not get it.
That can be very frustrating.
To give yourself an advantage when it comes to competing for a promotion, you need to do three things. Demonstrate your qualifications, have advocates that will champion for you, and demonstrate your unique value to the company.
Here are a few ways you can use LinkedIn to accomplish these goals.
- Interact with your coworkers, especially those on other teams. Don’t try to butter them up, however. Offer real commentary on what they’re talking about. If they’re sharing an article on your company, for example, offer your insight. In your opinion, what were some of the challenges the company overcame? What about the team that created the product, asset, or deliverable? Did they do a great job despite many setbacks? Offer insights and commentary that add real value.
- Connect to people who have input on your promotion. Part of being promoted is making sure people even know you exist. So if you aren’t connected to your boss’s boss, do that. If you aren’t linked to your boss’s boss’s teammate, make sure you are. Remember what I said about competing for this promotion? If the only person who knows your name is your chain of command, it’s going to be harder to get the support you need. You need to get support from managers and directors *not* directly connected to you. The more people in your corner that matter, the better.
- Demonstrate leadership. Join groups. Even better, start your own and moderate it. Be active. Share ideas. Share articles and posts from your company. And if it’s a large company, make sure you’re following your organization and share *their* posts as well. While you’re sharing, make sure to post your thoughts. Demonstrate that you have original ideas, that you care, and that you’re passionate about your company, your industry, and your work.
And as always, promote yourself to develop your LinkedIn presence. If you win an award, reach a milestone, fulfill a personal, team, or company goal, mark that on LinkedIn. Post in in your timeline and edit your profile to reflect it. Shine on you crazy diamond. Let everyone know how lucky they are to have you in the trenches fighting the good fight.