social networks

Career Wellness Checkup #14

So, you’ve Googled yourself.  Like what you see?  The good news is, your virtual brand is constantly evolving and you have a great deal of control and influence over what direction it goes.  The bad news is there are so many online channels for your message that it can be overwhelming.

Do you know which social networks you should be using? 

Even though I am a huuuuge proponent of LinkedIn, I am even more a proponent of being in the right “space” — the one that makes sense for you, given your profession, industry and goals. Each social network is a community and the members of the community make it what it is.  Take time to learn about those which are being used by people who do what you do.  If you don’t know…ask them!  Find out: Who is there? What do they do there? How do they engage? This will help you decide which is right for you.

Now, for most professional/administrative/managerial/executive workers (which is generally the population that read this blog), LinkedIn is absolutely the place to be. It’s a free, virtual space where you can post your “professional billboard”.  You get to write about you, what you you’ve done, what you’re good at and so on.  What you choose to include here shapes what people will know and believe about you.  Yes, it greatly mirrors a resume.  But you don’t have to send it out to dozens or hundreds of people.  It is there for the viewing at any time.  And, as you connect with people, share your status, comment on or start discussions, it drives people to see your profile, reinforcing your brand. One more word about LinkedIn: It is not just about job search.  In fact, it’s mostly not about job search.  It’s about engaging with other professionals in your network for mutual benefit, whatever that means for you at the moment.

Twitter is less well-understood by many, but can also be a great resource for professionals, both in influencing their virtual presence and in acquiring useful information and contacts.  No, it’s not all about celebrity watching, though if you want that, you can find it there.  You can also find thought leaders in every industry from everywhere around the globe. And you can share your thoughts with others who care about the same things you do.  What you share there (or “tweet”) and who you engage with becomes part of your brand.   If you know a lot about marketing analysis and you engage and share on Twitter about marketing analysis, guess what? Soon, people learn that you have this particular area of knowledge or expertise.  If you’re not on Twitter yet, you don’t even have to join to check it out. Try this: Go to https://twitter.com/search-home and search any topic of professional interest to you. (You can search by using the plain words or by using a hashtag – for ex: Java vs. #Java – you’ll get some different results either way).  You’ll probably be amazed at what you can find.

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Power of the profile

For most people, LinkedIn is the first website referenced in a Google search of their own name. This makes their LinkedIn profile their #1 marketing tool.  How can they make it work for them?  How can you make yours work for you?

A great profile can sell you.  A weak one can sink you.  Whether you are in an active job search, being scouted by the competition, in consideration as a guest speaker or a possible network contact, what people see when they look at your profile will affect whether they reach out to you.   This is your “brand” laid out visually. So, here are some basics on building a powerful profile:

Know Who You Are

Professionally, that is.  Know your strengths, skills, areas of knowledge.  Which stand out?  What are you exceptionally good at?  Of these things, which do you enjoy the most and are the most marketable?   What are some key achievements of yours?  These are questions you should have asked as you built your resume if you have done so recently.  The answers will help you define your profile content. In fact, your profile should include similar information to your resume.

Use Keywords

Searches on LinkedIn produce results based on keyword hits.  Therefore, you want keywords that describe your experience, skills, knowledge and abilities integrated throughout your profile.  What keywords might a potential employer search by?  Read job descriptions for roles that interest you (even if you are not in a job search.)  This will give you some ideas. 

Sections

Here are brief recommendations on what to include in the main sections of your profile:

Summary –  A concise overview which includes an overarching “branding” message – communicate immediately what functional area of expertise you possess and at what level.  Highlight some experience, skills or capabilities or combination thereof which you possess and are your key “selling points”.   Are you a talented software architect with really strong interpersonal and presentation skills?  Say so.  Have you led teams on high visibility projects?  Ditto.

Specialties –  This is the place to list or bullet all the tangible knowledge areas or skills you want to highlight.  Focus first on hard skills then soft skills but only if they distinguish you in some way.  Do not list “team-player”.  In a recent study, this was the most over-used adjective on LinkedIn.  This distinguishes you from no one. 

Experience –  As in your resume, list employers, position titles, a brief description of your overall responsibility (one sentence) and then bullet out a few achievements that illustrate your best skills.  Only detail out the last 10-15 years or whatever is relevant.  Do not go back to the beginning of time.  If you had a big gap somewhere in there, either do not go beyond it, or understand that it will raise questions.   

Education –  List relevant formal education, leaving dates and other details out if you think they may hurt you.

Other –  There are a number of other areas you can complete such as Awards and Personal information.  Remember, only include that which is relevant and which you want people to know and be able to share about you.  Some things like marital status and your physical address, for example, really do not need to be completed on your LinkedIn profile. 

What Not to Include

Information that is irrelevant or even detrimental to you as a potential employee, consultant, speaker, reference…you get the picture.  Interests outside the workplace that are highly charged such as religion or politics – be aware these can hurt you.  If you wish to join Groups that are polarizing – just don’t “show” the group on your profile (can be changed in Settings or Edit Profile page).  More about this in a future post.

Uploading Your Resume

Though you may choose to, you do not need to upload your resume and make it available through an app such as Box.net.  Keyword searches don’t search these, so you won’t produce any hits this way, and you lose control over your document, as others can print, save or share your document without you ever knowing.  Anything you do choose to upload and make available on your profile, save it as a .pdf.  This won’t make it impossible to change your document, if the individual has the right software, but it does make it less likely. 

Applying the suggestions above will help you begin creating a powerful profile.  This is a start.  In the next post, I’ll talk about recommendations and the benefits of getting your profile to 100% completeness.