I first signed up for LinkedIn on 12 June 2007. It was later that year that I made a major career change. And it wouldn’t have been as easy to do without LinkedIn. At the time, I was the internal communications manager for Rolls-Royce. I loved internal communications then and still do today. But I was ready for a change. I left and joined up with a technology company and haven’t looked back since.
There’s a big difference between merely having a LinkedIn account (most professionals do) and taking advantage of LinkedIn as an the amazing social network that it has become. Looking at the main social networks that I use—LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—LinkedIn is the one that I wish was around at the start of my career.
If you’re looking to make a career change for whatever reason, LinkedIn can be a tremendous asset and ally for you. Here’s how.
Google your name
Let’s start here. Open up your browser and use incognito mode. This allows you to search as a stranger of sorts and will give you honest results that don’t take into account past searches and activities. Next, search for you name.
If you have a common name, tough luck. But if your name is unique, I guarantee that your LinkedIn profile will rank at the top. It’s No. 1 for me. This is both valuable and scary. Valuable because you will be found. And scary because you will be found.
I can think of no better way to begin investigating a career change than by beginning to write about it. But for so long, LinkedIn only allowed users to share brief updates or links to articles. Still helpful, but not very deep. Not long after launching its “Influencers” program, LinkedIn opened up its publishing platform to everyone.
For those who aren’t interested in hosting their own blog, this provides an amazing opportunity to permanently link your thoughts and ideas to your LinkedIn profile. I share my LinkedIn author page as the link on my Twitter bio. But for those who do have a blog already, you can still take advantage of LinkedIn publishing by repurposing content for a brand new audience. The content written on LinkedIn is searchable and the site is adding more and more analytics to its reporting feature.
LinkedIn purchased Pulse back in 2013 and almost immediately integrated it into the site as the primary news gathering and publishing service. Pulse can still be used as a standalone mobile app but it’s a great while on the site to discover new content. Many feel the need to publish, publish, publish. But it’s also important to listen, listen, listen. Pulse sources content from the native publishing platform but from also third-party content sites. You want to stay up on the news in an industry? Pulse is a great way to do it.
These get such a bad reputation. Perhaps it’s justified, but I think users are too eager to give up on a group based on one bad experience. Depending on the industry and the change you’re looking to make, groups can provide access to new content, conversations and connections. If a group doesn’t serve your purpose, there’s no shame in leaving. But at least give them a chance.
Join groups based on your profession, geography and other social communities you’re a part of. LinkedIn’s search provides an easy way to find these and are always make suggestions. To keep active in groups, I do recommend receiving email notifications. You can set the frequency. I like mine weekly. It’s enough to stay current without becoming overwhelming. Peruse the email and see if there’s anything of interest in your groups that week.
There are a bajillion articles that share ideas on how to have the best profile you can have. Think back to the point about search. You know it’s important to keep it updated. Have a nice photo. Be honest. But also take a look at other connections’ profiles. See anything you like? Perhaps how they mingled in data into their profile or how they talked about specific projects? Copy the concepts and add them into your own profile.
And to make sure your profile stays current and interesting, set a monthly reminder on your calendar to take a look at your own profile. You can be active on the site and never look at your own stuff. This reminder can trigger you to do so.
LinkedIn endorsements and recommendations
I know that people get upset about endorsements. Here’s my advice. Don’t. They are just endorsements. If it bothers you that you receive endorsements on skills you don’t have, you can remove these skills from your profile. And likewise if there’s a skill you’d like to get endorsed on, add it. In my mind, endorsements are like zombies. On their own, they are pretty harmless. But you get a bunch together and you have people’s attention.
Recommendations are also great to see on profiles. There’s no shame in asking for a recommendation from someone who you’ve worked with and respect. I also think it’s great to give unsolicited recommendations. But don’t expect automatic reciprocation. And if you receive one, don’t feel like you have to write one back. Recommendations can be a helpful, long-term testimonial for your career.
When you’re logged into LinkedIn, it’s easy to be consumed by the content that you, yourself, are trying to consume. There is a lot going on. But LinkedIn’s search is actually quite helpful. By putting in a simple term, you can find everything related to that term: people, jobs, groups, articles, etc. More than a search tool, it’s a discovery tool for new content and ideas. So don’t just wait to see what the site serves up to you. Use its search function to find new things.
Did you even know this existed? Based on the type of account, you can see where you rank in three categories: your company, professionals like you and your overall network. Why is this helpful? Well, it gives you a way to compare why others’ profiles might be seen more than yours. You also see changes in ranking, to know if you’re rising or declining. I have a network of more than 3,500 on LinkedIn.
The one that’s most interesting to me is where my profile views rank within my network. I will hover from as high as 25 to as low as 50. You hear people say, “You never want to be the smartest person in the room.” Well, you don’t want to be the most viewed profile in your network in my opinion. Because if you are, you’re not connecting with the right people.
I hear people say all the time that they don’t have the time to spend on LinkedIn. This isn’t true. They just aren’t making the time to spend on LinkedIn. Much like Twitter, you get out of LinkedIn what you put into it. And if you’re making a career change, there’s a lot for LinkedIn to offer you now and on into the future. The network you build today will help you tomorrow.
I think back to June 2007, nearly eight years ago. What my network looked like then is not at all what it looks like now. It changed, and so have I.