LinkedIn: How To Get Started

I see a lot of people who started a LinkedIn profile and after spending what looks like 5 minutes on it, apparently gave up. Of those I’ve actually asked about their undeveloped or underdeveloped profiles, the most common response I get is that they joined because somebody said they should, but they didn’t really know why so they never went any further.

Fair enough. To these people; (you perhaps?) I say that if and when you turn up in someone’s search, they will see this poor reflection of you and that then becomes their first impression. If they are an employer, recruiter or potential business partner, they may just believe that if this is you putting in your best effort, maybe you’re actually not worth theirs. After all, if you can’t be bothered to put in the bit of work to present yourself professionally on what is a professional networking platform, you’re hardly likely to put in the effort on the things that are of most importance to them; namely working with them in some capacity.

So here’s a few LinkedIn profile thoughts to get you going. First, add your picture and make it a clear head shot; preferably with a smile on your face and without any distracting background. How do you want to come across to a potential employer? You’re looking to create an image; an emotional connection with whomever looks at it.

Write a summary that tells people who you are, what motivates you, what you’re passionate about or believe. Unlike a résumé, yes go ahead and use the word, “I”, and use first-person language not 3rd person. After all, you want people to believe you wrote this, it wasn’t made by someone else.

When you move into the Employment History or Experience area, don’t just cut and paste your résumé. Whereas your résumé may have bullet points under each job, write in sentences. Consider sharing in each position what you learned, how you improved, what accomplishments you achieved and were proud of. If you’re one of those people who sees this as tooting your own horn, put down what others have said you do exceptionally well.

Start connecting! Begin with those you know such as past or present co-workers, supervisors, friends, customers, associates, peers etc. Now expand your network by searching for others who do similar work to what you do – even if you’ve never actually met. After all, you don’t want to limit yourself to only those you already know. You can learn a lot from reading and thinking about what others in your profession have to say.

As for people who work outside your profession, you may get invites to connect and I’d urge you to do so more often than not. If you limit yourself to only people you know and only people in your profession, you’ll develop a very narrow stream of contacts and by way of those contacts, a limited view of things. Who knows where your future opportunities exist?

Now when you add the endorsements to your profile, consider carefully what you’d like others to endorse you for. The things you choose should be consistent with the skills that are desired in your line of work. You may be good at using Microsoft Word, but is that something that will push your chances of working with others forward? Is that something unique that will impress others? In my case, I’m an Employment Counsellor, so I’ve elected to be endorsed primarily for traits associated with the profession. Helping others with “Job Search” skills is a key thing I do, so that’s what I’ve elected to have on my profile and it syncs with what I do.

Now, think about recommendations. Remember those letters of recommendation from years past that you might have received? They meant something once upon a time, and you’d show up at an interview with them as part of a portfolio; a testament to your abilities. The impact of these is still valuable, so you’d like to get some; I know I value them highly! So it stands to reason others value them too.

Okay, now add your education. Where did you go to school and what courses did you take? Add anything you may have authored or awards and certificates you hold. You’re building up your credentials.

Write a recommendation for a colleague who is on LinkedIn; someone you admire for their skills, support or positive impact on you. How did or do they help you? Taking the time to recommend someone is always appreciated, and they will likely thank you, perhaps even by writing you a recommendation in kind!

Now expand your connections by searching for people who may now work in the organizations you’d like to work at yourself one day. Communicate with them every so often and develop a professional relationship. Don’t connect and 2 minutes later ask for a job. Show some genuine interest in them, ask about what they do, how they got started, trends, insights etc.

This is just a thumbnail sketch of how to get going without delving into the many other features of LinkedIn. Still, if you have a weak profile, using the suggestions here will at the very least get you headed in the right direction. Another tip? Sure. Check out the profiles of others in your line of work and learn from the good ones. You’ll know the difference between the good and the poor ones – believe me.

Writing A LinkedIn Recommendation

“I can’t thank you enough! I wish there was some way I could thank you.” Well you can and there is. It’s called the LinkedIn personal recommendation.

Perhaps this has happened to you personally where you have received some helpful advice from a colleague through LinkedIn, or you may have worked, (or work presently) with someone who is in your LinkedIn network. If you find yourself in either of these situations you are in an excellent position to share your experiences and describe for the benefit of others how effective your colleague has been or continues to be.

Consider the value in writing a recommendation for the person receiving it. Suppose for example that someone you are aware of is in the process of transitioning from their current job and looking for other opportunities. In this situation, you can assume rather safely that potential employers might receive the person’s employment application and then assign someone to go check out their profile. This is what employers are doing now in most cases before even extending offers of interviews.

So you can imagine how beneficial it would be to your colleague if an employer were looking at their resume, checked their LinkedIn profile, and there was a solid recommendation from you sharing your experience interacting with the person. “Hmmm”, says the employer, “it would appear this candidate has really made an impact. Impressive; I like that.” Now instead of the job applicant saying they are the kind of person who makes an impact, there is third-party evidence that this is in fact the case. It’s like an employer getting an independent reference prior to the invitation for an interview instead of the traditional way of asking for references at the end of one.

The recommendation should not just be saved for people you have personally worked with either. There are people you may be aware of whom you interact with on a fairly regular basis through discussion groups too. You could know of someone in a group who steps up when calls go out for help and advice. Maybe someone you’re aware of who continues to lead a group, regularly contributes to discussions and provides you with ideas to stimulate you yourself to pause and think.

Now let’s look at you personally. Suppose you’ve gone about creating a profile, and not really understanding what it’s all about, you’ve asked everyone and his brother to be a connection. Those 500+ connections are impressive. However with no recommendations, something you may not have intended could become clear; a lot of people know you but no one will back up your work with a recommendation – why is that?

Endorsements are welcomed too but they don’t mean as much or carry as much influence. Sue they are extremely beneficial, but I’ll bet you might have some endorsements from people you don’t know all that well and even you are scratching your head wondering how they know you well enough to endorse you. That never happens with recommendations and that is why they are more valued than endorsements. Endorsements involve a click, while a recommendation takes longer to pen and requires thought.

In my own case, I really value receiving recommendations. They are valuable to me because they legitimize and validate me to others. Recommendations boost my own self-esteem, reinforce my motivation for doing what I do because of the impact I’ve made on someone, and the future may see me at some point wanting or needing such external validation should I find myself looking for new work. I know too that if someone were looking over my profile trying to decide if I could help them out, they’d feel in good hands if I’ve obviously helped people in similar situations to their own.

Another group of people who may look over a profile could be your Recruiters or Head-hunters. If a company employs them to search out talent, they themselves might be impressed with someone who has recommendations and initiate contact with them over someone who has no recommendations in the same line of work. The thinking is that if a person has helped out other people and made a difference, there is a greater likelihood they can repeat that success elsewhere.

Should you ask for recommendations? Why not? If someone were to say to me, “I wish there was a way to properly thank you”, I’d request they write me one. If someone said, “I don’t know how to thank you”, I’d tell them how they could.

Sadly, there are a number of people who only take and don’t give back. They will seek out help from others and once that help is given, the person doing the asking disappears and cuts off contact. Hey it happens. It is professional courtesy to both receive and give, and when you think about it, reciprocating with a recommendation that might take you under ten minutes to write is a far cry from someone who reviews your resume, sends you some advice, or even helps improve your LinkedIn profile!

Unsolicited recommendations are by far the most treasured. Out of the blue you get a notification that a colleague has penned you one for you to read and display if you wish on your profile. Beautiful. All it takes is going to a person’s profile, scrolling to the, “Would you like to write a recommendation for so-and-so?” and clicking yes. You may get one of your own in response!

Write Me A LinkedIn Recommendation

Think for a moment about the candidate selection process for a job opening in a company. Traditionally, a company advertises, receives applications, creates a short-list to interview, interviews, checks out references, makes an offer to their leading candidate and then hires. Notice how late into the process they get around to checking out references. References are the testimonies that back up what the candidate says they can do. The thinking is that if you performed well for another employer, were a person of integrity, got results etc. for someone else, you should be able to bring those same things here to this employer.

So then, as an employer, wouldn’t it be a tremendous advantage if you could get some independent, third party recommendation on a candidates value early on in the process? That would be advantageous. Not only would this be great for an employer doing some hiring, but if that employer enlisted the services of a Recruiter, the Recruiter in turn would be thrilled to read what people are saying about someone if the Recruiter was thinking of plucking someone out of their job at company A and offering them the chance to work for company B.

Of course not everyone on LinkedIn is job searching. It’s a professional networking site too, where content employees and entrepreneurs mix and mingle equally well with the unemployed, Recruiters, Headhunters, and the like.

What I have found during my own time on LinkedIn, is just as in the traditional networking experience off-line as it were, there are people who are in need and people who provide. Some do both, exchanging help in return for help, some wanting financial compensation for their expertise, others content to give it all away for free. It’s the real world only an ‘E’ version of it!

Now personally, I know that I’ve been asked from time to time to lend a critical eye to a profile here and there, or help re-brand someone via their resume I’ve been sent. With much appreciation for their trust, I’ve thrown myself into the work with enthusiasm, striving to do two immediate things in the process; provide an independent perspective that is meant to advance a person toward their goal and do it in a timely manner. Well that’s nice. I’ll admit that it is gratifying when the person takes the time to actually send a brief note of thanks for the investment of time and energy to give them some valuable feedback. What they actually do with it is their call entirely.

What would be nice in my opinion, is if the person then said, “Anything I can do for you?” This is the question that someone with advanced networking skills asks. Sure a note of thanks is excellent on its own, but networking is about building and nurturing relationships on a two-way or more level. Maybe as a receiver of help, the person is under the impression they have nothing of value to offer in return. Far from it my friend.

One option is to visit the page of the person providing the help in this scenario, and writing them a recommendation. Visit any other persons LinkedIn profile and near the bottom usually, you’ll see a section for Recommendations and you’ll be prompted, “Do you want to recommend so-and-so?”. If you do, you click on a few fields that indicate in what role you know the person and how you know them via the job they hold or held when you are making your recommendation. Then you get to pen or key your thoughts.

Now what happens at the other end when you are done, is that the receiver gets an email notifying them that you have recommended them. They then approve of the recommendation or not, and if so, it shows up on their profile. The advantage of this is that now others networking can see what people are saying about their experiences in dealing with the person. If you had several recommendations on your profile from your colleagues and those for whom you have provided a service, that could be very useful.

So let’s say, I personally am not looking for a new job. Why get recommendations? Well if I was receptive to helping out others and I had testimonials saying I was effective and helpful, it might then catch the eye of others who were seeking similar help. That does many things. First it gets more traffic, more inquiries, legitimizes what I’ve said in my profile, and dang it all just makes me feel swell.

Seriously though, recommendations also could help an Entrepreneur grow their business, attract a Recruiter to contact you and offer you the chance at a better job, and those employers out there DO check profiles. So they do get to read references and recommendations – sometimes before you’ve even been called to come in for an interview.

Do I Kelly Mitchell want recommendations? Of course I do! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I like my skills and expertise validated as much as the next person! However the best recommendations are sincere, unprompted by appeal, and given when truly warranted.

So the next time someone does something for you professionally, consider paying them back with a recommendation on LinkedIn. It’s quick, it’s free, and it will be appreciated.