We’re already a month into 2012 and most job seekers have given up on their lofty New Year’s resolutions. If you’re in this boat, don’t despair! Instead, use LinkedIn — and a few trusted friends or colleagues — to help you make the change you desire.
Over the years I’ve observed the ways that people use LinkedIn to change career direction or perk up a slumping job search. Here are my three favorite reinvention tips:
1. Focus. Do you belong to LinkedIn groups in 23 industries, list 41 skills on your profile and display a profile heading with 7 slash marks between each of the different descriptors of what you can do? I often come across LinkedIn users like this, who seem to believe that more is more. While I absolutely encourage you to cast a wide net in your job search and express all of your talents, you don’t want to confuse people.
A quick way to determine if your LinkedIn profile is too unfocused is to ask a few trusted friends to review your profile for 60 seconds each. After that minute has passed, ask each person to describe you (or the job you want) in just one sentence. If you don’t like the answers you hear, then go back and revise your profile to be more clear and focused.
“But, wait,” you might be thinking. “I’m trying to show employers that I’m open to a wide variety of possible jobs.” I understand the rationale, but this is a mistake. As a general rule, employers like certainty. For instance, if your LinkedIn profile says that you are interested in a job as a nonprofit fundraiser or a public relations coordinator, you’ll likely be less appealing to employers in each industry than those candidates who are passionately focused on just that field.
If you really can’t focus on just one path, then my best advice is to try to turn your lack of focus into an asset. Using the example above, you might begin your Summary with a sentence something like this: “I offer extensive experience as both a nonprofit fundraiser and a public relations coordinator. I am eager to serve an organization in either of these functions, and I believe that my unique combination of experience – raising money and promoting clients to the media — makes me more creative and resourceful in either activity.”
2. Rewrite. Most people, even the focused ones, are pretty terrible at describing themselves and promoting their unique talents. So, another great way to reinvent yourself is to reinvent the way you describe yourself. Why not ask those same trusted friends to go one step further and edit your LinkedIn profile for you? (You can show your gratitude by offering to rewrite theirs in return.)
While you may not use every word your friends suggest, other people’s input may help you discover a valuable new way to explain your capabilities or a strength you never realized you possess, such as resourcefulness or natural leadership ability.
You’ll also glean insight from what your friends leave out of their descriptions of you. Perhaps you’ve been promoting an unimportant credential or outdated skillset (e.g., profiles no longer need to promote knowledge of Microsoft Word or Internet Explorer) that you’re better off omitting.
You can also measure your profile’s effectiveness and impressiveness against the LinkedIn profiles of successful people in your field. Use Advanced Search and Company Pages to review the profiles of professionals working at the organizations where you’d most like a job. While you don’t want to copy sentences verbatim from other people’s profiles, there’s no reason you can’t borrow a fabulous phrase or two.
3. Give. My final recommendation for reinventing yourself on LinkedIn is to change the way you interact with your LinkedIn network. The majority of job seekers log in to the site each day with the goal of getting something — a piece of information, a job lead, a networking referral, etc. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but what if you approached LinkedIn with the goal of giving something instead?
You might give by recommending an article in your status update, congratulating someone on a success, answering a question in a LinkedIn group or thanking someone for a helpful meeting. Beyond the good feeling of helping people, being a giver will positively influence your job hunt and long-term career prospects. When people consistently encounter you as a generous person, they see you as someone who has a lot of value to provide — to them and anyone they know who is hiring.
These small daily goods also will help you stay top of mind with your network and encourage reciprocity. And, by seeing how much you have to give, you’ll continually see yourself as highly valuable, too — a confidence that will serve you well during a job search.