If you read my piece about why you MUST network in person, you’re probably wondering why I’m now writing about how you should use LinkedIn. Here’s the thing: technology rocks and it can’t be ignored. Facebook, Twitter and all kinds of other social media have allowed military spouses the world over to keep better contact with friends and family—LinkedIn obviously helps you do the same thing on a professional front.
Here’s the problem: when most people use technology for networking, they act like a robot instead of a person.
We click this and accept that and “Boom” we’re connected. Are we really connected? As someone who does networking for a living, I get a fair amount of requests to connect on LinkedIn. It’s great because I am always looking for opportunities I can use in my own professional life, as well as opportunities I can extend to the military spouse professionals we serve at In Gear Career. They range from “Oh yeah, I remember meeting her at that conference last week” to “Who in the world?! How did you find my name and why would you want to connect with me?” responses.
With those things in mind, here are 4 tips for using LinkedIn in a professional, proactive and personal matter.
When You’re Not a Robot: You add a personal message when connecting with me.
Never. Ever. Ever connect without adding a personal message. It’s 1 sentence; it takes 5 seconds. Say something like, “I met you at the conference last week” or if you’re connecting with me all you really have to say is, “I’m a military spouse professional.” Make sure you say something to catch the eye of the person on the other end of that connection. Something that says more than, “I’m LinkedIn stalking <in the same way that a giant computer in human resources does for many corporations>; I like your keywords, can we connect?”
Just give me one tiny little reason why, pretty please. It can honestly be something similar to “I like your keyword,” but more professionally written, of course. Think: “I work in/am looking to work in [THE SAME INDUSTRY THEY WORK IN] and I would love to connect.” Or “I see we share a lot of the same connections, we must work in similar circles, may I add you to my network?”
I know. You feel like a used car salesman. It’s the same reason a lot of people are uncomfortable networking in person, but I PROMISE it makes a difference. It gives you a way to start a conversation. You can follow up with a private message if they accept your invitation. More about the private message in a minute.
PRO TIP: LinkedIn apps are the WORST about sending the invite before you’ve added your personal message. Using the computer or browser on your device may save you a headache.
When You’re Not a Robot: Your profile picture is professional, but approachable.
There are a million articles out there about the “perfect” LinkedIn profile picture. Here is my thought on the matter: be dressed in industry-appropriate clothing and make sure the picture looks like you took it on purpose. I’m not saying it has to be a plain background, but please make sure there are no errant hands from the people you cropped out of a photo and no selfies (I don’t care how good you are at taking them).
It doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor, just make it a good quality photo that looks like you (no one still does Glamour Shots, right?) and that looks relaxed and approachable.
PRO TIP: Hire a military spouse photographer in your area. I’m sure they would do an excellent job. We’ve hired several milspouse photographers at In Gear Career events with great results.
When You’re Not a Robot: Your LinkedIn “title” says something clear about your mission and your summary expands on the same mission.
If you think about the fact that studies have shown recruiters only look at resumes for 6 seconds, the top few lines of your LinkedIn profile can be gold. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tend to the rest, but the title is one of the first things I look at. You may think you have to come up with only one thing, but the reality is that although LinkedIn won’t allow a ton of formatting, you can use some symbols to separate a few descriptors to capture what you’re after. Here is mine:
The summary can also show a lot about who you are and what you’re either doing now (mine suggests people contact me if they want to connect with military spouse professionals) or what you’d like to be doing. Some articles say you should advertise that you’re a job seeker and others say steer clear. I’ll let you be the judge of how directly you talk about what you’re looking for, but I can say this:
robots do not convey passion.
Make sure the summary sets a path for discussion, lets people know what you want to do (whether you’re doing it already or not) and how you want to do it.
PRO TIP: Remember, your LinkedIn title and summary statement is a conversation starter.
When You’re Not a Robot: You send a follow-up message after we connect.
I work to connect military spouse professionals to job opportunities every day. If you connect with me on LinkedIn and you tell me you’re a military spouse professional, I will try to keep you in the back of my mind for potential connections. If an employer tells me they’re looking for a particular specialist and you fit the bill I may find you in my LinkedIn review. Your best bet, however, is to send me a personal note after we connect that says, “I’m a military spouse professional, I live in Washington, D.C., and I’m looking to work in the candy-making industry,” I’m much more likely to follow up and make a direct connection.
Now, I realize I make connections for a living and others don’t, but if you send a message to someone in your industry or to someone who shares connections with you, you can still say something like, “Thanks so much for connecting with me. I am passionate about candy-making and though my passion is to make candy the old-fashioned way, I’d be open to connecting with anyone you think might lead me to opportunities in the industry.”
PRO TIP: LinkedIn is MADE for connecting. People expect new connections to happen in that realm. Don’t be afraid to communicate through LinkedIn.
PRO TIP BONUS: DON’T say “I’d like to pick your brain” in your personal message. I’ll leave that post for another day, but just don’t. Please. Don’t.
The bottom line is this: technology is wonderful, but you’re not a robot. You need to be professional, proactive and personal.
What can you do today to use LinkedIn in a more personal manner?