LinkedIn has become a critical tool in the job search process. Using LinkedIn, you can find jobs, get recommendations, and even reach out to hiring managers.
But, in order for LinkedIn to be effective, you can’t wait until you’re looking. There are steps you should be taking right now to prepare yourself for the future.
When it comes to LinkedIn, here are a few of the mistakes you may very well be making right now.
- Not having a LinkedIn account at all – Before you do anything else, sign up for a LinkedIn account. If you’ve had doubts (as many people do), you should know this. LinkedIn is actually helpful. People do find real jobs through LinkedIn. Recruiters do find candidates using LinkedIn. Really. So, if you’ve been putting it off, today’s the day!
- No photo – This is the next biggest mistake people make. It’s critical you have a photo. Otherwise, how does anyone know it’s you? For example, from what I can tell, there are around 300 people with the name “Angela Copeland” in the U.S. If I didn’t have a photo on LinkedIn, how would you find me? When you select a photo, pick one that shows your face clearly. The photo should look like you look now (not years ago with a different hairstyle). The photo doesn’t need to be an expensive headshot, but it should look professional. You should be the only person in the photo. There should be no pets, no children, no spouse, no significant other, no hobbies. You get the idea. The goal is a photo of your face that looks like you look now – ideally, you’ll be smiling.
- Multiple LinkedIn accounts for one person – This drives me a little crazy. When you have more than one account, how can anyone decide which one to send a request to? If you’re wondering how this happens, you’re not alone. Multiple accounts can accidentally be created when you don’t put all of your e-mail addresses into one account. For example, you have a work e-mail and a personal e-mail. You’ve been using your personal e-mail for LinkedIn. One day, your coworker sends you a LinkedIn connection request to your work e-mail. You accept. Suddenly, you have two LinkedIn accounts. To prevent this from happening, add all of the e-mail addresses you use to your settings. That way, all requests will go to the same place, no matter which e-mail is used.
- Not turning off notifications – Do you ever get those LinkedIn e-mails that say, “Congratulate Bob on his new job!”? When you want everyone to know what’s going on, these messages can be great. But, often when you start looking for a job, the first thing you do is update your LinkedIn profile. You may have been promoted, or you want to update your title to something a little more impressive. The last thing you want is for your boss to get e-mails showing you’re making updates. What an awkward conversation that will be! To prevent this from happening, check your notification settings.
- Not connecting to your network – This may sound silly, but part of what makes LinkedIn work is the connections. The number of connections you have is displayed on your profile. Once you hit 500 connections, your profile will say “500+” whether you have 500 or 5,000. Having under 500 connections makes you look a little disconnected, and not well liked in your field. Clearly, this isn’t true. So at a minimum, work to get the number of connections you have above 500. You can do this fairly quickly by downloading the LinkedIn app on your smart phone. It allows you to search through your phone’s contacts and quickly add those you know who are already on LinkedIn.
- Not customizing your headline – Your headline is such a great place to highlight who you are. It’s a big part of your personal brand. But, if you don’t fill it out, it will automatically populate your current job title.
- Sharing things better left to social media – LinkedIn is not the same as Facebook. Don’t share things you would normally share on social media with your friends and family. Participating is great! But, look for things like business articles, or pertinent studies.
- Including religious or political beliefs – This goes along with #7, but it deserves its own point. You may be very proud of your religious and political beliefs, but do you want them to prevent you from getting a job? The only time it’s appropriate to share these beliefs on LinkedIn is if you work for a religious or political organization – or you want to work for one in the future. Otherwise, save these details for your private life.
- Sharing publicly that you’re looking, while you’re still employed – Ouch! This mistake can really hurt. Remember that your boss may be able to see your LinkedIn page – whether you’re directly connected, your page is public, or you have a mutual connection who shows the page to your boss. And, in many places within the U.S., you can be fired for no reason at all. When you’re looking, it’s important to be very, very careful to keep your search a secret.
- Making it tough to get in touch with you – If you’re looking for a job, you want new people to be able to get in touch with you. I often see job seekers who have their privacy settings so tight that I can only send a connection request if I know their e-mail address. And, there e-mail is nowhere to be found on their profile. If you’re actively looking, make it easy to connect to you.
As it’s probably obvious, LinkedIn isn’t something you setup once and walk away from. It’s another form of social media that needs nurturing and care. And, when you continuously update it, nobody will wonder if you’re looking for a job when you do!
Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.
Author: Angela Copeland
Angela Copeland is Founder and Coach for Copeland Coaching, a great way to jump start your job search. Follow her on Twitter @CopelandCoach for tips on finding the perfect job for you.