Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How LinkedIn Can Help Your Career & How I Use It

Having an online presence is very important in this digital age. If having a blog or your own website doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, LinkedIn is the next best thing. I’ve known and experienced myself of finding jobs through LinkedIn or Googling people to get in touch with them or gather their past work to pitch them as applicants to recruiters. Aside from being searched online and negative and damaging information is found, the second worst thing is when zero information is found. It makes one wonder if they aren’t tech-savvy, are good at networking, or realize if it’s apparent we are now in a digital frontier.

Aside from my blog, LinkedIn, and Brazen Careerist, I do not have my own website. I’ve found those three and other tactics have served me well, especially because they are all free methods. Below are tips on how I use LinkedIn. I hope they are helpful to you as well.

1. Photo

Either have a really professional clear headshot photo or none at all. Some of the worst photos I’ve seen are people reclining in their office chairs or the photo is so far away that you can’t even tell if the person is male, female, or an alien. Photos are beneficial if you have a non-traditional name to determine what gender you are. For example, if you’re a woman but go by Chris or Alex as a nickname. For myself, people unfamiliar with Japan may not realize I’m female since Kiyomi is my first name and in Japan Kiyoshi is a common male name and they are very similar. Photos help you to come across as sharp, professional, and help put a face to the name, especially for phone interviews.

2. Job Title

Instead of your current title, use your unique selling point to better brand yourself. My title says: High-Level Assistant for Chairmen/CEOs of Sony, MGM, Fox & Fortune-ranked companies, including Exec Producers. My current title is Executive Assistant, but that doesn’t really say anything about me or ‘sell’ me enough. With the title I use at LinkedIn, you get my career re-cap and gather that I specialize in the entertainment sector, C-Level executives, and am versed in both business and creative fields because I’ve worked for Executive Producers as well.

3. Recommendations

Have as many recommendations you can from a lot of different sources so they showcase a different aspect of you. You are aiming for the 360 view. You want people who work below you, at your same level, above you, and outside your company (clients, vendors, etc) to recommend you. I also include HR executives and recruiters because I work freelance a lot and they bring me back often which bodes well.

Throughout the year, ask people for recommendations after a big project, when they compliment you, if you volunteer, or mentor someone that is relevant to your career.

Try not to write a recommendation for everyone that writes you one or it defeats the purpose. Why? If you write one for everyone that writes you one, it looks as though you just traded recommending each other as a favor. I currently have over 40 recommendations. Of that, I’ve written 4 for other people - two who have written me one, and two who have not. In this manner, the accolades are more objective.

Recommendations can be any length. I have one that is one sentence, but it is a powerful one. Others are only 2-3 sentences and I do have a couple that are quite lengthy.

When asking for a recommendation, mention how you are always sprucing up your LinkedIn profile and if they felt comfortable to write you 2-3 sentences. Sometimes I do ask them to write in 2-3 weeks or else I find they mean to do it, but never get around to it. Ask a lot of people who can give you strong recommendations because you’ll find that people are either too busy or may not have LinkedIn.

4. Summary of soft and hard skills

Include a short summary of your soft and hard skills. Because my role is very “customer service” heavy, my people skills are just as important as my core skills. Anyone can be an assistant if they have the right attitude and are fairly smart. The question becomes, are you good with people, humble, can you take requests, can you get along with the mailroom, security, other assistants, the general public, VIP, and your boss’ boss - in essence, anyone?

5. List of books

There is an option at LinkedIn to share what you are currently reading. As a bookworm, this is one of my favorite features. I follow people to see what they are reading and they follow me. Oddly, I found out that people who I have never had any contact with are following my list. This shares with people a little bit more about who you are as a person. Because of this list, a co-worker approached me and we like to talk books now!

6. Contact database

LinkedIn serves as my second contact database since they are all in one location. The best thing is, as people’s information changes, I can see their new info because they update their own email address. Or I can see the current company they are at whenever they update their profile.

7. Q & A section

The Answers section is where you can ask for advice or help ranging from tech support to general advice. I like this section because I can help others by suggesting my favorite business books to read or give advice to people still in school about internships, Hollywood, or entering the “real” world. It’s a great way to give back to the community.

8. Attachment section

LinkedIn has many features and applications where you can upload presentations or projects that you have worked on. I don’t use these features as they don’t apply to my specific position, but I can see how it can be beneficial to others to have 3 work examples uploaded.

9. Network

LinkedIn is a great way to network or stay in touch. A few people have found me through other connections asking me to join their network. I have also re-connected with former colleagues from many years ago through LinkedIn.

10. Grow your network

The key is to constantly grow your network. Whenever you arrive to a new company, add everyone you meet. When you are exiting a company, also add people. Whenever I start a new project or meet someone new, I also add them. It took me several years, but I finally grew my network to 500+ people.

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