To make the most effective use of LinkedIn, it’s important to understand what LinkedIn is. LinkedIn at its core is simply a tool. A tool that essentially allows you to do two key things. First, it gives you a platform on which you can market yourself and increase awareness to your personal brand (who you are, what you do, what you stand for etc.) Second, it provides a way for you to network and explore opportunities. Opportunities to grow your business, find a job, hire new talent or build professional relationships with like-minded people for mutual sharing of ideas, information, advice and support.
Your LinkedIn strategy (how you use it, what you write on your profile etc.) will depend very much on your own individual goals. Job seekers will require a different LinkedIn strategy to an entrepreneur. A hiring manager will require a different strategy to someone who wants to exchange knowledge with fellow industry professionals.
Regardless of your strategy – one thing remains the same. Your LinkedIn profile and how you use LinkedIn will significantly impact your reputation – not just on LinkedIn but in the market. And it’s your reputation – how people view you and the emotions they associate with you – that will determine how successful you are. Make any of the following mistakes on LinkedIn and you could be doing irreversible damage to your reputation. And your career.
1) Incomplete LinkedIn profile
Your LinkedIn profile could be the first impression you ever make. If it’s incomplete in any way – it could be your last.
Think about the assumptions you make when you see an incomplete profile. You might assume the individual isn’t interested in new opportunities or networking. Or they don’t really care about their career (because most professionals serious about their careers are actively on LinkedIn, right?). You might question if they even know how to use LinkedIn – leaving you to wonder where else they might not be up to speed (e.g. their skills, experience, technology, knowledge, network etc.). You might think they’re trying to hide something – an unimpressive career history or lack of achievements for example. You might even question if the profile is real. Whatever assumptions you’re making – you can be sure others are making the same about you if your profile is incomplete.
Having a complete profile does two things.
a) It reduces the freedom people will have to make up stories and assumptions about you.
b) It helps you to build trust with your target audience – the crucial element of successful personal branding. People will only want to connect and build a professional relationship with you if they trust you. The more (relevant) information you share about who you are, what you do and have accomplished – the more they will trust you. Having an incomplete profile could do the opposite and actually drive a wedge between you and your target audience. Aim to complete your profile as much as possible and you will do wonders for your personal brand and your career.
Every day I get CVs from all sorts of professionals, from Forklift Drivers to HR Managers to Supply Chain Officers. Now, if these individuals had taken the time to research me and my company they would realise I run a stand-alone coaching and training business. I have no need for a Supply Chain Officer or an HR Manager. And unless I am coaching a sedated elephant, I’m pretty sure I will not require the services of a Forklift Driver.
Sending your CV to anyone and everyone gives you the reputation of either an unintelligent spammer who doesn’t have a career plan. Or you’re desperate. Neither of which are attractive to anyone. Remember – for your personal brand to work, it must provoke positive emotions in the receiver. Spamming people will only provoke feelings of anger or frustration, resulting in the receiver feeling annoyed every time they see your name. This is seriously damaging to your personal brand – and career prospects.
Do your career and reputation a favour and keep your approach targeted and meaningful. Connect with people or companies where there is a distinct match of interests (e.g. same industry, same company size or business model, same career history, shared connections etc.). Otherwise you could be blocked – ruining your chances of any potential opportunities in the future.
3) Not understanding your target audience
Once you have identified your target audience, it’s important to build your profile with them in mind. Quite often people make the mistake of writing a profile listing anything and everything they can about themselves. Hoping this will make them attractive to a wider audience or show how much they have achieved. Remember, your audience will be looking for specific information. If they have to wade through pages of irrelevant information to find it, they could quickly get bored. You do not want them to associate your name and brand with ‘boredom’.
Your LinkedIn profile is a marketing tool. And like all marketing tools, it should be tailored to your target audience. Be specific. More importantly, be relevant. Research your target audience (e.g. individual companies, industries etc.) and figure out what they want to achieve – in the short, medium and long-term. Think about what their pain and pleasure points are. What are the major challenges they are facing right now – either as a department, company or industry. Then focus on building a profile which clearly demonstrates you have the skills, experience and values that will help them achieve their goals and/or solve their specific problems.
4) Vague and unoriginal profile summary
“I have great communication and teamwork skills”. OK great. So does every other person on LinkedIn.
Your profile summary is a fantastic opportunity for you to market your personal brand. To set the scene of who you are, what you do, the problems you solve, the individuals/companies you help, what you stand for, your values and your personality.
The great thing about the LinkedIn profile summary is that, unlike your CV, you have a good amount of space to go into (relevant) detail. Make the most of it.
5) Unprofessional photograph
LinkedIn is a professional network. The more professional you come across, the more likely people will want to connect with you. A photograph of you at a mate’s BBQ with a beer in one hand and burger in another, or behind the wheel of your car while you’re driving (!) or pouting like a fish in a selfie does not portray ‘professional’. Note that a passport photo from 1982 where you look like a convicted serial killer probably isn’t going to give the right impression either. Set the right tone and use a photograph that matches the image you want to portray. A photograph of you wearing business attire and a smile is generally a good place to start.
6) Going in for the hard sell immediately
I’ve had it a number of times where I connect with someone and the first message they send me is a full-on sales pitch of all of their services – or themselves. This hard sell approach can be pretty off-putting for most. Particularly if, as stated before, it is completely irrelevant to anything the receiver does.
Spend time engaging with people, showing an interest in what they do, the market, sharing knowledge and building a relationship and they will be more likely to respond to your sales pitch or CV further down the line. They might not be able to help you directly, but they might be more pro-active in helping you if you’ve taken time to build that relationship and trust (i.e. refer you to someone else).
7) Using LinkedIn as a dating site
As someone who genuinely wants to share my advice and knowledge with anyone who wants it, I accept more invitations to connect than not. This allows people – particularly those who can’t afford coaching – to access my posts and get the help they need. It disheartens me when once connected, I then receive a message telling me I have nice eyes and I would make a great wife and mother to their children. Worse still that I am “sexy as F***” and they would like to “&@$#*” and “!#%*^#” me.
I believe that every woman on LinkedIn has and will continue to encounter this on a regular basis. And it would be sexist of me to assume that some men had not also experienced similar. But this is a whole other post…
Most people are on LinkedIn for its intended purpose – professional networking. Use LinkedIn as a hunting ground for a potential mate, or an opportunity to flirt, and you will gain the reputation of “unprofessional creep”. Remember – each person you send ‘dating’ messages to has a network. A network which could benefit you in the future should you decide to use LinkedIn for its original purpose. Keep being creepy and you will find yourself either blocked or constantly being rejected because your “creep” reputation has proceeded you. You have been warned.
8) Irrelevant or abusive comments
Writing intelligent, relevant and considered comments on articles and posts can be great for your personal brand and reputation. Writing “I am interested” or “I am looking for a job” on every single discussion, article or post you can find will, again, give you a reputation of either “unintelligent spammer” (p*ssing potential employers off) or “desperate”. And while I appreciate you might feel desperate – this is not the image you want to portray.
Also, abusive or unhelpful comments will not do your personal brand any favours either. It’s OK to disagree with someone but make sure your comments are constructive and valuable. Leaving comments such as “Emotional Intelligence is utter cr*p. What the hell is a life coach anyway? I bet you’re not even a coach and you’re just a recruiter” will only make you look like a grumpy d**che-bag with a chip on his shoulder. And nobody wants to work with someone like that.
9) Applying for jobs you’re not 100% matched to
Hiring managers usually have a strict set of criteria for each job they are recruiting for. If your CV does not perfectly match the criteria on the LinkedIn job advert, don’t apply online. The hiring manager will receive hundreds of CVs per role. It is no easy feat to go through all of them. Irrelevant applications are more likely to anger the hiring manager than anything else. And again, we don’t want hiring managers to associate your name with anger now, do we?
Worse, if they see you have applied to every single job advertised, they might be so annoyed they will block you or black list you from all future applications. Meaning if a job you are qualified for does come up in the future – your application won’t even go through. Save the company time and save your reputation by finding another strategy to get in front of the company. If you want to make a career change or go for a job you are not fully qualified for, your best chance is an introduction through your current network.
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For further advice on how to build the career you really want, please visit http://zetayarwood.com/blog/ or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.
For further information and inspiration, please visit www.zetayarwood.com or follow on Twitter @zetayarwood, Linkedin or Facebook