For most of us, January is a time of reflection and recalibration. We consider where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we’d like to be, and we do so in relation to many important aspects of our lives – our physical and emotional health, our relationships, our home lives, and yes, our careers. And if, upon reflection, you decide that now is a good time to make some changes in your career – to reboot it, so to speak – then your first thought is probably to begin by updating and revamping your resume. But before you get too far in the process, you should know that having a solid resume isn’t enough; rather, you can, and should utilize LinkedIn to provide potential employers an additional view of who you are that complements what you convey through your resume.
First and foremost: If you don’t have one already, open a LinkedIn account. (Yes, the basic version is free, and it’s a simple and straightforward process.) Once your profile is set up, which will include your name, your current employer and your position’s title, and your work experience, education, and skills, the next step is to improve upon the basics. For potential job-seekers, it’s not enough to simply have a profile; it should be strong (or “robust,” to use the parlance) in order to be more likely to get results in your job search. There are many ways to strengthen your profile, including making sure that all of the sections are complete, having a recent and professional headshot photo, having a strong summary, and making sure your contact info is up-to-date. If you haven’t already, strengthening your profile is your first order of business in leveraging LinkedIn for your job search.
Now, for those of us who tend to avoid social media, having a LinkedIn profile can feel like just another box to check off – set it up, log in every once in awhile, accept invitations, track down a couple of people you know and invite them to join your network, then log off … and come back next month.
But especially if you’re looking for a new position, it could be a big mistake to neglect LinkedIn. In some ways – or, more accurately, for certain potential employers – LinkedIn serves as your online resume. Some recruiters and headhunters begin their candidate search with LinkedIn, identifying or screening out applicants based exclusively on profiles. Small wonder: For better or worse, LinkedIn can function as a vast database of potential employees and their qualifications, and its ability to be searched and sorted makes it immensely useful to hiring companies. So once you have the basics in place, the next step is to consider carefully how you are presenting yourself to others through LinkedIn. And it’s important to be aware that there are several critical differences between the functions and benefits of LinkedIn as compared to a resume.
One primary difference between the two is their scope. A resume should be tailored to the job you’re applying for, while LinkedIn can, and should, include all of your job experience. Ideally, your resume is specific and targeted; LinkedIn, by contrast, can showcase all of your experience and talents. LinkedIn’s personal summary also allows you to present a narrative of who you are and what you do that allows for a little creativity and personality to shine through, compared to the typically straightforward “Objectives” section of a summary.
Furthermore, while you wouldn’t typically have recommendations included on a resume, you can use the “Recommendations” section on LinkedIn to show potential employers at a glance the people you’ve worked with and the skills and benefits you’ve brought to the table for them. For example, it’s one thing to describe yourself as an innovator and problem-solver, but when your recommender says that about you on LinkedIn, then that confirms the “picture” you painted and strengthens those qualities in the potential employer’s mind.
In addition, a robust LinkedIn profile can go beyond the tried-and-true standard resume to provide potential employers insight on who you are as a person. One way is through the sections of your profile that speak to your hobbies and interests, volunteer work and involvement with non-profits, and companies and organizations that you follow; it gives your profile’s visitors a sense of who you are that extends beyond the education, work experience, and professional affiliations listed on your resume. Another way to round out the profile is through engagement via LinkedIn’s social network; whether you provide expertise by writing articles, sharing content of interest to your network, and/or answering questions through LinkedIn Answers (where you answer questions in your field, thereby positioning yourself as an expert), your engagement with others both builds relationships in your network and strengthens your position as a professional in your field.
So although your resume will share quite a bit in common with LinkedIn – education, experience, professional activities, and contact information – leveraging LinkedIn’s potential allows you to expand upon your presentation as a candidate to a potential employer in ways that transcend the limitations of the traditional resume.
And in the competitive world of job searching, that LinkedIn leverage may make all the difference.