LinkedIn has become an increasingly important tool for the budding IT contractor in recent years. In an increasingly urgent online world, there may even come a time, when possessing a LinkedIn profile becomes a prerequisite to securing a new contract.
It is clear that LinkedIn is very much the dominant online networking service for professionals. Whereas members use the site to connect and reconnect with colleagues and clients, Twitter and Facebook are used more to interact with friends than communicating with would-be clients and colleagues.
A recent survey of small business owners Wall Street Journal and Vistage International found that 41% of respondents thought LinkedIn could benefit their businesses, compared to a mere 3% of ‘thumbs up’ for Twitter.
Another survey, carried out by Executives Online last year, found that 93% of job applicants (contractors and permanent) used LinkedIn in some way for the purpose of finding work.
What is it good for?
Survey and anecdotal evidence suggests that LinkedIn is far from being a competitor to the major contract job boards, such as Jobserve and Technojobs.
However, LinkedIn serves a different purpose from a job board; it allows users to reconnect, and stay in touch with people who could potentially help them find contract work in the future. As most contractors know, the juiciest contract roles are often snapped up via ‘word of mouth’ recruitment before they even have time to reach job sites.
The service not only provides a platform for you to display your online resume, which may appear in recruiters’ search results but also to access those roles which aren’t even advertised online.
Making the most out of your LinkedIn profile
These days, whenever I receive an email or business call, often the first thing I do is to scour LinkedIn for more background information on my new contact. You can get a good (or bad) impression of someone via a glimpse at their LinkedIn profile. Often, what is included, how it is written, and even the photo, can make or break a deal.
Perhaps the best advice to give when it comes to maximising the impact of your online profile is to view it as a key arm in your personal marketing armoury. The site is a dream in many ways, especially if your ‘traditional’ networking skills have not been tested in the recent past! The trouble is, the number of competitors on the LinkedIn playing field is growing by the day.
Here are some of my tips for making the most out of the world’s leading networking site:
You really should include a professional photo. In the early days of LinkedIn, most users simply opted for the default silhouette, but these days, it is unusual for users to remain anonymous.
Complete all the sections on your profile, however tedious it may be to enter details of a contract position you carried out a decade ago.
3. Spell Check
Your resume is your online CV, so copy and paste your profile into a spellchecker, and show it to someone you trust for an honest opinion before going live.
Remember that you want your key skills to rank well in search results, so include your main keywords, either in the ‘title’ of previous roles you’ve held, as well as the ‘Skills & Expertise’ tags.
Join one of the thousands of niche groups which have been set up to cater for specific skills, industries, and interests. Try some of the generic ‘contractor’ groups too, but you may want to filter the number of automatic email updates you may have unwittingly subscribed to upon joining.
Make sure that all your online and offline career details match up. Recruiters are increasingly using pre-employment screening firms to vet the details of applicants, so take time to clean up your online footprint. Search for yourself on Google, and remove or update any social media content which is unflattering, or contradictory.
Ask clients and past colleagues to recommend your services, and add these reviews into your profile. Other users can also endorse your skills – both those you have pre-set, and also any others they think you should get credit for. The number of endorsements for each of your skills is displayed near the bottom of your profile.
8. Building Connections
Take time to look up people you know, and handwrite a message to anyone you want to re-connect with. If you allow the LinkedIn API to access your email server, you’ll be presented with hundreds of potential connections, although we’d recommend you take care and select prospective connections on an individual basis.
Although the opportunity to spam on LinkedIn appears to be fairly low, and it’s hard to grow your online reputation by taking short-cuts, you will still receive some invitations to connect from people you’ve probably never heard of, so check out their online profiles before connecting.
10. Keep In Touch
Above all, remember that your resume is a working document. Keep it up-to-date, and don’t be shy about sharing ‘updates’ with the world – either comments or links to articles/content you may have posted elsewhere.
Article written by James Leckie.
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