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Insider tips on how to get the most from LinkedIn during economic uncertainty

By Dan Kent-Smith, former LinkedIn employee and founder of UK company Next Play, which advises professionals on the network

A winding down of the job furlough scheme and slower than expected growth in some sectors will add to the number of people looking for work.

In fact, it has been predicted that 11% of the workforce will be out of a job before the end of this year, up sharply from April’s official unemployment rate of 3.9%. That equates to some 3.5 million people in the UK potentially looking for a new role.

So how do you stand out? How do you present yourself in the best possible light for both recruiters and employers?

The first place people look to understand more about you is LinkedIn. This represents your career, your achievements to date and your aspirations. This isn’t your digital CV, of course. It is much, much more. It’s your professional brand story. You are the hero of that story and you need to position yourself as such.

With that in mind, I’m going to give you a few top tips to get you noticed, ensure you stand out and give yourself the best possible opportunity to build on your career. But first, what qualifies me to talk about this? I worked for LinkedIn for almost five years (you can check out my profile and connect with me here, and now I specialise in helping both people and companies get the most from the LinkedIn platform.

Let’s start with some of the basics…

1. Choosing the right head shot

  • > This is not as easy as it sounds. If you can get a professional head shot, then do so. If not, use your mobile, but think about the background, think about what you are wearing – is it appropriate for the role you want? And think about how you convey a warm, approachable persona.
  • > Next, choose a handful of pictures you are comfortable with and hand them to someone you trust. Let them choose for you. They do not have the same hang-ups as you do (and everyone has something they do not like about themselves!). They will choose a better representation of you than you will. Trust me.

2. Your background image

  • > First of all, make sure you have a background image. Leaving this area blank (or blue, or even green for some now) looks lazy, and shows a lack of thought.
  • > Try not to use a generic stock image here, either.
  • > If you can design this yourself, break it into vertical thirds. The first third should be relatively free from clutter, the middle third can convey the bulk of the visual story you want to tell, and the final third should be a parting shot. Something you want the viewer to do, think, or remember (think strapline, email address, call to action etc.).
  • > Ensure this is consistently branded with other elements of your digital self (such as company page and website).

3. Your headline

  • > This is often the toughest part to get right and deservedly requires the most attention.
    • > Think about key words (key words help you to be discovered and work with the internal LinkedIn search function and external search engines such as Google).
  • > Now think about your seniority, your authority, your credibility and, crucially, the benefit of what you do. Get this down to a short pithy sentence or two and you’ll give the reader a reason to connect or engage with you.

4. Your settings

  • > Check your settings to ensure recruiters know you are available for work.
  • > Change your settings to ensure you are discoverable offline.
  • > Also consider how you want others on LinkedIn to see you. Do you want people to know you’ve checked out their profile? For the most part, I would say yes, you do!
  • > Do you want to notify your network each time you update your profile? I’d say not. If so, make sure the ‘Share job changes, education changes, and work anniversaries’ is set to ‘No’. 

The above is really just the tip of the iceberg and there’s an awful lot more depth I can go into but getting these sections right will serve you well.

Once done, you will need to spend (invest) time on the other sections of your profile (summary, experience, skills, recommendations, featured section, volunteer work, licences etc), and, once complete, only then should you start to think about connecting and building your network.

Setting up your LinkedIn profile from scratch will only take you 30 minutes. Getting it right and positioning yourself in the best possible light can take days. However, invest that time in yourself or have a pro do it for you. This is your shop window after all, and it needs dressing accordingly. Neglecting your profile limits the opportunities that may come your way, and someone else – your competition – is just a click away.

The coming months are likely to be tough. But working on your profile now, building your network now, and utilising LinkedIn now will stand you in good stead.

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