Many executives have no idea how to use LinkedIn or mistakenly believe it is only for job seekers. One of the most common questions we get is “how can I get a board seat, a better position or gain more visibility in my current position?”
Some—actually lots—of executives ask us how their recent college grad son or daughter can get a job.
While LinkedIn can’t solve every career problem in the world, it is one of those essential tools you can and should use regardless of your level of experience.
There are literally millions of columns and even books written about how to use LinkedIn, but here are seven reasons why everyone should have a LinkedIn account and five, quick LinkedIn tips.
- Allows you to be found. Many executive search firms are relying more heavily on LinkedIn, as their research teams make optimal use of technology or, for larger search firms, as research functions are moved offshore. With the increasing sophistication of LinkedIn, a recruiter can search for an executive by college, company, title and geographical location.
- Places you in a community of your choosing. People tend to recruit or gravitate to those with whom they share bonds or commonality. One of the first things our firm does before calling an executive is to see if we know any common people through LinkedIn. It is human nature to reach out to a prospective executive with whom you share common contacts. One client, a GE alum, always expects us to present a GE alum as part of a candidate pool. LinkedIn, which has alum groups for many major companies, makes this fairly easy. We know one CEO who is on LinkedIn for the purpose of connecting with his employees, many of whom are geographically dispersed and whom he only sees periodically. He comments, "being ‘LinkedIn’ to the CEO can give employees a sense of being a valued member of a team."
- Shows you are current. For those “over a certain age,” it is important to show you are current with today’s business mores. Social media, including LinkedIn and Facebook—like it or not—is here to stay. Many older executives date themselves by refusing to “get into this technology stuff.”
- LinkedIn announces that you have arrived in the business world. For recent college graduates, it is a way to say “I’m an adult now with accomplishments and contacts of my own.” And while we don’t recommend putting a picture on a résumé, it is expected that your LinkedIn profile will have a picture. This gives prospective employers and recruiters a face to go with a name.
- Markets you for board positions. For those interested in serving on a board, you can use the Skills section to highlight your talents so that your name will come up if a company is searching for a particular skill set, say for example, an audit committee member.
- An indispensable tool for a career move. For those who are seeking a new position, pick out the company in which you are interested. Who would be the hiring manager? Look him or her up on LinkedIn. Do you have any common ties? If so, use them. If that doesn’t work, are there any alumni of your college, graduate school or former companies working there? If so ask them for an introduction. People will usually help those with whom they share a common bond, and LinkedIn helps you identify those bonds.
- A great tool for references. For those checking references on a candidate or potential business partner, check them out on LinkedIn. Is there anyone he or she did not give you as a reference that you know through his or her LinkedIn connections?
Five Easy Steps to Get the Most from LinkedIn
- Complete the profile. The profile should only take ten minutes to complete. I’m not a big fan of regurgitating your résumé on LinkedIn—it is not necessary to include every position you have ever had, but it is important that you have a picture and include your college or grad school. Bottom line, make it professional and in line with the position you hold or want to hold.
- Tailor your profile. What do you want your network to know about you? LinkedIn allows you to use keywords to describe your skills. If you want to be contacted for a board position, look for the words that would make your name come up in a search for such a position.
- Learn how LinkedIn works. Spend time on LinkedIn. Explore your network’s connections; you may be connected to someone you want to know. Ask for introductions. The idea of LinkedIn is that the business world is small. Within two degrees of separation, we are connected to literally millions of people who can help us. Learn how to use search filters to hone your search results. Once you can navigate your way around LinkedIn, which is actually very intuitive, it will lead you to contacts you may wish to renew.
- Connect with people in high places whom you know. Extend LinkedIn invites to people whom you have worked with over the course of your career. If you are a college student, it is okay to connect with your parents’ friends who are executives. Looking for a new position? Try to reach 500 contacts and no, your trainer and manicurist don’t count. Think about people you know who might know others who could help you. Your banker? Lawyer? The President of your alumni association? Your old fraternity brother who is now CEO of a company? When you meet someone new in a business transaction, link with them. A word of caution: Do not ask people whom you don’t know to connect with you. Being on the other side of those requests, it seems a little creepy at best.
- Seek a reference or two... but not ten. Don’t shy away from asking for a reference or two but don’t overdo it. When I see a LinkedIn profile with 30 references, I think someone is trying too hard. The same reason you don’t want your entire résumé on LinkedIn is the same reason you don’t want numerous references.
Article updated on February 25, 2020.