Making the Most of LinkedIn, Right Now (updated for 2017)


Since first writing about LinkedIn nearly four years ago, the professional networking site has only continued to solidify its role in the world of business.  During this same period LinkedIn has added users hand over fist.  It now is past 467 million members, with 128 million in the US alone (10/16).  LinkedIn adds two new members every second, and 40% of all members check LinkedIn daily.  No matter your personal feelings about the site, these numbers are saying something important.  Don’t underestimate the role LinkedIn can play in your career.

Your new year’s to-do list should include freshening up your online presence via your LinkedIn profile.  If you haven’t visited LinkedIn recently, minor changes may have been made to its functionality.  Meaning, they move stuff around from time to time, and you might need to go looking for it.  

I’m Not Looking For A New Gig

Committed managers and employees may wonder why they should invest time in an online profile if they are not seeking employment elsewhere.  Yes, LinkedIn got its start as a meeting ground for recruiters and their prospects, but it has now evolved into more than a place to find professional employment matches.  Professional people often network during the course of a typical day by pulling up colleagues’ profiles and looking them over.  How yours appears can greatly reflect on your overall credibility.

Online credibility can impact decisions made by future customers, bosses, employees and co-workers:

  • Do your credentials suggest enough expertise to be a viable service provider?
  • Is your profile written in a thoughtful and complete manner, or does it appear to be slipshod, suggesting a lack of care or detail-orientation?
  • Is your business described in an interesting way to show concern about your profession?
  • Do you appear to be the type of leader other professionals want to work for, or to be associated with?

Because LinkedIn has become such a proven tool for peering beyond your corner of the business world, judgment abounds.  More than just a photo, how you manage your entire profile can also convey information about you whether you want that or not:

Your photo – Profiles with photos are 36 times more likely to be recognized as a credible professional on LinkedIn, so select an appropriate, interesting image that conveys a bit of your personality.  Glamour shots, party pics or selfies taken while driving may send all sorts of unintended messages.  

Your contacts – people seem to have different standards for whom they select to connect with and then allow to connect with them.  We recommend a more liberal approach than perhaps used for purely social platforms.  Increasing the number of contacts enables the magic of LinkedIn (aka: the algos) to happen.  If your job requires you to actively network, such as with business development or recruiting, anything less than 500 contacts may suggest that you aren’t serious… or worse, just ineffective.

Your text – assuming that you do want to be found on LinkedIn, keywords reign supreme.  Selecting the right “universal” keywords (those commonly used by others similar to you) will enable your profile to be located.  Using keywords appropriately in a repetitive manner makes you more “relevant” and will bump you to the top of the list when searches are conducted using your keywords. Check out the profiles of those you admire. It’s OK to borrow ideas for your profile.

If it’s been awhile since you visited your profile, definitely use the new year to take a fresh look at your digital self through the eyes of others.  Explore LinkedIn’s improved interface (updated in 2016) and pull-down menus.  Open tabs and see what’s available.  But before you do, click on your small photo in the upper right of your screen and examine the sub-menu.  Look for “Privacy & Settings / Manage.”

Before making any changes to your profile, turn off “Sharing Profile Edits” so that you can make changes to your profile without anyone knowing.  Otherwise, every tweak you make will be published in your activity feed and visible to all of your contacts.  People don’t need to know what changes you’re making or how many you’ve made or when.  They just need to see a great looking result when you’re finished.  This is especially important when revising the wording of your title or role.  LinkedIn interprets any change to titles as a new job and then announces it to your contacts with great flourish.  For those who are unemployed and seeking work, this clearly is not wanted.  Review all Privacy settings carefully before making changes to your profile.

Here’s how to turn off sharing:

  1. Click your picture in the upper right part of your screen.
  2. Click: “Privacy & Settings,” “Manage”
  3. Click “Privacy” (middle tab in the center of the screen)
  4. Select “No” beside “Sharing Profile Edits” (Click “Change,” then turn slider to “No.”)

With your profile freshened, then explore anew what LinkedIn has to offer.  There are more tools and resources than ever: Advanced Search has criteria for targeting profiles of interest; Business Services offers advertising options; a Company Page can be an extension of your profile; and the Help Center can strengthen your overall knowledge of LinkedIn’s capability.

I Am Looking For a New Gig

If you’re thinking of starting a job search, take these steps immediately:

Let recruiters know you’re open to new opportunities.  A new feature in 2016 was the addition of a covert signal to recruiters indicating that you’re willing to discuss new career options.  Don’t worry, this signal doesn’t appear anywhere on your public profile.  It’s only seen through the Recruiter Professional Services platform subscribed to by those who recruit for a living.  The LinkedIn subscription fees are not casual by any means, so you can rest assured that only real recruiters will see your signal. A bit of caution though…your own company’s recruiters may stumble across your profile and “open” signal as well.

Here’s how to alert recruiters that you’re willing to talk:

Click: “Jobs” at top of page

Click “Preferences” (sub-tab)

Under “Preferences” you’ll immediately see a big statement, “Let Recruiters Know You’re Open” and a slider directly underneath.  Turn the slider to the “On” position.

At a minimum, that’s all you have to do.  But you can further signal specifics by adding locations, experience levels for the positions you’ll consider, industries and company size.

If you’re only interested in a specific industry, go ahead and specify that.  Otherwise, leave it blank if you’re open to any type of company or industry.  That will not filter out any opportunities.

By announcing yourself as “open,” good things will happen:

  1. Recruiters will see your profile marked as “open to new opportunities”
  2. You’ll stand out in recruiter searches; your profile will be featured in a section only for open candidates
  3. You’ll increase your chances of receiving relevant messages from recruiters

Then you’ll want to make sure you’ll actually receive those emails when recruiters try to reach you.  With regular frequency our team at Bench, Inc. receives follow up messages from candidates who we contacted months ago.  They always state that they “just received” our outreach, months after the position was filled.  The prospects then tell us that they haven’t gone to LinkedIn in a while to check for messages.

With the right communications features turned on, they shouldn’t have to check for anything.

Here’s how:

Click: Privacy & Settings / Manage

Click: Communications (third tab, upper right)

For “Messages From Connections” and “Inmails and Introductions” – Click “Recommended” on the left, and then “On” on the right (blue slider).

Now you won’t miss anything, and messages sent to you through LinkedIn (Inmail) will immediately be pushed to your external email address.

A new year represents new possibilities!  Make a review of your LinkedIn profile a must-do for January.  You’re either serious about LinkedIn or you’re not.  And no matter which it really is, you’ll be making a statement about yourself to their 467 million members, including those few who you really care about.

And one last thought: waiting to build credibility through LinkedIn until you “need” to do so is wrong-headed.  You’ll miss out on building connections and encountering opportunity during calmer times, when the stakes and accompanying stress levels are not so high.

Bench’s Jon Heckel visits the LinkedIn HQ

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