What’s the first hit when you Google yourself? Probably your LinkedIn profile — and that’s good news. When you optimize your LinkedIn presence, you can practically tell Google how to put your career in context for people on whose professional radar you’d like to be, whether you know it or not.
“So few people realize that they control how others perceive them and that their online presence is truly who they are, digitally,” Donna Serdula, author of LinkedIn Makeover: Professional Secrets to a Powerful LinkedIn Profile and the forthcoming LinkedIn for Dummies, said in an interview with Convene. “You need to consistently revisit where you are online. When you Google your name, what comes up?”
When Serdula speaks to groups about how to leverage social-media networks in business, she stresses that LinkedIn is a critical reputation-management tool for professionals in all industries. “Your resume is your professional past, and your LinkedIn profile is your career future,” she said. “It’s who you are. You have a chance to control how people perceive you through your LinkedIn profile.”
THINK BEYOND THE RESUME
First, Serdula encourages audiences to put more effort into building out their LinkedIn profiles. “You have a chance to really control how you’re perceived,” she said, “but most people just copy-and-paste their resume.”
It’s important to think beyond the “resume block” to create a stronger profile. Don’t limit yourself to a list of duties you performed, think about how each of your jobs has fit into your career path, and contextualize your employment history based on your future goals. “Recognize that you can really be very strategic and you can design and define perception,” Serdula said, “by stating very clearly who you are and what you want.”
CONNECT, CONNECT, CONNECT
One of the most common questions Serdula gets after presentations is whether or not to connect with people you’ve never met on LinkedIn. “A lot of times people worry about who they’re connecting with, and don’t see the bigger picture that there is a LinkedIn network that is three degrees out,” she said. “It’s not just who you connect to, but who your network is connected to. They don’t realize that opportunity isn’t just with who you know. It’s worthwhile to look and be a little bit more open — maybe not so open that you’re connecting with everyone and their brother, but to be open.”
Serdula sees the social/professional balance on LinkedIn as similar to the dynamic at a business reception. “When you go to a networking event, or when you go to a conference, you don’t stand in a corner only shaking hands with the people you know,” she said. “You want to network. You want to move out. You want to see who else is out there. You want to meet people. I find that that’s the way a person should approach LinkedIn, but they often just want to stay in the corner connecting to the people that they know.”
DO MORE THAN JOB-HUNT
Serdula also reminds her audiences that LinkedIn isn’t just for job hunting. “Some people are on it for reputation management,” she said. “Some people are on it to be seen as thought leaders. Some people are on it for funding, for partnership. And some people are on it to recruit better candidates.
“I always say, dig your well before you’re thirsty,” Serdula said. “Get on it to help people and have fun and deliver value and inspire people. That’s when you’re going to find that good things start to happen. Post articles about your industry. Use it for your perceived marketing. This way people see it and remember you. I think a lot of people still have a non-social-media mindset. They look at LinkedIn and they don’t see it in a strategic manner. They don’t look at it as a way of getting them to the next stage of their career. They don’t look at it as helping them move through their career.”