12 Ways to Maximize LinkedIn During a Career Change

Most people considering a career change know that LinkedIn is THE place to start a job search. But few fully understand the richness of the tool. Sure, they are “on” LinkedIn, they re-create their resume on their profile page, they create a job search, they add suggested contacts to their network, and they “like” posts in their feed. But there is so much more you can do.

By Julie Norwell

LinkedIn is one stop shopping for leveraging your network for so many aspects of your career. That is true whether you’re actively job hunting or simply want to maximize your potential for opportunities not yet on the horizon. But it’s especially powerful during a career change. If you are preparing for one, there are a several ways to harness the power of LinkedIn to make the most of your career change.

1. Reverse engineer your job search

Pros know that the least useful way to get a job is to apply to a job posting. The most successful job searches begin with reverse engineering the process. What does that mean?

Reverse engineering means to take something apart to study how the individual components work together to enable you to duplicate it. In the context of a job search, this means identifying the job that you want, figuring out the prerequisites of that job, remaking yourself as the perfect candidate – and ensuring your resume reflects it – and positioning yourself in such a way that hiring managers recruiting for that job will easily find you.

Easier said than done, you say? It’s not as hard as you think – and it’ll be worth every minute you spend.

Consider how a typical job search plays out. You go to a job search platform, plug the desired company, job title, and location into a search engine, see what pops up, and apply to the most attractive opportunities. There are significant problems with that approach, however.

First, resumes submitted to online job postings invariably get screened by Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) before they are ever seen by human eyes. ATS offers hiring managers numerous filters to quickly scan thousands of resumes for keywords that match the job description. If your resume doesn’t reflect the keywords sought by the hiring manager, you may as well throw your resume into the trash.

Second, a ridiculously high number of job openings are never even posted online. Rather, they are available only in what is called the “unpublished market.” Anne Lipsitz, senior career consultant at The Barrett Group, estimates that the unpublished market represents over 50% of the job market. In other words, half of all available positions are never publicly advertised. (Click on image below to listen to Anne’s podcast.)

You can solve for the first problem by studying the keywords of appealing job postings. Make sure your resume mentions all the required experience and skills. Note whatever gaps there might be and upskill if it makes sense to do. (You may even find a course on LinkedIn Learning that meets your needs.)

The trick to solving the second problem is to access connections in your network and, in turn, their connections. The more you plumb the reaches of your connections, the better your chances of locating hidden opportunities in the unpublished market. Doing so calls for strategically managing your network.

Manage Your Network

2. Actively build your network

The first rule of thumb in a successful job search is: the bigger the network, the more the opportunities. According to a survey published on LinkedIn, networking is the biggest factor in finding a job for all types of people – whether they are actively job hunting, employed, or any combination of the two. By some estimates, 85% of all jobs are landed through networking.

So, if you are looking for a job and your LinkedIn profile doesn’t show 500+ connections, get busy! Get in the habit of sending a connection request to everyone you meet.

3. Leverage your social capital

Most people understand the concept of using first-degree connections in LinkedIn. But the real magic happens when you open up your second-degree connections and reverse engineer companies and roles.

“It can be a real game changer,” said Lipsitz. “We are finding that a LinkedIn member with just 150 people in their first-degree circle can access up to 250,000 social capital contacts through their second-degree contacts. It’s fascinating to see the explosion of opportunity when we move from one circle to another.”

LinkedIn allows you to creatively and strategically navigate your networks – whether it’s alumni networks or former colleagues that now work at company where you want to work. Ideally, you will connect with people at an organization that are close to the gatekeepers of your target position to create the groundswell of support that you need BEFORE you apply.

4. Join LinkedIn Groups

A great way to connect and participate in discussions with new people in your target industry, job function, company, and so on, is by joining groups. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups. This is a fantastic way to build ties, especially if you’re trying to trailblaze a career in a new industry. Once you’re in a group, make your presence known by actively engaging in discussion threads. Inviting key players from these groups into your network can have a powerful impact on your career opportunities according to Anne Lipsitz.

“I have some clients who have seen triple digit increases in the number of people that have viewed their profile after having joined groups,” said Lipsitz. “There is a lot of benefit to contributing content, liking, sharing, commenting, and using hashtags to engage a new audience. Plus, you gain specific subject matter expertise. It’s a brilliant strategy.”

5. Keep in touch after leaving a job

One of the great things about LinkedIn is that it is an aggregator of all your business contacts. Once upon a time, a job change also meant a change of email and phone number – and a risk of losing contact with former colleagues. LinkedIn resolved that problem. Still, don’t neglect your old relationships. Maintaining them is as important as currying new ones. Be proactive about dropping a line to say “hello” to people, especially those “high asset” contacts. You never know when you’ll need to leverage that social capital.

Create Your Personal Brand

Let’s face it, the employment market is like any market. If you want something to sell well, you need to manage the public perception of it. That includes yourself. To ensure you aren’t missing out on opportunities, you need to create a clear personal brand and stand out from the crowd. There are several ways to do it. Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit…

6. Use the “About” section to tell your story

The “About” section is underutilized by many LinkedIn users. But this is the ideal spot to showcase your personal brand. Pack the text with keywords of the positions and industries in which you’d like to work, the better to funnel recruiters to your profile page.

7. Manage your personal profile

Be sure to always keep your resume and professional responsibilities updated. List your relevant skills, and keep them current. And remember, “relevant skills” doesn’t mean ALL of your skills. List skills that are relevant to the industries and job functions that you’re focusing on, and omit the rest.

Take the time to edit your personal profile to highlight the attributes about yourself that you want people to notice. Many of these edits can be made in a matter of minutes.

(Hint: Click on “Me” in the top bar, then on “View Profile.”)

8. Customize your headline

Your LinkedIn headline is automatically the same as your most recent job title. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’re striking a new career path or just want to jazz up a boring title, you can rewrite it. Don’t feel restricted to using a conventional title, either. Make it specific to what you do, but feel free to make it interesting enough that people will want to learn more about you.

9. Make a statement with your photos

A picture is worth a thousand words. Make them count in your favor. Choose a photo that shows you in good light, not too far away, and with a smile in your eyes. It never hurts to splurge on a professional photo. And while you’re considering your headshot, don’t forget to leverage the background photo to help drive home a message about your personal brand.

10. Customize your LinkedIn URL

LinkedIn automatically generates a URL for you when you create an account – and it looks it! But you can change the extension to anything you want. It makes you easier to find, it shows your attention to detail, and, well, it just looks more professional on your resume and business card. Why have “www.linkedin.com/in/julie-norwell-5600929” when it takes only 30 seconds to have www.linkedin.com/in/julienorwell?

11. Be a thought leader

Post content that shows readers that you are a thought leader in your field. This is especially important if you’re in a professional services industry. This includes posting original content, sharing media that might interest others in your field, and commenting on the posts of other members. You can even write and publish long-form articles, create videos and advertise events right from LinkedIn.

12. Show off your creds

Having someone else vouch for your skills is a great way to build up your credibility. Ask people in your network to write you a recommendation or endorse you for something. If making an outright request for an endorsement makes you feel uneasy, consider proactively endorsing someone whose endorsement you’d value. Doing so often spurs people to reciprocate. If you find that the endorsements you are receiving are skewing your image too much in one direction, you can manage which endorsements to show and which to hide.

While the advantages of maximizing your LinkedIn account are greatest during a career change, it makes sense to stay actively engaged during all stages of a professional career. Even after you’ve landed an amazing job, never underestimate the present – and future – value of maintaining connections, building social capital, and just paying it forward on your career.

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