Remember the days when to find a job you had to scour the Situations Vacant columns in the newspapers? And then you sent off a CV and crossed your fingers you’d get an interview?
This way of job searching now seems as antiquated as the typewriter these CVs were created on. In the last 10 years, social media networking site LinkedIn has been the focus of most professional’s search for work. But how does LinkedIn help you with building your professional career?
LinkedIn has about 590 million registered members across the globe of which about half are actively using the site. The company’s research found that 80% of professionals said that networking was vital to their career success. A third said that a ‘casual conversation’ on LinkedIn had led to a new working opportunity.
Dan Brown is a senior manager at specialist accountancy recruiters Robert Walters. ‘Five to ten years ago, LinkedIn wasn’t a thing. Now it is the first thing that recruiters look at and you need to ensure your profile is working for you. In this day and age, your LinkedIn profile is going to play a big part in whether you get that interview or win that business you’re pitching for’.
Setting up a LinkedIn page doesn’t take long, says Brown. ‘From a standing start, it won’t even take an hour. The site is very easy to use and takes you through all the necessary steps. And it offers tips on how you can improve your profile. Remember too that it’s free’.
He adds: ‘While LinkedIn is social media, remember that it is there to show your professional face, so first of all you need a good photo, not one of you larking around in a bar. Your profile is there to represent what you do at work and thus what you can offer would-be employers. Essentially it is a CV without all the unnecessary bits’. So you need to list your current and former roles; what you’ve achieved at work and particular projects you’ve worked on.
You should also give a rough location – would-be employers will want to know if you’re in their area. Make sure your grammar is correct and keep the language you use professional. Include your education and qualifications but keep them relevant to the work you’re seeking: if you’re looking for an accountancy job then you must include your AAT qualifications but your lifeguard certificate is irrelevant. Keep your profile truthful too: don’t say you’re a fluent French speaker unless you are.
Vitally, it’s important to keep your profile updated. Obviously, you’ll change it if you’ve moved jobs or got a new qualification but regardless, it’s worth giving your profile a once-over every few months to ensure it still presents a good, professional portrait of you and your career. After all, things change – and opportunities can arise even when you’re not looking for them.
A vital element of LinkedIn is the networking opportunities it offers. ‘You should make full use of relevant forums and groups’ says Brown. ‘If you are in the AAT group it could well help you get work in the future’. Sharing ideas with others in the same industry will also help you in your career. Andy Murray, Accounts Manager at CaterFix and an AAT member since 2013, is keen on using the networking aspect of LinkedIn. ‘By connecting with local and national like-minded professionals, both financial and non-financial, you can achieve a prominent online presence.
‘LinkedIn is great to build professional relationships with individuals such as suppliers and customers. I enjoy visiting LinkedIn to see what’s happening in my company’s sector and updates from our customer and supplier bases’.
Brown points out that the referrals and recommendations part of LinkedIn is particularly important. ‘These days, when references are simply to confirm when you worked in a particular role and for how long, it is so important to get personal recommendations for your work. It’s a good idea to ask those you have worked with in the past or who have been clients to post a few words on your LinkedIn profile saying they were happy with your work and why.
‘This is another way of boosting your profile, adding elements an ordinary CV could never do. A would-be recruiter will get a much more nuanced picture of you’. Do make sure you do the same for others too.
You underestimate the power of LinkedIn at your peril. ‘It’s the first thing I search’ says recruiter Brown. ‘And these days, when many companies have in-house recruiters they will have teams searching LinkedIn. We have two people working full time just on LinkedIn’.
It’s a good idea to follow and be linked with companies in the sector you work in – this is particularly important in accountancy and bookkeeping says, Brown. ‘You’ll find out straight away when there are vacancies as companies post them on LinkedIn first. And you can also contact companies via LinkedIn saying you are interested in their company and would welcome being considered for suitable roles. It’s far better than a speculative email with an attached CV’.
Murray, who has used LinkedIn in the past to search for employment opportunities, adds: ‘Don’t give a negative view of previous employers on LinkedIn. This is extremely unprofessional and won’t help your image. Always show a positive view. Remember, this isn’t Facebook: LinkedIn is a professional networking site’.
And finally, remember the limits of LinkedIn when you’re seeking a post: it might get you through the door to get an interview – but it can’t get you the actual job. That’s up to you!