Let me start off by saying I am not a LinkedIn evangelist and I do not spend hours a day on the site. But I do spend about five minutes per week there, and it is time well spent. With nearly 350 million users, LinkedIn is the anchor of the modern digital professional world. It is much more than a digital business card or an online resume. It is your opportunity to control people’s first impression.
When I teach at the university level, I am flabbergasted by the number of upperclassmen looking for job opportunities that have no knowledge of LinkedIn. It is less surprising when advanced career professionals do not have a strong LinkedIn presence, but I do not think they realize how it may be impacting them.
Here are 5 reasons why every professional NEEDS to have a strong LinkedIn Profile:
- Job seeking. This is the most obvious and direct need. When you are looking for a job, internship, or even volunteer position, people will look you up online. A good LinkedIn profile enables you to pick up where your resume left off and demonstrate further value, expertise, and capabilities. And of course provide a picture. Say what you want about fairness, but pictures matter, people want them, and a good one can help you. Almost everyone on the planet will at some point be looking for a position of some sort, even if it is a promotion within an existing company. Use LinkedIn to help you.
- Business cards now function as LinkedIn invitations. When I get back to the office with business cards, I put them in a pile and look them up on LinkedIn. Whether I find them or not, the card ends up in a bottomless drawer forever. Only the LinkedIn connection lives on. And it has been this way for years. Many professionals I have worked with have similar approaches.
- Personal branding. LinkedIn is recognized as your official public space. What you say and display here is considered “on the record.” This provides an opportunity to craft your personal image and tell your story. Even a personal website is often seen as secondary to LinkedIn. A blank or absent profile sends the message that you are not particularly interested in your professional image or career.
- Google. The greatest power LinkedIn can give you is by controlling what people find when they Google your name. If someone searches for you they may find nothing, the wrong things, or something that you wish was not there. But LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to put something in the search results that is on purpose. It gives you a chance to create clarity and make a positive first impression. And you do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
- Your current company. Contrary to popular belief, the current employer greatly benefits from employees having good LinkedIn profiles. Do not allow a culture to form where good profiles are seen as a sign of people looking for another job. Companies are represented on LinkedIn by their employees. Company branding, awareness, professionalism, opportunities and referrals go hand-in-hand with the presence that their employees have on LinkedIn. More active employees means more exposure for the employer. Even when employees do leave, they wear their experience at previous companies as a badge of honor on LinkedIn, creating long term benefit.
There are definitely more reasons to be on LinkedIn, but these five require minimal ongoing time investment. Be strategic, setup a good profile, and update it regularly.