LinkedIn 101: 3 Simple Steps to a Strong LinkedIn Profile

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—

A strong LinkedIn profile is an essential, no-excuses, must-have in the modern career market.

But many people I talk to feel intimidated and overwhelmed by LinkedIn. Profiles. Networking. Posts. Comments.

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It’s true that using LinkedIn can get complicated. Recruiters, marketers, job seekers, expert networkers, and thought leaders dig deep to use LinkedIn’s functionality to grow their brands and connect with clients / employees / employers / partners.

If becoming a LinkedIn super-user is your thing, that’s great. But if not, here’s how to press the easy button.

Add these 3 components to your LinkedIn profile and you’ll dramatically increase the reach and professionalism of your profile and position yourself as a savvy professional.

1. Summary section

The very most important part of your LinkedIn profile is what’s called “Summary” section. This section functions a lot like the qualifications section of a resume and it should contain a statement of your personal brand.

This section is highly optimized in LinkedIn searches. This means that any keyword or phrase that you want leading to you—think recruiters or potential customers googling for someone like you—needs to be here.

What to do:

Write a brief paragraph or a few bullet points (or a combination thereof) describing what sets you apart, what expertise you bring to the table, and what you have to offer.

Don’t stress over making this poetic or perfect. Just start with a simple, straightforward statement of who you are and what you do.

2. Work experience

Populate the “Experience” section of your LinkedIn profile with your basic work history. This a.) lets users know what you do, and b.) enables LinkedIn to do its networking thing to let former colleagues and associates to find you.

What to do:

At a bare minimum, list your-

  • Company Name
  • Title
  • Time Period (LinkedIn won’t allow you to skip this, but don’t feel obligated to list months.)

Include at least your work history for last 10 years or since you graduated from college, whichever is shortest.

For bonus points, include a few bullet points outlining the scope of your role and highlighting a few of your biggest accomplishments.

3. Picture

Yep, you do need one. It’s a part of LinkedIn genre/culture. You don’t want a glamour shot, and you don’t want an unprofessional picture of you at the beach or at a party. (Unless you’re a beach volleyball player or party planner.)

What to do:

Next time you’re dressed for work and having a good hair day, stand in front of a blank wall and ask one of your friends to snap a pic with your phone. Crop it to head-shot dimensions (from mid-chest up) and post it on your profile.

Congratulations! You now have a solid LinkedIn profile that puts ahead of many, many professionals out there.

To make your LinkedIn profile really work for you, revisit it every few months. Spend 10 minutes or so clicking through your profile, adding new info, and making little tweaks to keep everything fresh and updated.

 

Get Clarity on Your Personal Brand

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be conducting a workshop at Westminster College’s Westminster Weekend this Friday. The topic is personal branding and career development. We’re going to zoom out wide to get clarity on personal brand and then zoom in and do some hands-on career development projects. It’ll be both enlightening AND productive.

(And I’m going to talk about my all-time favorite resume client–the world’s foremost expert on international supply chain for sausage casings.)

Find out more and register here. I’d love to see you there!

WHAT: Building Your Personal Professional Brand with Angela of RedRocketResume

WHEN: Friday, September 16, 4:00-5:30

WHERE: Westminster College, Salt Lake City, UT

Checklist for a Great Resume

One of the challenges for many people in preparing a great resume is…knowing what exactly makes up a great resume. Here’s a handy checklist of the major components of a strong resume. How does your resume measure up?

Resume checklist

Does it look sharp?

Good looks aren’t everything, but they certainly help. Make sure your resume is easy to read—clean, not cluttered; sharp, not confusing.

  • Does it have a well-designed letterhead with your name larger than surrounding text?
  • Does it include your contact information (name, address, phone number, email)?
  • Do you use lines or some other visual cue to separate different sections of the resume?
  • Does it use bullets?
  • But not too many bullets? (Bullets are meant to increase readability and help key items stand out, but if everything is bulleted, everything blends together.)
  • Is it in a clear, readable, commonly used font? Arial and Times New Roman are classic stand-bys. Calibri is one of my new faves.
  • Does it have ample white space in the margins? (Keep one-inch margins on the sides and at least a half inch on top and bottom.)
  • Is it limited to two pages?
  • Is it free from typos and errors?

Does it have all the right pieces?

Resumes are generally organized into a handful of major sections. This shorthand helps hiring managers quickly find the info they need.

  • Does it start with a Qualifications section?
  • Is work history listed in reverse chronological (newest to oldest) order?
  • For each job, do you provide company name, location, job title, and years of employment?
  • For each job, do you provide a brief description of your duties and scope?
  • Do you provide quantified accomplishments?
  • Does it provide the most detail for your latest jobs, with less detail on older/less relevant jobs?
  • Does it omit information that is personal, outdated, or off-target?

Big Picture

A great resume is clearly focused on a specific target. A resume that knows what you want helps you get what you want.

  • Does it convey a clear, unified message about who you are and what you do (aka your personal brand)?
  • Is it focused on accomplishments and benefits more than responsibilities and duties?
  • Does it speak to the desired qualifications for the type of job you’re seeking?
  • Does it replace niche industry jargon or company-specific phrases with better-understood translations? (Imagine a recruiter or HR person who isn’t necessarily familiar with the technical details of your target job.)
  • Is it consistent in terms of formatting, verb tense, organization?
  • Does it aim toward your next job (not your current job)?

How to Motivate People at Work

Ever feel baffled by a coworker’s failure to follow through on a commitment? (He said he’d finish that report today!) Or dismayed by your own flakiness? (I swore I wouldn’t have a doughnut at lunch!)

How to Motivate People at Work

It can feel confusing and frustrating when we can’t figure out how to motivate someone (including ourselves) to follow through. But deep down, we all realize that rolling our eyes at others’ foibles isn’t kind-hearted or productive.

That’s where the Rubin Tendencies framework comes in. Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before is about understanding how habits work and how to use them to make life better.

(I loooove that book title. I’m all about progress. I don’t mind if my train is still far from the station as long as I know it’s chugging in the right direction.)

Rubin suggests that the world is made up of people with 4 different types of decision-making styles, based primarily on responding to outer expectations (what others expect of me) or inner expectations (what I expect of myself).

Here’s how Rubin describes it:

UPHOLDERS respond readily to outer and inner expectations.

They wake up and think, “What’s on the schedule and the to-do list for today?” They’re very motivated by execution, getting things accomplished. They really don’t like making mistakes, getting blamed, or failing to follow through (including doing so to themselves).

QUESTIONERS meet only their inner expectations. In other words, they meet an expectation if they think it makes sense.

They wake up and think, “What needs to get done today?” They’re very motivated by seeing good reasons for a particular course of action. They really don’t like spending time and effort on activities they don’t agree with.

 REBELS resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

They wake up and think, “What do I want to do today?” They’re very motivated by a sense of freedom, of self-determination. They really don’t like being told what to do.

 OBLIGERS meet outer expectations but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves.

They wake up and think, “What must I do today?” They’re very motivated by accountability. They really don’t like being reprimanded or letting others down.

Rubin gives this example: An upholder can train with a trainer or exercise on her own. A questioner can do either, if he thinks it makes sense. A rebel will do neither, because the fact that she has an appointment or an item on her to-do list makes her want to disobey. An obliger can meet a trainer, but can’t get to the gym on his own.

Rubin says that understanding this framework is important because “if you want to motivate yourself (or someone else) to do something, it’s key to know how a person will consider and act upon that request or order.”

Of course this framework has its limitations. Not every person fits neatly into a single category. We may behave more like a Rebel in one situation and an Obliger in another. But I find it very illuminating.

For example, I had always assumed that my husband and myself made decisions within similar paradigms. Turns out, I’m an Upholder, but he’s a Questioner. Aaaaah. Explains so much. And one of my children is definitely that magical but maddening breed of Rebel.

Many times the conflict (or just confusion) we feel dealing with other people—at work or at home—derives from our own inability to perceive how the other person reads the motivators. It’s easy for us to conclude that the other person is misinformed, foolish, wrong, difficult, selfish, problematic. And sometimes we’re right. But whether we’re right or wrong is completely irrelevant, because once we allow ourselves to place blame, we decimate the potential for productive problem-solving.

A much more beneficial (and compassionate and fulfilling) approach is to identify the other person’s point of view and to accept that this point of view makes sense to them. By accepting their view rather than fighting against it, we enable ourselves to leverage it for mutual success.

Instead of…

He won’t turn in his reports on time.

Think…

I get that he’s a Questioner, so to him, spending time on reports makes no sense.

Which leads to a solution…

I need to explain why these reports really do affect the bottom line.

 

Instead of…

I already told her the best way to handle this project. Why does she refuse to follow my lead?

Think …

She’s a rebel. It bugs her to be told what to do.

Which leads to a solution…

We’ll be better off if I give her space to figure it out on her own.

 

We can even try this compassionate acceptance on ourselves.

Instead of…

I hate that I never follow through on my decisions to eat better and get more sleep. I’m so weak-willed!

Think …

These are all internal goals, and those don’t work so well for me. I’m an Obliger who does better with external motivation.

Which leads to a solution…

I need to create some external expectations for myself. Maybe I’ll commit to my lunch group at work that I’m ordering salads at least three times a week. And I’ll use an app to log my sleep hours.

Have fun pegging your colleagues as Obligers, Rebels, Upholders, or Questioners.

20 Ways to Sleuth a Target Company BEFORE You Apply

Sort of like Facebook stalking—for your career.

One habit of savvy professionals is to keep tabs on companies of interest, such as companies that have a product you believe in or a workplace culture you admire. And any time you’re applying for a job, it’s well worth your while to do a little sleuthing on the target company’s background, branding, and vision.

Sleuth a Target Company BEFORE You Apply for a Job

A few minutes of Internet research can give you insights on your target company’s brand, vision, and direction. This gives a clearer picture of what they’re looking for in their employees, how you should tailor your resume, and even how you should present yourself at an interview. (Suit and tie or hipster glasses?)

Here are 20 ways to sleuth a target company, all without leaving your desk chair.

  1. Google recent news and buzz about the company.
  2. Use LinkedIn to find connections of yours that work/ed there. Reach out to those connections to learn about the HR structure, hiring strategies, company culture, and other choice deets.
  3. Call the company switchboard and ask who you can talk to about the job opening.
  4. Read the About and Vision pages on their web site.
  5. Call the company directory to find the HR manager’s name and/or direct email address.
  6. Check for Twitter feeds by the company or its execs.
  7. Research their competitors.
  8. Check for a company Instagram page.
  9. Check for a company Facebook page.
  10. Google the company’s niche or industry to identify trends and events.
  11. Google search their products. Notice where they sell, where they advertise, and how they market.
  12. Find out what industry events, conferences, tradeshows they attend.
  13. Use LinkedIn to view the profiles of people at the company in jobs that are similar to yours. Notice any common backgrounds they tend to hire from.
  14. Browse through the company’s web site and take note of how the company describes itself. What words are used to describe its vision, culture, purpose, and mission?
  15. Follow the company’s updates on LinkedIn.
  16. Read online reviews of their products.
  17. Analyze the branding of the company’s web site. Is it conservative grays and blues or stylish fuchsias?
  18. Find the names of their founder and executives and Google them.
  19. View your potential new manager’s LinkedIn profile. (Bonus: This might prompt them to look at YOUR profile.)
  20. Some companies post their internal mission statements and employee expectations online. See, for example, see here and here. See if you can find something similar for your target company by googling terms like mission statement and culture.

This kind of preparation is the foundation for an upwardly mobile career and a successful job search. Happy sleuthing!

And as always, reach out to RedRocketResume with your resume requests or career conundrums.

The Recruiter-Approved, High-Impact Strategy for Submitting Your Cover Letter

Like Mark Twain (pre-1910, anyway), reports of the death of cover letters are greatly exaggerated.

A good cover letter lets you break through the limitations of a just-the-facts-ma’am resume so you can introduce yourself, describe your career trajectory, and reveal your working style and career philosophy. Perhaps most important, a cover letter shows that you go all the way and that you know how to play the game.

But in a world of email attachments and online job applications, how exactly do you submit a cover letter?

The High-Impact, Recruiter-Approved Strategy for Submitting Your Cover Letter

Here are a few options, plus guidance on the very best strategy that will set you apart from the competition.

If you are submitting your application via an online form, optimize the boxes. Many companies require job seekers to submit their application via an online form. You may be prompted to upload your resume and cover letter, or you may be asked to paste your data into fields of a web form.

In these cases, follow the instructions and prompts carefully. If there’s a button to upload your cover letter, use it.

At the same time, be strategic about how you utilize the web form. Think of a politician who says what they want to say, no matter what the original question was. So if there’s a field asking for further comments or additional uploads, plug in your cover letter there.

But keep in mind, the more personal and connected you make your application, the better your chances of success. Do a little sleuthing, and if at all possible, submit your resume and cover letter directly to the hiring manager. (More on exactly how to be a job-seeking Sherlock Holmes in an upcoming column.)

Once you’ve got the hiring manager’s direct email address, always attach PDF copies of your resume and cover letter to the email. PDF copies are preferable over Word docs because PDF formatting won’t get garbled during transmission.

Now, what goes in the body of your email?

One option is to just paste your cover letter into the email itself. After all, the purpose of a cover letter is to introduce you and create interest in reading further detail in your resume.

But here’s an even better solution, recommended by Jim Niemela, President and Founder of ZimZee Recruiting.

  1. Attach both the cover letter and resume to your email (in PDF form).
  2. Write a one-paragraph email message that introduces you and provides some brief, key information on why you’re a good fit for the position.

Wait, doesn’t introducing yourself and explaining why you’re a good fit sound exactly like…a cover letter? Yep.

So in a way, this email is the cover email to introduce your cover letter to introduce your resume…which helps you land the interview, so you can get a second interview, so you can get a job offer, so you can negotiate terms…

In other words, it’s a cumulative process. And savvy job seekers and career developers invest a little energy, purpose, and personality into each step.

LinkedIn Engagement: 3 Simple Ways to Get in the Loop

Many of my resume clients are intimidated by LinkedIn. Another social media platform? Who has the time?? But LinkedIn remains the world’s largest business network, and getting on this bandwagon can be simple. Here are 3 easy ways to jump in and boost your LinkedIn engagement.

Cartoon businesswoman expressing different emotions

As I’ve written about before, a strong LinkedIn presence is a career development must-have. Even if you’re not an active networker or social media buff, LinkedIn is important because hiring managers, employers, and clients alike use LinkedIn to vet potential contacts.

Once you’ve got a solid profile in place, the second step to leveraging LinkedIn is Engagement. LinkedIn strategist and speaker Maria Fafard  says engagement is one of the most misunderstood, underestimated, and underutilized elements of LinkedIn use. Engagement strategies keep you in the loop, keep you prevalent in your connections’ minds, and reinforce your personal brand. In short, they position you as a professional who is, well, engaged.

Here are 3 super simple ways Fafard recommends to establish an active presence on LinkedIn and engage with your network:

Comment

When you log into LinkedIn, your home page shows a feed of comments, status updates, and articles from your connections and people you follow. Regularly spend a few minutes scanning through your feed and leaving comments. You’ll stay on top of professional news and trending content in your industry, and you’ll put yourself on the radar of key people in your network.

Endorse and Recommend Your Connections

 What goes around comes around, so spread some love among your LinkedIn connections. Log into LinkedIn and navigate to the profile of one of your connections. In most cases, a list of skills will appear right under the header section of your connection’s profile. Select the skills you would like to endorse and click on the yellow “Endorse” button. (Alternatively, scroll down to the Skills section of your connection’s profile and click on the plus sign next to each skill you want to endorse them for.) Bingo. Your connection will receive a notification that you’ve endorsed them, and they just might return the favor.

For closer connections, take it a step further and provide a recommendation. In the header section of your connection’s profile, click on the arrow to the right of the “Send a Message” button, then select the “Recommend” option in the drop-down menu. Write a brief recommendation of that person’s professional accomplishments. It doesn’t need to be fancy; short, sweet, and specific does the job.

These recommendations are super useful. (For someone like me who runs a referral-based business, they are GOLD!) You’re doing your connection a great favor and establishing yourself as a service-minded professional.

A word of caution: write recommendations only for people whom you have worked with closely or have done business with. Writing recommendations for someone you don’t know is unethical and misleading.

Post a Status Update

On your LinkedIn home page, click on the “Share an update” button right above your newsfeed. But remember, this isn’t Facebook. Think twice before posting an update about your pet, your lunch, or your weekend plans. The updates on LinkedIn need to be related to and support your professional brand. Fafard recommends sharing curated and original updates.

  • A link to an informative article (with a sentence or two explaining why it attracted your attention).
  • Heads up about an upcoming professional event.
  • News of a recent professional project or workplace win.
  • Updates about your company or industry.
  • Insights from a recent training session.

Keep the tone of your updates light and humble, not overly self-promotional.

Other ways to engage include joining and participating in LinkedIn groups, mentioning your connections in your status updates using the @ (mention) function, commenting on articles by your connections, and publishing articles using LinkedIn publishing platform. We’ll share more about these in future posts.

Survey says…

Now it’s your turn. How would you describe your LinkedIn engagement? Answer the poll below and let us know!