LinkedIn do's and don'ts
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
LinkedIn is a great platform for facilitating professional networking. However, it is not a social media platform like Instagram or Facebook and there is a professional etiquette when connect with other professionals and posting content. In this blog post, I share a few of the things I learned to boost my profile and ensure I'm using my network to my full advantage.
1. Have a professional profile picture
No selfies, no pouting, no full body outfit pics... This should be a professional, good-quality head shot from the shoulders up, preferably looking straight ahead.
2. Make sure you accurately list any relevant and necessary experience you have had
The 'Experience' section is one of the first things people will look at when they visit your page. Make sure you have your dates correct and provide a brief, concise overview (i.e. 2-3 sentences or bullet points) of your duties within that role. [You'll be surprised to know that almost 20% of job applicants have a LinkedIn profile that does not match their CV and vice versa - if you are using it to seek job opportunities, you'll want this to be as accurate as possible]. Many people wonder if it is appropriate to add experience that may not be related to their current or future career such as your previous role as as 'Primark Sales Assistant'. I think it is fine to do this - especially if you are hoping to use LinkedIn to secure a new job! This is a chance for you to list anything that you have done that showcases your skills and personal attributes. However, do not fall into the trap of providing too much detail (see don'ts).
3. Always address people formally first i.e. Dr, Mr, Miss, Mrs or Ms (if you are not sure whether she is a Miss or Mrs)
I have made the mistake one too many times of addressing people by their first name in a message, as I see it on LinkedIn, when they do not prefer that. Remember, a lot of people on LinkedIn will be top professionals in their field and prefer to be addressed in a certain way to maintain the appropriate barriers. It is always better to be 'too formal' than too comfortable. Addressing people professionally is polite and will get you a lot further. Always check the person's name on LinkedIn and PLEASE make sure to spell it properly.
4. List your accomplishments in the correct sections
List your awards and honours in the section at the bottom of your page as well as publications, courses, languages and professional organisations that you run. Try not to repeat these same things in your Experience section - it wastes space and is unnecessary. Moreover, it is better to list organisations in your Experience section that have an official LinkedIn page for better viewing (but this may not be achievable for all of the experiences you have had so do not worry).
5. Reach out to people you want to get to know better (professionally)
It is no point having 500+ connections on LinkedIn and never interacting with any of them. Is there an event you're running that you would like to invite one of your connections to speak at or attend? Did you attend a conference and want to follow up on some questions you had for a notable speaker that you were particularly inspired by? Did you meet someone at a networking event and want to meet up for further discussions? These are the types of things you need to be contacting your network for. You can also ask for career guidance or even clinical shadowing opportunities (for medical students).
6. Interact with your network (aside from messaging)
When someone accepts an invitation to join your network, you can send them a personalised welcome message if you like (I only do this for people I have requested to connect with me). Furthermore, congratulating people on their achievements and recommending interesting content to them is another way to interact. These interactions are the crucial difference between simply adding connections to your network and building real relationships. Lots of people are 'active' on LinkedIn but they find that it doesn't generate real relationships. This is often because people are too busy treating it as a numbers game (this isn't Instagram remember). In order to create interest among your new connections, you must show interest in them. Furthermore, make sure you respond promptly to messages.
7. Post content regularly (if you can)
Post about your achievements and projects! This generates lots of interest in your work and a flood of opportunities and connections can come your way. After all, what is the point of having a network if they don't know what you are up to?
1. Do not leave your 'About' section blank.
I chose to write my section in third person, but writing it in first person is also fine. This should give viewers an insight into who you are, your special interests/passions, any notable successful projects you have worked on and achievements you have made. This can be as long as you want it to be but I would limit to max. 500 words.
Rough structure for your 'About' section:
Intro: 2-3 sentences about who you are, what you study/work as and your professional interests
Background story: A paragraph to give readers a bit more information about who you are and what you do for work
Notable awards, achievements and projects: A paragraph or 2 to give readers a brief overview of any notable projects you have been involved with and your major accomplishments.
2. Do not copy and paste entire job descriptions into your 'Experience' section
This is providing too much unnecessary information. Keep it short and sweet - write down the most important duties you had in your role and things that you ACTUALLY did.
3. Do not send messages to people you don't know for no reason (i.e. spam)
LinkedIn is not a dating app or social media site. It is unnecessary to send a message to everyone you have requested to connect with saying: 'Thanks for connecting!' with no follow up. Make sure you do things with a purpose. I only send messages to people within my network when I believe their expertise will help me with something or I would like to ask them some formal questions. The nature of our conversations are always professional and often career-related. I also like to personalise my requests with a short message if I am reaching out to a professional or someone I have recently met.
4. Don't overdo it with the emojis
Again, LinkedIn is not like other social media sites such as Instagram and emojis can dilute the professional message you may be trying to get across. Use emojis sparingly. Save the aubergine for later!
5. You do not have to accept everyone who sends you a request
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be sending out lots of requests to random individuals nor do you need to accept every request you get. If I feel as though someone is not particularly involved in my line of work or relevant to my goals after going through their page, I politely decline. I also tend not to accept requests from under 18s/students still in full-time secondary education etc. This is a personal preference and something I have chosen to do due to safeguarding and the professional nature of LinkedIn. However, people can follow you without being in your immediate network (i.e. you do not have to accept their request but they can follow your public profile). Following someone on LinkedIn allows you to see the person's posts and articles on your homepage without being connected to them.
Overall, LinkedIn is a great place to network with professionals in your field and even find a mentor. I have met some truly inspirational people through the platform and love to keep up to date with my peers and colleagues and their amazing achievements. It is also a good place for you to find your feet and get better at showcasing yourself (believe it or not, this is a vital skill to have).
Employers often look at LinkedIn profiles (since they are usually the first search result to appear when a Google search is done) to hire you for a job and will advertise for positions on there too so make sure you are putting your best foot forward. I hope this encourages you to join LinkedIn or give your current profile a bit of a makeover.