Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Using LinkedIn to review your career, professional skills and experience

One of the things I have been doing recently is update my LinkedIn account. This process is turning out to be really useful, because if nothing else, it is getting me to think about how I frame up my skills and experience.

How necessary is having a LinkedIn account?
On the whole, I haven't engaged with LinkedIn, other than ponder on its use as an ePortfolio in education. It doesn't seem to be used extensively in New Zealand and Australia, especially in healthcare and education. However, I know it is a "must" if you're looking for work in the UK and USA. (If you want to know more, just google "how to use LinkedIn to find a job").

As I work through the process of updating my LinkedIn account, I have come to realise there are four key things you need to do to make your LinkedIn account effective for job hunting. 

Identify and quantify your skills and experience
The first thing I realised when I looked at my account was how dense it was...very wordy...boring...and very difficult to pick out key skills and achievements.  Yes...I have worked for Otago Polytechnic for 12 years, but it was difficult to see, from a recruiter's point of view, how that work experience could be applied in a more general sense.

So, have a think about your experience, and reflect on your skills. Then, quantify them by telling stories, providing evidence, and asking people to write a recommendation as additional evidence.

Getting the key words right
This flows on from the previous point. You have to find the right words to explain what you can do and offer employers, that capture the attention. One of my key words was "educator", which could mean an hundred things. It didn't tell any one that I use eLearning technologies, that I facilitate webinars, design adult education courses, or run workshops on how to use social media for learning and teaching.  So I am changing my key words to "online facilitator", "instructional designer" and "staff developer".

Work out who you want your audience to be
I have found this to be a lot more difficult than I first thought it would be, because I am not sure what I want my next job to be. If I wanted my next job to be a clinical midwife, then clearly I would emphasise my experience and skills with catching babies.

What you have to remember is recruiters and employers troll through LinkedIn to find potential employees. The challenge is to provide information that will catch a potential employer's attentions so that he/she goes on to engage with you.

Marketing yourself
Be honest, but don't be afraid of singing your own praises. I think a lot of us find this difficult to do. But the reality is, if we keep our light hidden under a bushel, how can we expect anyone to find us?!

The beauty about updating your LinkedIn account is that it is not wasted time or energy. I have found this process has helped me to frame up my skills and experience, which has helped me strengthen my CV and prepare for interviews. It has also helped me become a lot clearer in my mind about what I want to do when I grow up!

In my next post, I'll pass on a few tips that I have recently learned about LinkedIn Recommendations - are they narcissistic nonsense or essential feedback? 

Image: 'James, I think your cover's blown!'

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