Managing Your Career with LinkedIn

Social media has become far more than a way for friends to stay in touch with one another. Today, millions of professionals in virtually all industries use specialized social networking platforms such as LinkedIn to not only manage their careers, but also build upon their real-life networks and establish connections with other like-minded professionals. However, the difference between maintaining a lackluster LinkedIn profile and an active social media presence that can open doors for you is critical, and without a strategic approach to networking on LinkedIn, you could be missing out on remarkable career opportunities.

Recently, students enrolled in the MBA@UNC Master of Business Administration program had the chance to learn how to maximize their presence on LinkedIn thanks to an exclusive online information session hosted by Shawnice Meador, director of career management and leadership development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Shifting Paradigms

In today's highly competitive business environment, even the most talented or experienced candidates can no longer afford to sit idly by and wait for new opportunities to present themselves. Just as social media has revolutionized how professionals look for jobs, it has also transformed the ways human resources personnel and hiring managers seek out talent.

In a recent survey of more than 1,000 human resources professionals, online recruitment consultancy Jobvite set out to determine the extent to which social media plays a role in these individuals' search habits. Approximately 92 percent of respondents indicated that social media factored heavily into their searches, highlighting the need for an active online presence for today's professionals.

Visualizing Connections

LinkedIn provides valuable networking resources to ambitious professionals seeking their next opportunity. One of the key advantages of expanding your LinkedIn network is the ability to see, at a glance, which companies are hiring and the managers and human resources professionals who are connected to your network. LinkedIn offers you the ability to reach out to second- and even third-tier contacts through the people you already know. This can be an excellent way to leverage the connections you have made in your professional life and your time at Kenan-Flagler and establish new connections with people at companies that are in need of talent.

Keeping Profiles Professional

With so many talented workers searching for new opportunities, it can be tempting to defy convention when creating your LinkedIn profile. However, including extraneous information, attempting to use humor and otherwise going against the grain could actually harm your prospects.

During the session, examples of how some professionals have attempted to use LinkedIn as a way to differentiate themselves from others in their field were examined. One piece of advice that Meador offered attendees was to ensure that their LinkedIn profiles were as professional as possible. Although positions in some sectors, particularly marketing, may value or even require an offbeat approach to promoting your skills, going too far can result in missed opportunities. Meador advised that your skills should speak for themselves.

Getting to the Point

Just as your resume should be clear, succinct and readable, so too should your LinkedIn profile. Although the use of social media in recruitment has become commonplace, this does not necessarily mean that hiring managers have any more time or inclination to delve through pages of irrelevant information to determine whether you would be a suitable match for an available position.

To make your LinkedIn profile as strong as possible, ensure that your summary provides a concise overview of your previous experience and skills as well as your career goals. Your profile's headline should also be clear, indicating either your current position or a short description of the work you do.

Ensure that the skills and expertise section is as complete as possible, as many hiring managers scan this section to quickly identify whether your skills match those of the position. Endorsements for stated skills can be tremendously valuable to potential employers, as these statements verify that you can do what you say you can do, and provide an external perspective on your previous performance.