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Good news! The job market for nonprofit leaders is looking good! Boomers are slowly but surely retiring and leadership opportunities across the sector are opening up. Think you've got the chops? Great. Read on to learn how you can use LinkedIn to show the world what you've got.
Wait, what? Today, recruiting firms like Envision Consulting don't just flip through Rolodexes to find top talent. In addition to working our networks and going through applications, we rely on LinkedIn to uncover promising candidates. Yep, that's right, LinkedIn. It's the world's largest professional network, and though not without shortcomings, it is still the best source for recruiters to find qualified candidates. And increasingly, recruiters, colleagues, even your clients and funders are looking at LinkedIn profiles to learn more about you. Which means that not having a profile on LinkedIn, or having one that is incomplete or slapdash, tells them you are stuck in the pre-digital age, or, worse, have nothing of interest to share.
So, what makes for a good LinkedIn profile? Here are seven tips from the executive recruiters at Envision Consulting:
Set up a profile. First things first. That means you need to set up a LinkedIn profile and populate it with the basics: where you've worked, what your title/role was, and the start and end dates for each position. Add a blurb about yourself and highlight a few key accomplishments for each job you've had. Bonus tip: Take a moment to choose a stimulating headline for your profile. Use a fun phrase or three to four words that best describe you and your skills. These become searchable keywords for recruiters who are trying to locate job candidate with the right skill set.
Respond to messages. Don't burn your bridges before they've been built. As with anyone that reaches out to you in a professional capacity, reply to the messages you receive on LinkedIn a courteous and professional manner. (Recruiters are real people, too, and we want to help you succeed in your career.) It's okay if you tell a recruiter you're "not interested at this time" — at least we'll know that you're familiar with basic email etiquette. Bonus tip: Don't click on the "decline email" link if you do want to stay in touch. LinkedIn prevents people from sending you a follow-up message if you "decline" a message.
Make sure your profile includes a good headshot. In today's image-obsessed world, having a professional, good-quality headshot for your profile seems like a no-brainer. And yet we see so many bad ones (or profiles without a headshot at all) on LinkedIn. Take a serious look at your profile picture and ask yourself, Does this look like a professional headshot? And does it reflect what I look like today? Don't be that first date that shows up looking nothing like his or her dating-site photo. Choose a picture that portrays you as friendly and approachable, and, please, don't use one that's been cropped from a group photo, no matter how good you look in it.
Turn on "receive email messages." Having a great profile on LinkedIn isn't enough. Once you've piqued a recruiter's or potential employer's interest with your profile, they have to be able to reach you. So make sure you click on the "receive emails from other LinkedIn members" link, which will allow messages from LinkedIn users to go directly to your regular email inbox (just in case you don't check LinkedIn daily). Here's how: Go into your LinkedIn Settings (under the Me tab) and click on Communications at the top of that page, then click "Email Frequency" and make sure the "Messages from other LinkedIn members" is switched to "On."
Show you're open to new opportunities (privately). Did you know LinkedIn has a feature that lets you put out a private signal to recruiters that you're open to job opportunities? No, you don't want to mention this on your public profile page, and definitely not in your header. The goal here is to impress, not look desperate. Here's how to do it: Go to Settings (under the Me tab), click on the Privacy link (at the top of the page), and, under "Job Seeking," make sure the "Let recruiters know you're open to opportunities" button is toggled to "Yes." When the feature is turned on, recruiters can target you, while LinkedIn takes some steps to keep your current employer from knowing you're open to entertaining job offers from others. That said, remember that it's a small world and all it takes for your employer to find out is for a friend of a friend to spill the beans.
Issues with dates of employment? Do your employment date ranges include some shorter stints? The average tenure for most positions is three to five years, and when a recruiter sees a tenure shorter than that, she'll often wonder why. Not because she thinks there isn't a good reason, but because employers are looking for candidates who are willing to commit to at least a few years in a position. Here are two tips to consider if your LinkedIn profile does include more than one short tenure: 1) Were you in the job for less than a year? Could you omit the job from your profile and still be able to account for that year in a way that will appeal to prospective employers? And 2) Was the short tenure due to a job title change or contract/temp work? If so, consider merging the two positions into one so that it covers a longer period of time.
Is it worth the effort? Of all the social media platforms, LinkedIn is THE network for professionals, and the best part is you don't have to update your profile regularly. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely. LinkedIn can notify you when people are checking out your profile, as well as how you're being found and who's looking at your profile. But remember, it's quality, not quantity, that counts. You never know when the right person with the right opportunity might reach out. It could be for a new position in a new industry, or it could be a colleague from your past. So, yes, it absolutely is worth the time and effort. Do it for yourself — and for your career!
Julie Ha Truong is a principal at Envision Consulting, which inspires social sector leaders to do more good and provides strategy consulting, executive recruitment, talent and board development to nonprofits.