Today we're going to cover a few basics about LinkedIn and why you should be using it for your professional career. This post will only cover the basics as there's a ton of information out there and I'm not an expert on all things LinkedIn. I have learned through trial, educating myself, and reaching out to the more successful voices on the platform.
First lets start with that LinkedIn is. LinkedIn markets itself as a way to manage your professional identity with the ability to build and engage with your professional network. In short it is social media focused on the professional environment. Like all social media is can be useful or harmful depending on how it is used. If you're still on active duty and not yet ready to separate or retire it is still beneficial to get a LinkedIn so the basic framework is there. You can also focus on building your LinkedIn network throughout your career and not all at once (like I made the mistake of doing).
BONUS: Military members and veterans get one year of LinkedIn Premium for FREE! I recommend you activate your free year subscription at the one year mark from separating/retiring. You can find instructions on how to do that here.
Now that you're signed up, the following three things will help you make the most of getting started.
1) Professional Headshot
A picture is worth 1000 words (and does a better job than the rest of this paragraph). This is what I started with vs what I have now. I wish I'd gotten professional headshots done sooner. It is well worth the money. If you search around you might even be able to find some awesome events like one held recently by Rob Rens that included professional attire, professional headshot, LinkedIn coaching, transition advice, and mental health consults. Seriously if you're in central to Eastern NC make sure you're following him.
I saw somewhere that professional headshots make you nearly 14 times more likely to have your profile viewed. Just make sure your profile photo is set to visible for contacts outside of your network so people you haven't yet connected with can see. Lastly, don't use pictures in uniform or any "hero" shots showing how cool you are. Save those for Facebook, Instagram, etc.
2) Translate Your Experience
LinkedIn not only offers you a place where you can display what you've accomplished while in the military, it also offers a place where you can learn how other successful veterans with your background translated their experience. Leave the jargon and acronyms behind. I know this is easier said than done, but the best way to make sure you can tell your story and show your value are by learning to speak it in business language. Seek out those with your background, read their profiles, engage with them. You'll find most veterans are willing to tell you about what did and did not work for them.
No one is going to hire you simply for being a veteran, but once you can translate what you've done into why it matters for that company you'll be heading in the right direction.
3) Expand Your Network
This ties back to my previous post about networking, but start with people you know professionally from work throughout your career. From there join veteran groups based on your location or desired location post-separation. Once you've done that you'll notice lots of "2nd" connections where you have mutual connections in common. Use this as a starting point for growth. In the current COVID-19 landscape people are more likely to interact digitally than they were before. Don't just send an invite, make sure you personalize it and send a short message with the invite. Don't ask for anything in the invite either, just make an introduction and ask to connect.
These basics should get you moving in the right direction. There are many more areas and topics to focus on that we could spend days talking about. Make sure you check out my LinkedIn post for comments/advice from my network and as always let me know what you think.