The Subtle Art of Balancing Your LinkedIn
Scrolling through a LinkedIn feed is doom-scrolling like no other. Facebook might show you who your ex is dating, but LinkedIn will tell you that they got hired at Tesla. Move past that, you should be paying attention to your own profile. LinkedIn is now the first line of defense when it comes to your professional life. It’s the first impression recruiters, clients, fellow freelancers, and jealous ex-schoolmates will have of you. For many freelancers, it’s the only social media app you use that’s actually important. Post your “funny” observations on Twitter and your trip to Bangkok on Instagram, but LinkedIn shouldn’t be used so casually. You might think “I have my resume, who cares about my LinkedIn?” Answer: everyone, and you should too. LinkedIn isn’t the same as a resume. Think about it in an entirely different way.
You should see the newfound importance of LinkedIn as a boon. There is nothing worse than sending mass amounts of job applications for months like a machine. With LinkedIn, clients can come to you. This isn’t to say that they necessarily do, but LinkedIn provides a permanent place for your credentials to be found. Previously, the only way a client or company would hear about you is after you reached out in some way. If you want LinkedIn to actually work for you, and minimize the amount of time you have to search for work, you need to continually use it. Spend some serious time networking on LinkedIn. You can have 30,000 connections, so start connecting and messaging people who work at companies you like, or have job title’s similar to yours, or is in a position to hire people, or is just plain cool. The more you put yourself out there, the more people will actively search for your profile. If no one knows you’re on LinkedIn how can you expect anyone to find you on LinkedIn?
KEEP THE CANDY STORE
This is not to say you shouldn’t keep a resume. You should of course still have a resume, but because clients will most likely see both your resume and your LinkedIn profile these days, you don’t want them to be exactly the same. The biggest difference here is that a resume really should be kept to one page, limiting how much information you can keep on it. Your LinkedIn profile on the other hand, can be as long as you want. Take advantage of this. LinkedIn can give a client a bigger and more complete picture of you and your history, so feel free to keep that restaurant you worked at in the summers between semesters or those baby-sitting gigs you did (as long as you can make them seem relevant). Also, when you apply to a job, you might update your resume so it’s geared more specifically toward that job. You don’t necessarily need to do that with LinkedIn. It’s not that your profile should be generic, but it doesn’t need to be updated for every client. Logistically that just doesn’t make sense. Different types of clients will be viewing your LinkedIn profile at the same time. If your profile has been focused on one type of client, it will keep others away. That being said, you should revisit your LinkedIn profile every so often to make sure all the information is up to date; both with reality (say if you’ve gotten new work) and with how you feel about it. As time goes on we can think about past jobs in a different light. Sometimes you might see an entry on your LinkedIn profile and no longer know why you described something in a certain way. Feel free to change it to better reflect your current understanding.
One’s LinkedIn profile not only has space for previous jobs and education, but for things like skills, endorsements, recommendations, and “about” sections. This can make it so LinkedIn occupies much of the same space that not only resumes do, but cover letters and personal websites do as well. It can be tough to determine what credentials should go where. It’s perfectly okay for there to be some overlapping information. No matter where a potential client first notices you, whether it’s your resume, LinkedIn, or personal website, they should be able to get a decent understanding of you from that one source. If they are interested, they can then learn more about you through your other professional sources. Because every single one of these sources needs to give clients a good idea of your credentials on their own, there is of course going to be lots of repeat information across your resume, LinkedIn, website, etc. That doesn’t mean they should all be exactly the same though. What would be the point if they were. LinkedIn will probably be the way most potential clients first see you. For this reason, you should treat LinkedIn as a sort of career bible. Use your resume or website to present more focused or specific information. Use LinkedIn to give a more comprehensive view of your experience.
Don’t think of your LinkedIn as just a second resume. These are two different components of your professional portfolio and should be treated as such.