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Social media has effected some very big changes in how we search for jobs. It has broadened our networks, increased our visibility, and allowed us to expand our job searches far beyond what newspaper want ads would allow. One of the biggest and best tools for job searchers within social media is Linked In. As of the end of 2015, LinkedIn reported 414 million users. That’s a lot of people which means that’s a lot of potential for landing the job you’ve been wanting. But, just signing up for LinkedIn isn’t enough. You have to make sure that the information you’re sharing on your profile is relevant and memorable. You also have to know when your profile alone is sufficient and when a resume is also necessary. I will now guide you through the process of starting and creating your own LinkedIn profile.

The first step is, of course, creating an account. You will want to point your web browser to http://www.linkedin.com. The very first page you see will allow you to sign up. All you need is your name, an e-mail address, and a password. After entering that information, you will be guided through a series of questions meant to help shape your profile. This is when you will need to start asking yourself some questions about what type of job you are seeking and what information is relevant to that job search. For instance, if you are applying for a job as an IT tech, you probably won’t need to include your part time job as a line cook. But if, like me, you worked as a line cook and helped fix the computers whenever they broke down, you’ll probably want to consider including it.

There are many strategies that people feel will work to give you the most exposure possible on LinkedIn. I found my current job through the site and found, after being hired, that the biggest reason was my active participation in LinkedIn’s various groups. There are thousands of them and the more you can join that relate to your industry and your chosen profession, the better. My employer happened to see a post I made in a Customer Service group and was intrigued enough to contact me for an interview. I was hired a week later. I wasn’t even job hunting. So my recommendation would be to join these groups, participate in them, and try to get as much exposure as you can. Obviously, words can only get you so far, and a strong profile helps to hold the employer’s interest, but engaging in a dialogue with other professionals in your industry is a very good way to be seen. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, use an appropriate photograph. This isn’t Facebook. The image you choose to represent yourself on your profile says a lot about who you are and how you view yourself. It doesn’t have to be a fancy head shot but it should be simple and tasteful. That picture of you doing a keg stand at your cousin’s wedding two weeks ago probably wouldn’t be the best one to use.

Something else that can help you create a successful, attention grabbing profile is listing your personal skills and achievements. If ever there was a time to brag about yourself, it is on LinkedIn. List the things you’re good at, list your accomplishments, list your volunteer work. This all helps to not only grab the employer’s attention but also paint them a picture of who you are. On my profile, which I included screen shots of below, I listed volunteer work I did in Nicaragua way back in high school because it was important to me and it helped shape me as a person. Just because it happened 10 or more years ago, doesn’t make it irrelevant.

The best way that I have found to include this, or any other information for that matter, is to view my own profile on LinkedIn. It will guide you and show you the best places on your profile to list accomplishments and other information. This will also help you to fill out as much of the profile as possible. The more information you can provide, the better. Another good guide is to view other people’s profiles as an example. If someone else has a profile that’s working and has been successful, there is no shame in copying their format.

You may be wondering when it is appropriate to use your LinkedIn profile to apply for a job and when you should use your resume. The two share a lot in common. I’ve found that the best argument for using a resume is that you only have one LinkedIn profile. You can’t have several that cater to different employers or different industries. With a resume, you can add, remove, or reformat anything to suit your audience. Also, a LinkedIn profile’s language has a tendency, due to being part of social media, to be a bit more informal whereas we tend to use more formal language on resumes. Which you decide will ultimately be up to you and the requirements of the employer. Some will request a resume be included along with your profile application. Others explicitly ask you not to send one. In either case, I do recommend that you always make sure to bring your resume along with a list of references to the job interview.

My final bit of information involves your education. If you have a degree, things are pretty straightforward. You list what your degree is in and move on. However, if you are in the midst of perusing one, things get a bit more complicated. You should absolutely include that in your profile but, and I’ve found this to be helpful to some friends of mine who are also in college, you should also include what areas within that curriculum interest you. If you are getting your degree as an IT Specialist and you have a particular passion about networking or security, make sure to include that. Employers aren’t necessarily strictly looking for people who already have the skills they are looking for. They are also looking for people who have knowledge and abilities that they can foster and encourage and help you grow within the company.

As I said earlier, social media has done a lot for job seekers in terms of widening our scope and giving us access to a larger network of people. With a strong LinkedIn profile and a little bit of luck, you will be well on your way to finding the job you’ve always wanted.

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