How Does LinkedIn Work, Anyway? Up Your Game and Land a New Job

This article appeared originally on Next Avenue.

What will be the hot job trends for applicants, career switchers and members of the gig economy next year? To find out, I attended the Career Thought Leaders Career Jam: Where Experts Forecast The New & The Next (formerly Global Career Brainstorming Day).

It was the annual multi-city event that, this year, brought together 80 career professionals—career coaches (like me), resumé writers and HR consultants—to share insights and predictions. This year, I participated via a virtual meeting with seven U.S.-based colleagues, plus one from Spain and one from Canada.

I’m delighted to tell you that unlike the two previous jams I attended, the tone of this one was decidedly upbeat about the outlook for job seekers. In fact, several of the resumé writers and coaches said this December was their busiest in recent memory. More importantly, they noted, they’re now working more with people who are voluntarily seeking a job change and less with those in forced transitions.

After a rough ride for job seekers, I think the tables are finally turning,” said Virginia Franco, an executive resumé writer based in Charlotte N.C.

So how can you capitalize on the strong job market in 2017? Here are five ideas from my colleagues to power your job search in the year ahead:

1. To Premium or not to Premium?

new jobNot surprisingly, LinkedIn (the online business networking service) dominated the discussion. Everyone agreed that a powerful LinkedIn profile has become the critical foundational piece of any career marketing effort.

“I probably put three times the amount of work into my clients’ profiles than I did a few years ago,” Franco said.

But there was also widespread agreement that many job hunters find LinkedIn intimidating and difficult to use.

What I’m seeing from clients is a desire to have a LinkedIn profile, but they don’t know how to distinguish themselves,” said Jackie Martin, a Toronto-based career consultant with IMPACT Group.

One common LinkedIn dilemma these days: Is a paid LinkedIn account worth the money? Or will the free version do?

The general consensus was that a free account is normally sufficient, but a Premium account—which runs $29.99 a month and includes extras like direct messaging to recruiters—can be useful while you’re in active job-search mode. Franco shared a Forbes post she recently wrote addressing the pros and cons of a Premium account.

2. Headlines matter—make yours count

new jobThe career pros also shared their views on how to craft a strong LinkedIn profile in this job market when you’re hoping to switch careers or pursue different types of opportunities. The LinkedIn profile headline can be extremely limiting for such people, these experts acknowledged, especially if you’re juggling multiple income streams as a gig worker. For example, how do you identify yourself in your LinkedIn profile if you’re a sales exec with a side gig as a writer?

The short answer, since there’s no foolproof workaround, is to figure out the common threads that run through your gigs and feature them succinctly in your headline. Then, use the rest of the profile to back up your headline claims.

Another option: Use slashes in your headline to highlight your key roles, such as “Author/Speaker/Writer.”

For specific suggestions on dealing with multiple goals in your LinkedIn headline, check out this post by Viveka von Rosen, author of “LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day,” called “Can I Have More Than One LinkedIn Account?”

To make your LinkedIn profile more compelling, the experts agreed, include multimedia elements.

“Add in content that showcases your expertise,” recommended Elisabeth Sanders-Park, a Wilmington, N.C., consultant and career coach specializing in hard-to-place clients. Sanders-Park said adding a white paper or a short, downloadable e-book is a powerful way to reinforce your brand and impress recruiters.

For people who enjoy writing and have the time, posting on LinkedIn’s publishing platform is another excellent way to stand out from the competition. It’s a great way to share your knowledge, increase your visibility on LinkedIn and showcase your expertise without having to create your own blog or website.

3. Share, comment and blog

new jobFortunately, you don’t have to spend hours devising content to leverage LinkedIn.

“One of the easiest ways to use LinkedIn is to share articles of interest to your market off of your home page,” said Anne-Marie Ditta, an executive career coach in Mount Vernon, N.Y. “Another smart thing is to participate in LinkedIn’s special interest groups.”

Franco agreed, adding that she’d tracked clients who generally spent under an hour a week engaging on LinkedIn and found they had shorter successful job searches than others.

Don’t forget, the Career Jammers said: The main point of LinkedIn is to help you be a more effective networker.

“The basics still really count,” Ditta said. “So use LinkedIn to help you do simple, but important, things like meet someone over coffee or lunch. Sometimes, we make it a lot more complicated than it has to be.”

4. Know your prospective employee’s culture

new jobThe career pros also noted how important it has become to be familiar with a prospective employer’s workplace culture when applying for a job. As more people work in multi-generational environments, there’s a growing need for new hires to feel comfortable with different work styles and norms.

“Candidates need to invest more time not just learning about the company, but also about the nuances of the styles of the people they will be working in,” Martin said. That’s especially true if you’re looking for a job as a manager and younger and older people will report to you.

Tara Goodfellow, a resumé writer and career coach in Charlotte, N.C., said her career planning conversations with clients are often impacted by their age and life stage. As this Harvard Business Review article noted, younger people with few outside obligations tend to be more motivated by new experiences and opportunities, while mid-career professionals with children and mortgages crave greater work/life balance.

5. Look for jobs in skilled trades

Job growth will be especially strong in the skilled trades (electricians, plumbers and the like), the participants said. Sanders-Park said she senses an increasing appreciation for the value of skilled trade workers.

“Those are jobs that can’t be outsourced and many pay very well,” she added.

As this NPR report pointed out, with so many retiring from jobs in skilled trades, the U.S. is going to need a lot more pipe fitters, nuclear power plant operators, carpenters, welders and others to fill the gap.