I attended an event held by the Berkeley Haas Alumni Society a few weekends ago. It was a career event tailored for Veterans in the Silicon Valley area. There were several workshops: Resume refinement, tips for your job search, mock interviews, and even a career fair. My favorite parts of the event were the presentations (by Mauri Schwartz & Tim Johnston) given on the importance of LinkedIn for Veterans.
During these presentations I realized something…
Most of our profiles SUCK.
Just like everything else in life, if we suck at something, there is always a way that we can improve. LinkedIn is no different and I’m going to try and lead you in the right direction. Did you know that 94% of recruiters use social media to find candidates for positions these days? This fact alone should make you want to think seriously about creating or updating your profile so that you’re putting your best foot forward.
Whether you’re still serving in the military, on your way out, or served in the past – there’s going to be something here for you. There’s probably something here for you even if you’ve never been in the military. Keep reading and decide for yourself!
1. Decide what you want
Creating a profile takes less than 5 minutes. With that said, you should take a few moments to determine why you’re signing up exactly. Do you want to make a few connections to increase your professional network? Are you about to get out of the military and you want to see what your options are? Are you signing up because everyone else is on there and you don’t want to miss out?
Whatever the reason is, keep that in the back of your mind because it will help you in the long run.
2. Upload a professional profile picture
The profile picture that you were using on Facebook 3 years ago probably isn’t going to be appropriate for LinkedIn. Use something that says you’re a professional but try not to over do it, you should be personable as well. Think about the industry you want to enter and dress the way that you would if you were going to an interview. Don’t be overly formal if that would never happen, but don’t be too laid back if you’d normally be required to show up in a suit and tie. It may seem like common sense, but …
First impressions are lasting impressions…even if they’re digital.
DO: Have a neat appearance, use good lighting, have a mostly-empty or solid background.
DON’T: Use that selfie from a week ago or any of those pictures from the squadron Christmas party.
3. Edit your Headline & Profile URL
Your headline is actually important because it is probably the first thing someone will read when they view your profile. At first, I just let my headline auto-populate with my job titles and positions. You can actually make this area more useful by editing it directly. It should be short, precise, and it should say who you are, where you’re going, and why you’re important. Be as creative as you want, or not…this area is about you!
Also, while we’re on the topic of being creative. Create a custom URL for your profile. This will make it infinitely easier to share your profile and allow other people to look you up. Initially, your profile’s URL will look something like linkedin.com/pub/jamisonvann5435473899028. But you can change it to something that is easier to search like Linkedin.com/in/JamisonVann.
DO: Be specific & creative
DON’T: Let it auto-populate
4. Don’t Write a Boring Summary
Let your summary work for you. Veterans are often stereotyped in the professional world as being straight to the point or cut & dry. In other words, most people assume that we’re just flat-out boring. Use your summary as a way of telling people what you do and what you want to do in the future, while simultaneously showing off your personality (if you have one). It should be written in 1st, not 3rd person. Think ‘more conversation, less resume’. I found a great post on TheMuse.com that gives 5 examples of LinkedIn summaries that are sure to put you on the right track. Make sure you check that out.
DO: Read the article
DON’T: Be boring
5. Translate your skills
Typically, veterans will create their LinkedIn profiles and fill out their work experiences in detail. This often leads to a page filled with military jargon, acronyms, and useless information that employers won’t care about. Fix this by speaking to your audience. You have to remember that the people you want to view your profile, aren’t going to understand most of what you’re saying. Translate your military skills into skills that are transferable to the civilian sector.
Turn things like “Section chief for squadron Supply & Equipment office. Completed RA duties and completed 15 EPRs” into “Supervisor of 20 employees in office resources department. Responsible for procurement of required equipment, budget management, and resource forecasting. Completed personnel evaluations for 15 employees and provided career and leadership development opportunities”.
DO: Translate your skills to their civilian equivalents
DON’T: Say things like “EPR” or “I don’t like working with civilians”
6. Everything Else
As a veteran, you know the importance of finishing the job. Your LinkedIn profile is no different. It’s not enough to simply create a profile and leave it there. You have to put some legitimate time into ensuring your profile is completely filled out. Did you know that there is an algorithm in LinkedIn that affects how your profile ranks when recruiters search for candidates?
There are various strategies for increasing your LinkedIn ranking, but the first thing you should do is become an All-Star. I know you’re already special in your own right, I’m talking about creating an All-Star profile by completing each section in its entirety. Not only will you rank higher, but you’ll give visitors a more complete look at who you are. I would imagine that this could be impressive to a potential employer because it shows that you care about your digital image and have taken the proper steps to complete your profile.
DO: Completely fill out your profile
DON’T: Create a “Ghost Profile” that is only 1/2 completed.
Also, you can take advantage of the LinkedIn for Veterans program. LinkedIn provides the premium “Job Seeker” profile + access to Lynda.com free of charge for one year! Take advantage of this, depending on where you are in your job search. If you’re still pretty far out from transitioning out of the military, I would save this benefit until you are actually closer to needing it.
LinkedIn can be a useful resource for veterans to use when they are transitioning out of the military and into the civilian workforce. But just like any tool, it is only effective if it is used correctly and for its intended purpose.
Make sure that you remember to:
- Decide what you want
- Upload a professional photo
- Edit your headline & profile URL
- Write an engaging summary
- Translate your skills
- Become an All-Star
Use LinkedIn to your advantage and show that you’re not “just another veteran”.
I hate that saying, FYI…
In all seriousness, good luck on your search and be sure to let me know if this guide was helpful or not. Also, feel free to comment with any tips you would add to this list. I’d love to hear your ideas!