Updated 30 October 2012
OK so first up, congratulations on making it this far! The simple fact that you're reading means you're open minded about your career development. You glimpsed a headline screaming LinkedIn profiles aren't that important - and instead of thinking "nutter" you've been drawn in to find out more!
Keep that open mind until the end of this piece and we can promise you a powerful new weapon in your career armoury.
Before sharing what you really need to transform your career fortunes, let's quickly look at why LinkedIn is - and is not - all important for your career. This is of huge significance both to those of you currently looking to change jobs - and to those of you who are thinking more long-term about positioning yourself for success.
LinkedIn has all sorts of uses for someone in job hunt mode, but fundamentally what LinkedIn has done is to open up a powerful resume database of candidates to any and every recruiter or employer that cares to look. This has had a profound effect on the recruitment market - and means that, contrary to our headline, your LinkedIn profile is certainly worth expending some energy getting right. But that, as they say, would be a whole other story...
What is really fascinating is what LinkedIn has not done to the hiring market.... as this is where there is real scope for you to stand out from the crowd.
Where LinkedIn has only scratched the surface is in the area of distinguising between good candidates and great candidates. You see a CV / resume can only tell a recruiter so much. This was true ten years ago, before LinkedIn came on the scene. It's equally true now, in an era where many foresee the resume being replaced with the LinkedIn profile.
What we're about to advocate sounds ordinary and far from leading edge. Until that is, you consider how few people are genuinely doing this in a concerted effort to further their careers. So do keep that open mind of yours wide open for a couple of minutes more...
Once you've crafted a decent LinkedIn profile, the missing ingredient is to become the author of a blog. For many of you that'll mean writing about some aspect of your professional career; for some it'll mean writing about some element of your life that gives others an insight into your character. The key things are:
1. Your blog conveys your passion for a topic and gives a recruiter a far more compelling picture of you than a simple resume or LinkedIn profile.
2. Your blog will self-propagate to reach an audience of interested parties, building your reputation over time and spreading your name through social media in ways that weren't possible even a couple of years ago.
3. Your blog allows you to showcase your personality through your style of writing - and more importantly, through the subsequent interactions you'll have with people commenting on your blog posts.
In just a moment, we'll look at how this could really transform your career trajectory. But for now, let's deal with the elephant in the room. There's no technological reason holding you back from doing this! Whether you're an internet ninja or a hopeless technophobe, if you can use Word you're pretty much there in terms of being able to publish your own blog!
As with most things on the web, the choices are pretty much endless. But for the purposes of consigning this objection to the scrap heap, suffice it to say that in just two minutes you could have yourself a candidate profile or a recruiter profile here on Social-Hire complete with all the tools you need to publish blog posts, respond to blog comments and promote your blog through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or pretty much any other social media you care to mention.
So if we can all agree that blogging is technologically well within your grasp, let's picture just a few ways in which your career is going to be transformed by adding occasional blogging to your armoury...
Scenario 1 - you're one of a number of candidates under consideration. Picture the scene. Your dream employer has been scouring LinkedIn to find candidates with a particular profile. You and a dozen other candidates have emerged as very strong matches. The career progression and business results you've achieved are all pretty comparable. The employers you've worked for are all similarly compelling. There's little to separate you - and yet somehow the recruiter needs to decide where to invest their time and which of the candidates to pursue.
Just as it looks like your chances of interview are hit and miss, your blog propels you into top spot! Scanning the content you've posted, the recruiter is increasingly convinced you have the expertise they are looking for in this domain. Your blog has endorsed your candidacy in a way that your simple LinkedIn profile alone could never have achieved. BUT WAIT!! Then the recruiter notices some of the interactions that have taken place on your blog - and sees gushing praise from individuals in your industry. Heck, maybe even from somebody they know and respect themselves! While the other candidates can only boast turgid and censored recommendations on LinkedIn, here you are with glowing praise being dished out by respected figures from across your industry. The interview is well and truly in the bag - and indeed your ability to impress at interview is already a step ahead of any other candidate under consideration...
Scenario 2 - your blog puts you on recruiters' radars and the headhunting approaches multiply. Now imagine that your blog has been gaining a following in your industry. Others love your content and the insights you're sharing. They start to share your links with their social media networks. Your name becomes known in the industry. You're invited to speak at conferences, contribute one-off editorials to other sector publications, increasingly talk to other social media influencers in your sector. Before you know it, you've become someone who recruiters are actually considering as a candidate before the shortlisting process has even begun.
LinkedIn profiles are important as they show you to be a potential match for a requirement a recruiter needs to fill. They provide a recruiter with a potential match where previously they had none. But what if you're increasingly considered as a great hire for roles before the recruiter has even started looking on LinkedIn, because your blogging reputation and your credibility make you a dream hire? Still think your LinkedIn profile is the most important thing to optimize?! No, thought not.
Scenario 3 - your blog means you are approached for recommendations. Now take this one step further. Imagine now that your blogging identity is such that you are frequently approached by recruiters looking for recommendations of potential hires. Your persona in the industry means recruiters think of you as someone who is "bound to know of a great person to fill this role". Sometimes these roles will have you salivating yourself. Other times you'll be able to help others to secure a great new career move - and solidify your relationships in the sector further. But what's changed now is that instead of having to approach recruiters when you want to change jobs, you're now in the envious position of being alerted to many of the juiciest roles in your sector through the power of your standing as a respected expert.
Clearly there are degrees to which you can take this. Varying effort you'll put into the frequency of your writing; into your efforts to see that your blog becomes widely known; into building rapport and relationships with those you come into contact with as a result of your blogging.
But regardless, if you are open minded enough to have read this far, hopefully your mind is now whirring with excitement at the endless possibilities there are for you to start writing about something you're knowledgeable or passionate about. So forget the obsession with LinkedIn Profiles - what your career really needs is a compelling blog to showcase your personality, professionalism and expertise.
Footnote: there's no time like the present, so why not get started right away? What aspect of your personal or professional life could you write about with passion and conviction? Don't leave this page until you've come up with a great idea!
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