The Founder and CEO of Career Codex gave an insight talk at Accountex, the largest UK conference for accountancy and finance professionals, held at ExCeL London. He discussed how LinkedIn can be used to advance careers, and that it’s no longer an option, but an absolute must! The information he shared is suitable for all students looking to kick start their career.
Here is what he had to say:
LinkedIn is somewhat of a double-edged sword. With over 500m users and counting on the platform it has the power to give you unparalleled access to decision makers at the click of a button.
But…by the same token, it can also make standing out and being found increasingly more difficult.
This means before ever jumping on the platform you have to focus, and make a decision on who you want to reach and with what message.
Now owned by Microsoft we can expect LinkedIn’s importance to increase along with integration with systems we currently use each and every day.
All in all, LinkedIn is here to stay and become more important in all of our lives – both personal and professional.
Success on LinkedIn when advancing your career is all about personal branding and thought leadership.
With that said, please raise your hand if in the last 30 days you’ve done a Google search of your name?
If you’ve never done this before, I’d advise you give it a try.
Open up the search engine, type in your name and location and see what comes up. I do this periodically and am always surprised by what I find.
It’s a big clue as to what message is being communicated to the world about who you are, what you do and most importantly what you stand for!
This is important because more and more people nowadays are spending an increasing amount of time online researching, before ever making a decision to do business with you and the organisation you represent, or making a decision to hire you.
LinkedIn is a website in its own right and will usually be in one of the first few results Google throws up.
Your personal brand is what others say about you when you’re not there.
If you’re not taking control of your message to the world then there’s a chance the narrative out there and people’s thoughts about you and what you do are not what you’d ideally like them to be.
Thought leadership is communicating a message as an expert and leading light in your field. By positioning yourself as an authority on a specific topic, subject matter or industry sector, your expertise will be sought after and rewarded.
LinkedIn is the tool to build your personal brand and to position yourself as a thought leader.
But to do this effectively, you have to decide on, know and understand two things:
1) YOUR Audience – who you’re talking to.
If you’re active in the job market – are you really clear on the type of organisation you want to work for and do you have a value proposition that will get their attention?
2) YOUR Message – this must be clear, concise and resonate with your target audience to gain their attention.
Building a personal brand is about being YOU (after all everyone else is taken) – it’s about YELLING OUT your UNIQUENESS!
LinkedIn is the marketing tool for you and all you have to offer, but in recent years the marketing game has changed.
Marketing used to be about communicating a sales message to the biggest audience possible.
Think TV advertising, which is essentially a general message to a very large audience. Clearly there is some targeting determined by the channel and the time the advert airs, but it’s still a very broad-brush approach, not to mention very expensive.
What’s more, does anyone actually take notice of the adverts on TV anymore? I usually go and make a drink, or if I’ve recorded something I’ll just fast-forward.
This is OUTBOUND marketing at its best, but in reality, marketing in my opinion, at its worst.
With more and more sales messages bombarding us from every angle at every opportunity, as human beings for our own sanity, we’ve learnt to filter this excessive noise out.
Modern marketing has nothing to do with selling – it has instead everything to do with helping and educating.
As consumers, we use the Internet to research our purchases well in advance. We’re informed consumers who know what we want and where to get it, and what’s more, we have a choice where to get it.
Where we get it is influenced by individuals or organisations that have built a relationship with us along the way. Those that have helped us alleviate a problem or aspire to a solution. Those that have connected with us emotionally.
This is INBOUND marketing, which attracts customers to us when they’re ready to buy.
Think about your last major purchase – what influenced you and what prompted you to take action – was it an outbound or inbound marketing message?
Building a personal brand on LinkedIn – is all about inbound marketing.
On LinkedIn this is much more than having an optimised profile (what I call your ‘SW’ / ‘Shop Window’), it’s about using the platform proactively to attract opportunities (what I call your ‘PET’ / ‘Proactive Engagement Tool’).
This means being helpful, interesting and engaging, and being prepared to do this consistently.
While many have a LinkedIn profile, very few use it proactively.
They fail to communicate their personal brand or position themselves as a thought leader.
While having an attractive SW is important, it’s like driving a Ferrari in first gear, unless you use the platform as a PET.
There are three ways to climb up the gears to make your LinkedIn profile work harder for you:
Firstly: Updates are a great way to communicate a consistent message to your connections.
What are the hot topics in your niche, and what questions will your audience have and how could you help?
Curated content – essentially taking someone else’s content, adding your opinion and then sharing it with your connections is a quick and easy way to do this.
What’s more, liking, commenting on or sharing the posts of decision makers you’re looking to get close to is a great way to get their attention and put you firmly on their radar.
Second: Articles – content you originally create, which has even more attention-grabbing value, but of course takes longer to produce.
LinkedIn puts the opportunity to create articles right at the top of your profile, underneath your photo and professional headline, which is a great clue that you should be writing them.
When you post an article, your first-tier connections will find it in their feed, and if it resonates and they decide to share it, their second-tier connections may see it too.
By creating something of value that is not about selling, but instead helps your audience, can mean your message goes viral.
You can also position your articles in front of a specific target audience, which brings me nicely to LinkedIn groups.
For me, LinkedIn groups are where the real power of LinkedIn lies. Groups are a collection of individuals united by a common interest, profession or cause. If you think of LinkedIn as the ocean, groups enable you to reach a specific type of fish.
What’s more, as a member of a group LinkedIn gives you a special type of connection – called a group connection. This comes with many of the benefits of being directly connected to someone, including the ability to message them directly.
LinkedIn is currently making changes to groups that will make them more important, so now’s the time to get familiar with them and to start positioning yourself as a thought leader.
The groups you pick could be a collection of your industry peers in order to share best practice, or a collection of people you have identified as your target audience.
As a recruiter I would engage in groups all the time. Groups enabled me to be much more targeted in finding the right candidate to get a quicker, faster and better result.
We live in a world of instant gratification where fast results are what we’ve often come to expect.
In the job market many have the expectation of ‘here’s my CV, hire me’ right now.
In the business world it’s a similar story and we can have the expectation of ‘here’s my proposal, hire me’ right now.
When things don’t happen in the timescales we expect, it’s easy to become despondent, disempowered and lose confidence.
Building a personal brand and establishing yourself as a thought leader takes time – it takes time to see the fruits of your labour, but when those fruits arrive they’re often high-probability opportunities that others are not yet aware of.
Instead of see me > hire me, a far better strategy is see me > like me > trust me > hire me, and LinkedIn is the perfect platform for doing this.
See me >
This means having an optimised and complete profile. If LinkedIn gives you an option to do something, the best advice is to take it. For example, adding media items is a great way to make your profile more interesting and engaging.
LinkedIn is a website and as such keywords are important. What are people likely to be searching on to find someone with your skills, experience and expertise?
Your headline is key along with your summary section, and the skills & endorsements section gives you the opportunity to select and rank specific skills you’d like to be known for and also endorsed for.
Like me >
This is the curated content (updates) and created content (articles) I mentioned earlier.
Not everyone will resonate with your personal brand or agree with your thought leadership stance, but that’s the whole point.
If you know your audience and what matters to them, you’ll attract the right people and repel those you wouldn’t want to do business with anyway.
Good marketing has to polarise – and you have to stand for something to stand out.
Trust me >
I don’t know anyone that actively chooses to do business with someone they don’t trust.
Trust is the magic key to that new contract or new job – without it the probability of anything happening is very small indeed.
Social proof is key – essentially not what you say about yourself, but what others say for you.
On LinkedIn this means recommendations, contacts in common and endorsements from the right people – who are known to your target audience or regarded as highly skilled in a certain discipline.
Hire me >
When people are ready to transact make sure it’s easy for them to get in touch.
Your contact information should be complete, and I also recommend including your phone number and email address in your summary section.
Responsiveness is important too – when someone does get in touch, getting back to them quickly and moving the conversation forward is key. LinkedIn is often the starting point, but before a hiring decision is made a face-to-face meeting is usually required.