LinkedIn is a network of job-seekers and professionals. It is used in a variety of ways, depending on the user’s aim. It’s a good way to get your qualifications out in the civilian job market, but remember that your profile is one of millions on the site.
Posting data on LinkedIn is passive, and without connections in the civilian world – and understandable qualifications – no recruiter’s search is going to turn up your profile. Taking active measures like updating your profile and making connections makes you more visible.
LinkedIn vs. other social media. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn users don’t check in as often, and so it’s not uncommon that sending a message or “applying” to a job will go unanswered for days or weeks. Be patient. Also be aware that someone interested in you on LinkedIn is probably web-savvy enough to check you out on other social media sites, so if you’re going to take the trouble to make a LinkedIn profile, make sure you scrub your other profiles of curse words, raunchy humor, excessively political commentary and embarrassing pictures.
Your Photo. If you hope to get a job through LinkedIn, look professional in your profile picture. That badass photo of you riding a tank, or splashing through the surf in a landing craft, or gazing thoughtfully out over a desert with your rifle held ready? Casts doubt on your ability to assimilate into a civilian job. That fun picture where you’re sandwiched between two attractive members of the opposite sex, all holding beers? Makes you seem like an irresponsible partier. Instead, use a picture of yourself in a suit, or in your dress uniform if you’d like to emphasize the dedication and honor that goes with military service. Also, make sure your face dominates the picture and that you look happy. Studies show that people respond positively to happy faces, and you want whoever views your profile to see you positively.
The Summary. The LinkedIn summary functions like a cover letter, so make it short and don’t clog it up with motivation and military jargon. Long paragraphs or phrases like “motivated and dedicated individual who puts mission first and always looks out for my troops” or that you “made E-5 in four years in a closed MOS” will probably bounce searches off your profile to find a more easily decipherable summary.
A good summary has three essential parts: who you are, what you’ve done, and either what you’re looking for or what you’re currently doing. These can go in any order (or even be combined into one sentence), but all should be brief. The who you are part is what you want to emphasize about your character, and for veterans usually involves service to something bigger than oneself, integrity or leadership. The what you’ve done part should be the briefest description of your military service – something like “an Army veteran working in logistics who served two combat tours in Afghanistan.” The third part can be what kind of job you’re seeking, as in “hope to contribute to a team organization in the supply chain field,” or your current job, as in “a team member managing the supply chain for a Super Target retail store.”
Alternatively, your summary can be a list of qualifications (e.g. Aircraft Maintenance, Vehicle Dispatch, Communications Systems, Team Leaders), but you should still introduce the list with a short sentence containing the essential elements listed above.
Your Experience. The experience section is equivalent to a resume, and should be presented in bullet form. LinkedIn only allows so many characters, so you’re forced to be brief (that’s a good thing). It’s appropriate to have a different entry for your different tours of duty if you’re just transitioning, but if you’ve had some civilian work experience after the military then just list military service as a single entry. The easiest place to find this information is to look at your old fitness reports and any end-of-tour awards you may have. Don’t forget to de-militarize all the bullets, however – if your summary grabbed someone’s eye, you want to make sure they actually understand why you’re so great.
Your “Honors and Awards.” This is where you note your military decorations. It’s OK to copy in award citations – but make sure you demilitarize those, as well.
Skills and Endorsements. With all the emphasis on resumes during military transition classes, many veterans spend all their time crafting meticulous, perfectly worded summary and experience sections. But those sections will not usually turn you up in a recruiter’s search. Your skills section, however, functions as a set of keywords that will bring searches for those skills directly to your profile. When you enter skills like “leadership” or “communications,” the field auto-completes common skills others have claimed, which you should use, as they are common searches. LinkedIn also allows other users to “endorse” you for the skills you list, which is how someone who searches you actually knows whether you possess that skill or not (see “Connections” below).
Transitioning veterans usually list mostly military skills. But a civilian recruiter probably isn’t interested in someone with “military operations” or “weapons.” Translate your skills to civilian equivalents like “communications networks,” “aircraft maintenance” and “supply chain management,” which are much more likely searches.
Even more than skills, the “connections” you have (think social media “friends”) will make you accessible to people looking for candidates. Your connections are considered 1st tier, their connections who aren’t connected to you are 2nd tier, and the connections of their connections are 3rd tier. The more closely you’re connected to a user who searches for a skill or specific experience, the higher you appear in their search results – think first response in a google search instead of buried 10 pages down.
Also, your connections endorse your listed skills. You probably guessed by now that the more endorsements you have, the higher you appear in searches for those skills. The best way to get endorsements is to endorse your connections’ skills, so take the time to do that. It goes without saying that you should only endorse skills to which you can attest: if you’re dishonest, and shotgun out endorsements for skills you don’t know about in order to inflate your own profile, others may note your dishonesty and block you from their network. LinkedIn is a professional network, and most of its users take that seriously.
Keep your LinkedIn profile professional, brief and update your skills when you can. (It’s not uncommon to see another profile and think to yourself, “Wow, I have all those skills too but didn’t think about it.”) More importantly, aggressively seek connections, requesting all co-workers and even recruiters you meet at job fairs. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your network grows … and before you know it, you’ll start getting messages about available jobs.
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