Two million of this social network’s 128 million users identify as US military or veterans, so chances are you have heard of LinkedIn or created an account.
It’s a smart move. It is the professional networking platform to be on—for most industries.
But just being on LinkedIn isn’t good enough, which is why we wrote a post titled “15 ways to Leverage Your Linkedin During Your Job Search.”
Believe it or not, you could be doing yourself a major disservice in your job hunt if your LinkedIn profile sends the wrong message. And sadly a significant number of the military profiles I have come across recently aren’t sending the message their owners intended.
So here they are, 6 of the common mistakes veterans should avoid on LinkedIn – along with a quick fix for each.
1. Poor Photo Choice
It’s all about first impressions, and let’s be honest, the reader will take in your image long before they start digesting any of your words. No image might be interpreted as a lack of confidence or a half-hearted approach to finishing a task. A cropped wedding shot awkwardly showing your significant other’s arm is obviously a no-no and screams I’m not really serious about LinkedIn.
But that head shot in military uniform isn’t necessarily what you want, either.
Once you are in serious job search mode, LinkedIn is about networking for your future job, not your current one. Your next employer needs to look at your profile and see you as a potential member of their team, not “Team Military.”
Investing in some professional head shots is a savvy move if you are targeting mid- to upper-level positions. With a high quality camera phone, you can get a similar result. Dress for the job you want, aim for a slight angle on your head rather than a mug shot, and smile. There are only so many employers seeking a stern and steely-eyed warrior.
2. Listing Your Position as Your Professional Headline
Your professional headline is the text that appears directly below your name. LinkedIn’s algorithm doesn’t help you out here and defaults to listing your current job title unless you edit it.
Best case, headlines like J3 at CPRW2, Soldier at US Army, or 3ID SB aren’t really going to help you in the job hunt. Worst case, they make you appear like a military drone who won’t be able to speak the language of the civilian world.
When you edit your profile you will note there is small pencil icon next to your professional headline. Select it and you have two lines to tell the world what you do and what you want. Some examples that make a recruiter want to read more:
Logistics Manager driving process improvements that save time AND money | Transitioning from USAF in Oct. 2016
Computer System Engineer – Specializing in Network Security, Cyber Security, and Web Design
Security and Counterterrorism Expert (Green Beret) seeking opportunities to lead cyber and physical security initiatives for Fortune 500 companies
3. Getting Endorsed for the Wrong Skills
Ever wondered why you keep getting notifications that your peers (and people you don’t know) are endorsing you?
When you first created your profile, way down after you listed your work experience, you were asked for your skills. Many people don’t put a lot of effort into this area, typing in the first skills that come to mind.
Here’s why it matters.
The skills you identify play a critical role in recruiter search engines, and the skills you listed first are the ones suggested most frequently to your connections for endorsement. Do you really want to be endorsed for “Military,” “Weapons,” or “DOD?”
Do your research. Search LinkedIn for people working in similar roles to those you are targeting. Examine their skills profiles and identify the industry-specific keywords that seem to make an impact.
Make sure that you prioritize your skills for the job you are targeting, not the job you are in. Your top skills will be suggested far more frequently than those listed later in your profile. Using (and getting endorsed for) the right keywords will make sure you pop up in recruiter searches.
4. Missing Opportunities by Listing the Wrong Industry
I’ve lost count of the number of transitioning service members who list their industry as “Military.” Yes. It’s very honest. It is your current industry. But listing it as such is not helping your job search.
Chances are you can identify yourself with both the military and a wider industry. Listing your industry as “Law Enforcement,” “Defense and Space,” or “Training and Education,” enables you to build your profile, credibility, and searchability in the civilian industry you are moving into.
5. Posting Inappropriate Content
You have heard it before. LinkedIn is not Facebook or Instagram, it is a professional networking platform. Despite this, more and more users are posting political, religious, or personal pictures and opinions that may be inappropriate for the workplace.
Alternatively, many users post nothing, passively existing on LinkedIn without communicating anything of value to their connections or their groups.
Remember that it is not just your posts that are visible to your connections. Your connections will see when you comment on or “like” someone else’s post. Vet every LinkedIn interaction with the thought process, “Would I want my future employer to see this?”
Even better – research and post content that is of interest to your target civilian industry. Generate professional discussion and future employers will be sure to remember your name.
6. Failing to Engage
This is one of the most critical mistakes that veterans are making on LinkedIn. After being convinced to establish a profile, many military members seek to build their connection count without taking the next step to establish a conversation with their connections.
LinkedIn is not a popularity contest. The number of connections you have listed is not going to help you out unless you take the next step and engage with them.
It’s hard work, but it’s worth making that extra effort to send a short message to each of your new connections. If you have requested a connection with someone you don’t know personally, let him or her know why.
Once someone accepts your request, start the conversation or let him or her know why you think your skills may be useful. Veterans that move beyond the impersonal LinkedIn interface and convert connections into personal meetings, telephone calls, or emails tend to be far more effective in their job search.
LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful platform for military members and veterans, but only if used in the correct way. View it as your online calling card and assume your future employer will read it in conjunction with your resume. It should add value, not detract.
Want more? Read How To Clean up You Social Media Profiles During Your Job Search.