LinkedIn has been around for about 10 years now. There are more than 200 million users worldwide, with 7 million of those users in Canada. I have been a member since 2006, and have witnessed many changes to the professional networking site since then.
For the first few years of my membership, I did not reach out and connect actively with others and my contact growth was more organic than strategic. I have been much more proactive in building out my network over the past couple of years and now have over 2,000 connections. This may seem like a large number but, as a recruiter, I use LinkedIn to reach out to potential candidates and keep people up to date on market activity.
I often meet with lawyers who do not have a LinkedIn profile and I can never quite understand why. There are always the usual responses: “I’m a private person,” “I’m not into social networking,” “I don’t even have a Facebook account,” etc. None of these reasons are relevant. LinkedIn is a professional networking opportunity that will help you grow your career and promote your practice and expertise. It also provides a relatively easy opportunity to network and stay in touch with colleagues, reach out to potential business contacts, and remain on the radar of talent acquisition specialists or recruiters.
Think of LinkedIn as your online elevator pitch. It’s all about building your brand and connecting with others. If you are searching for new employment, new business, or just seeking to strengthen your existing professional networks, this is the place to be. However, it’s not the only place to be and LinkedIn should not replace traditional networking methods. LinkedIn is a networking tool and, while it should not be your only method of networking, not having a profile is like not having a hammer in your tool box.
It’s important to take the time to figure out what your networking goals are — job opportunities, finding new clients, etc. — and tailor your LinkedIn profile to make it relevant to your networking goals.
1. Make it public
If you don’t have an account, get one. It’s free to join and easy to set up. Spend some time filling out each section. You don’t have to list every job you’ve had but should highlight your significant accomplishments and make sure they are at the top of your profile.
Remember to double-check your privacy settings. One of the most important settings is deciding if you want others to be able to see your connections or if you prefer to have your connections private. Be as open as you are comfortable. The point of LinkedIn is to connect with others. Your colleagues and friends cannot connect with you unless they can easily find you.
Join some groups to further expand your network. There are innumerable groups geared towards legal professionals on LinkedIn. These groups can afford you the opportunity to expand your network to people you may have not had the chance to connect with otherwise.
If you would like to be contacted about career opportunities, it may be best to provide your personal e-mail address as your primary point of contact.
2. Keep it professional
Put your best professional face forward. When crafting your profile, it is important to remember this is a professional social networking site and quite different from Facebook or Twitter. A professional looking headshot is a must. It is not necessary to use your firm/company headshot but it’s probably best not to use a photo of you relaxing on the beach with a margarita in hand. If you would not attend a networking event in bathing gear, you should not have that type of photo on your profile page.
It is also important to remember to remain professional when sharing updates and articles with your network. You should only share items you would feel comfortable discussing with your colleagues and your direct reports.
3. Add some personality
Your LinkedIn profile is public and professional but should also have a personal touch. Injecting some personality into your profile and showing your outside interests gives you more ways to connect and may offer ways to deepen professional connections. You never know if that client you are courting is also a cyclist, chess player, or volunteers for an organization also dear to your heart. These personal touches will give you an opportunity to connect in a softer way that may feel like less of a sales pitch.
4. Promote yourself and others
LinkedIn is a great way for you to draw attention to your professional successes, articles you’ve written, successful judgments, being staffed on significant deals, etc. LinkedIn is also a great way to go beyond your law firm bio. Promote yourself. Draw attention to your successes to get the word out there and build your brand.
It’s important to also promote others. Comment on articles of interest that others in your network have shared. LinkedIn also gives you the ability to endorse others in their areas of expertise. While endorsements are a quick way to promote others, taking the time to craft a recommendation holds much more weight.
5. Going further
Don’t be shy — reach out and deepen your connections. Often people will connect with someone on LinkedIn and leave it at that. If you want to really deepen that connection, suggest meeting for coffee. Personalize posts to few people rather than your complete connections list. Introduce others. If you have two connections you think should meet, introduce them. Be proactive in building and deepening your relationships.
Connect with recruiters. This is not a red flag that says you are looking for a job. Recruiters also offer important market insights and keep you in the know on the current conditions. Most recruiters will keep their connections private so your colleague will only know if you are connected if he/she is also connected.
LinkedIn is a fantastic way to connect, share, and build your brand. Take that first step. If you have any questions, you can find me on LinkedIn at ca.linkedin/lanadriscoll.
Lana Driscoll is a senior consultant with Marsden Group in Toronto and has over 14 years’ experience in the legal recruiting industry. She assists lawyers looking to make an international move and also lawyers looking for career growth in the domestic market. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org