If you haven’t been fully harnessing LinkedIn as a networking tool, it can seem like a daunting space to step into. But the good news is that taking small steps – dedicating a few minutes to interact with other people’s posts each day, for example – can have big benefits. And you don’t have to compromise on being authentic.
Here are some simple ways to up your LinkedIn game.
Step 1: Own your story with your profile.
As AWIS’ February webinar guest Dr. Korie Grayson said, “LinkedIn is an opportunity to brand yourself.”
Beyond keeping your LinkedIn profile current and accurate, there are many areas that you can personalize in order to strategically highlight certain aspects of your work. Make a strong first impression by personalizing your “headline,” where you have up to 220 characters to say what you currently do in your own words. The “about” section provides a little more room – 2,600 characters – for you to tell your story, explaining your experience, skills, or past achievements.
Your profile picture and header image provide more opportunities to express yourself. You can also add pronouns and name pronunciation to your profile. Why not?
Finally, if it applies to you, take advantage of LinkedIn’s new “Career Breaks” feature. Include your time spent caregiving, pursuing personal goals, or transitioning jobs, for example, alongside your professional positions in order to tell your full story.
Step 2: Make connections.
Don’t be shy about connecting! Whoever you meet, you can look for on LinkedIn and send a request to connect. Other AWIS members? That person you’ve been emailing with from another organization? The speaker at the virtual event you attended last night? Make it a practice to add people you’ve interacted with in real life (or virtually) on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to follow up on or reinforce your connection, especially when you include a quick personal note.
You may also want to connect with someone you haven’t met yet or whose network doesn’t overlap with yours. If you don’t have connections in common, LinkedIn might make it seem like you can only follow them, not request to connect with them. But if the “connect” button isn’t visible on their profile, click the “more” button under their profile picture, and you will see the “connect” option appear there.
Step 3: Engage regularly and genuinely.
Here’s a game-changer. You know “the algorithm,” right? It favors interactivity above all. The more you engage with other people, the more you will be seen in other people’s feeds.
Devote a few minutes each day just to interacting with other people. Like (or love, celebrate, support, etc.) their posts. Commenting is even more favorable. Congratulate people on their accomplishments, chime in with your opinion, pose a question, tag someone else who might be interested in the post.
Most importantly, react to and comment on people’s posts as it feels natural to you. Sometimes being strategic on social media can feel phony or ingenuine. But remember that we are all real people behind our profiles, and interacting on LinkedIn can actually be a great way to show genuine support to others and to stay in touch.
Step 4: Get comfortable with posting.
Start small. For example:
- Post the link to an event you just signed up for and ask others to attend with you.
- Share an opportunity posted on AWIS’ LinkedIn, mentioning why it’s relevant to your network.
- Post industry news and share your reaction. Tip: grab a new headline about women in STEM each week from the AWIS News Brief.
As you get more comfortable, you can get more personal. Share more about your career journey, lessons you’ve learned, issues that are important to you, your take on a current trend, your daily routine, how the pandemic changed your work – the ideas are endless. Use a note file or a designated place to jot down ideas for posts and prepare drafts, and create a recurring calendar invitation to block time on a regular basis.
Remember to make your posts accessible to those who are blind or have low vision by including alternative text for images, adding captions to any videos you upload, and using “camel case” for hashtags (e.g. #WomenInScience rather than #womeninscience).
Ultimately, LinkedIn is a useful tool for nurturing relationships and finding opportunities, and you can unlock these benefits by just being yourself – personalizing your profile so it’s authentic to you, connecting with the people you know, engaging genuinely, and sharing your voice. Step into this space and you might be surprised by the support you receive.
Jenna Jablonski is a marketing communications consultant and founder of sisterstem.org, a website amplifying the voices of gender minorities in STEM.