Love, Hate and LinkedIn: 11 Successful Tips for Transitioning Veterans

Resident transition guru and military spouse, Jennifer Goodman, returns this month to dive into the wonderful world of LinkedIn. She shares her own “aha” moment that drove home the value of the professional platform and a number of actionable tips to get your own page up to standard.

If you look me up on LinkedIn, you might think that I have been on there a long time from the amount of content I have and number of connections. Fact is, I have only been using the site for about 10 months. Prior to that, I would have told you that LinkedIn is an important resource, but out of privacy concerns I didn’t want to use it. I had a job that I wasn’t planning to leave so I felt there was no immediate need for LinkedIn and thought I could look at using it when I wanted to start my job search…

Of course, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

My punch in the face came when I was laid off from my government contracting job following the new award of the contract with just over a week’s notice. That left me just days to create a final draft of my resume, establish a solid LinkedIn profile, and develop a digital footprint. Did I mention I was looking for a pretty niche role? Fortunately, everything worked out well and I am in a role that allows me to live my professional purpose, but I learned my lesson the hard way. So that you can avoid the hard road, here are some of my key takeaways:

Value

I am often asked “why should I have a LinkedIn account.” It pains me to be the person who says, “because everyone is doing it,” but that is the simple answer. LinkedIn, in my personal opinion, is the present and future of finding employment. Potential employers will search to see if you have a profile. Potential business partners will search to see if you have a profile. Just as we find companies with a digital footprint to be more credible, the same holds true for individuals.

My personal story is that I was offered two positions, including the one in which I am currently working, exclusively because of LinkedIn.

Another advantage is that some companies only post their employment opportunities on LinkedIn, so it may be the only way to apply to the company you want to join (I can personally tell you that an organization I had an interest in working for only posts their opportunities on LinkedIn).

Privacy

I would be lying if I said I didn’t give up some of my privacy by utilizing LinkedIn. Much of my lost privacy is a result of my own choosing though – I have chosen to make my profile mostly visible to the public. LinkedIn has numerous privacy settings where you can control how much of your profile is public, up to and including your photo. Additionally, you can control the size of your network and therefore control how many people have access to your data. The double edge sword to this is that you want for recruiters and other hiring authorities to be able to see your information and have the opportunity to contact you if they have an interest.

When to start

I do not recommend waiting until last minute to start a LinkedIn account. Rome wasn’t built in a day and a strong LinkedIn profile isn’t either.

  1. Developing a strong LinkedIn profile takes time and it is not only about building out your profile, but also engaging through posting, sharing, and liking. This is where you continue to build your brand.

  2. Growing your network takes time. It takes even more time to make meaningful connections. An effort should be made to build meaningful connections versus just increasing your contact list. One way to do this is by communicating with each person you connect with beyond the initial note. Also, do not forget the value of meeting people in person, which is also time consuming.

  3. Identifying and joining groups. Some groups to consider are Veteran Mentor Network, Military Officers Association of America, and the Marine for Life Networks.

  4. LinkedIn is not Facebook. While they share similar features, such as making connections and posting via your page, the two platforms operate differently and LinkedIn has its own etiquette. Again, the learning and mastery of these items takes time.

Tips

  1. Post a proper photo. The why a) you are 7 times more likely to have your profile viewed if you have a picture and b) it is the first thing people see and the wrong photo can leave a negative impression on those viewing your profile. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a professional photo, but it needs to be taken intentionally (e.g. you’re not using just a cropped photo) and the photo needs to reflect attire you would wear to the job you want, not the one you have.

  2. Customize your URL. It is a personal touch that shows attention to detail. It also makes including your LinkedIn URL on your resume much easier in regard to length.

  3. On that note, be sure to include your LinkedIn URL on your resume, after you have properly built out your profile.

  4. Use your headline to state what you want to do as opposed to what you are currently doing (unless of course they are one in the same). This will help recruiters as they search for specific skills and job roles. I also encourage you to include that you are a veteran so that companies seeking veteran candidates will easily find you in a search.

  5. Keep your profile (and resume) updated. Think of them as seat belts as opposed to “oh crap” handles.

  6. Think before you like and share. Everything you do shows up in your network’s news feed. Everything. Consider if you want your network to see that you only like photos of half naked folks and no other types of content. Or if you want them knowing your political views. If those items are part of your brand, then go for it, otherwise, I recommend just liking them in your mind.

  7. Send a customized note with all connection requests. Reference shared contacts, groups, or other connections whenever possible.

  8. Always speak to others in a professional manner via both comments and Inmail messages.

  9. If you’re a veteran, sign up for a free premium account at veterans.linkedin.com

  10. Ask those you meet in person if they are on LinkedIn and offer to send them a connection request. This is a way to continue to build relationships and to authentically grow your network.

  11. Give as much as you receive. If you come across something that you know someone in your network will appreciate, send it to them. If someone gives you their time, send them a thank you note. If you identify an opportunity to pay forward the support you have been given, then do it.

If you don’t exist professionally on LInkedIn, to many, you simply don’t exist.

Helping others make the most of LinkedIn is something I very much enjoy. If I can be of assistance to you, please feel free to reach out to me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/goodman-jennifer/ or to Operation Supply Drop’s executive director at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gbanton/

Happy networking.

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