by Katherine White
If you search the Internet you will find a lot has been written about LinkedIn, clearly the most widely used online professional networking site. Business colleagues may visit your profile before an important meeting, search firms constantly use this tool to identify new candidates for positions, and your former and current colleagues who are sources of referrals of all kinds will benefit from knowing what your current work entails and more about your skills.
How are NALP members using this valuable tool? A few examples, along with a series of step-by-step tips for enhancing your LinkedIn profile, follow.
A Personalized Network
Betsy Armour, Assistant Dean and Dean of Career Services at the USC Gould School of Law, only accepts invitations from people she knows. She uses LinkedIn to connect with her own professional circle and strives to preserve the integrity of her connection list. As her friends and colleagues move, she is able to keep in touch with them at their new organizations. When Betsy made her recent career move, she really appreciated the outpouring of well wishes from people in her network.
Keeping in Touch with Alumni
Wendy Siegel, Director of Recruitment and Marketing at NYU School of Law, uses LinkedIn daily — mainly to find alumni in alternative careers to refer to her students. She notes that it is difficult to find alumni in these nontraditional jobs otherwise, and LinkedIn is a great tool. In addition, she loves getting updates about alumni as they change jobs, so she can congratulate them and stay in touch. Members who work with alumni from their law firms find that the same benefits apply.
Read the Feed
Sue Manch, Firmwide Director of Recruiting and Development at Bingham, utilizes the LinkedIn news feed on the home page to keep up to date on what’s happening in legal recruiting, professional development, business development, marketing, and other related industries her contacts write about.
Megan McGrath, Assistant Director of Employer Outreach at GW Law, notes that when she was on the law firm side she used the status function to post job openings and included a link to her firm’s online application site. She also recommends posting publications as a link on your profile and as status updates.
LinkedIn Profile Search Leads to Job Lead
I recently reviewed the profile of an alum at a small law firm in California to determine whether he would be a good connection for a law student I was counseling. I did not send the alum a message. Later that day, I got an invitation to connect. The alum reached out because he saw I had reviewed his profile and wanted to share a job opening with our school. This is not common, but it is a great example of how both parties can benefit from using LinkedIn.
There are many more examples to share, but let’s now turn to a few tips to get you started, or to help you enhance your LinkedIn profile if you are already up and running.
Completing Your Profile:
- Enter at least one good line about the work you did at each job. What skills do you have? Describe what was required at each job without duplicating every detailed entry from your résumé.
- Highlight the experiences that fit the career path you are planning for your future. If you are hoping to move into professional development, for example, you can note the PD projects you have worked on in your summary.
Branding Yourself — The Photo:
- Choosing a professional photo is important. First impressions matter. It might be worth it to have a professional head shot taken so that you will present at your best. At a minimum, have a friend take a photo for you (a nice background as with an outside shot is often more appealing).
- To maximize your profile, be sure to include a descriptor in your job title if it’s not clear from the title what work you do. While most NALP members have titles that are descriptive, consider this when advising lawyers or law students about their headings.
- The heading is meant to be short, so you won’t have a lot of space — but try to capture the most important message in the heading.
- Your summary statement is perhaps the most important section of your LinkedIn profile. Take the time to write something that hits on your strongest skills and what you want to be known for.
- Subheadings are a great idea — they pull the reader’s attention to the topics you consider most important and break up the text.
- Review summaries of others in your field to get ideas. Do you get a clear picture of the person and their work from their summary?
- Think about the purpose of your presence on LinkedIn. What does your summary convey about your career and accomplishments? If you are looking for a job you will want to include skills and descriptions that show how your experience will fit the requirements of the work you are seeking.
Key Words in the Summary:
- LinkedIn is a search engine driven by key words. Colleagues, business contacts, and search firms will be able to find you if you include key words that best describe your work.
- Go to the “Advanced Search” bar at the top of the LinkedIn home page to search for specific keywords, and you can find people in jobs like your own. Type into the “key words” field, for example, “professional development” or “career coach” and see what the job descriptions of the people who show up in your search reveal.
Consider the ABA Rules in Describing Your Work:
- If you are an attorney or are working with your firm’s attorneys on their profiles, it would be prudent to review the ABA rules related to describing the attorney’s services. The terms “expert” and “specialist” must be properly used, for example. (For more information see http://www.americanbar.org/content/newsletter/publications/law_practice_today_home/lpt-archives/november13/social-media-ethics-and-expertise.html.)
Going Beyond the Basics — Groups:
- You can join groups on LinkedIn to connect with others through industry groups, professional organizations, alumni groups, and alumni subgroups. If you are at a law firm and your firm has an intellectual property practice, you might want to join some IP groups, for example.
- Group members often post jobs; trends in an industry are discussed; and you can connect with people you might not otherwise meet through the Groups function. You can adjust the settings for how often you would like to receive announcements of group discussions, and you can also follow groups on LinkedIn.
Customize Your Settings:
- You can guide access to your profile and other details about your LinkedIn settings. To make changes, go to your photo at the top far right end of the toolbar. Click to open the menu, and choose “Privacy and Settings.” From there you can manage frequency of group emails, who can see your profile, and other settings.
Finally, if you would like to learn more about LinkedIn’s features, contact LinkedIn and they will arrange to offer a tutorial for your organization. LinkedIn is an evolving, dynamic social media site. Happy Networking!
Katherine White is the Chair of the NALP Experienced Professionals Section. She is also Director of Employer Outreach at The George Washington University Law School and an attorney coach with KT White Law Careers, LLC.
Reprinted from NALP Bulletin, November 2014. © 2014 National Association for Law Placement, Inc.® (NALP®) All rights reserved. This article may be printed for personal use only. Any reproduction, retransmission or republication of all or part of this material is expressly prohibited unless NALP or the copyright owner has granted prior written consent. For reprint permission contact the NALP office at (202) 835-1001 or www.nalp.org.