The focus of our organization is to help people in the protection industry or to use elements of VIP Protection operations to help others. One of the ways we do that is by helping people journey towards career success. LinkedIn has been one of the single greatest tools for us to reach people and help them. However, on a regular basis, we meet professionals in the industry that are not using LinkedIn to its fullest potential or even at all. This appears to be most common in the Law Enforcement community, Private security personnel, and with Military members. Many of which do not even have accounts yet. So, please help us to help you better. Follow the suggestions and considerations below in order to maximize your potential for development and opportunity in your current or future endeavors; provided that’s something you are interested in.
Open an Account & Setup Your Profile
The first thing you have to do is to actually open an account with LinkedIn and begin creating your profile. It doesn’t need to be perfect but it should be fairly comprehensive.
- Start with a professional-looking profile picture with a focus on the audience with whom you are trying to attract. It doesn’t have to be in a suit and tie, just consider the image you want to portray. I would highly recommend avoiding anything of a tactical nature, anything with guns, a mask and definitely not you at a Halloween party or wearing your old AC/DC T-shirt (unless you are trying to get a job as a roadie for AC/DC). Do not and I repeat, do not be afraid to add in a little personality; just don’t add too much. A smile can go a long way to showing your human side.
- A Cover or Background photo is also a good idea. It’s another opportunity to showcase yourself. If you have a company logo or a nice image that represents you well, then this is a good place to put it. Just remember to put out there what others SHOULD SEE not WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO SEE. I know very few corporate HR reps, Executive Protection Hiring managers or other potential clients that are impressed with guns, explosions or anything else you might think is “Tacticool”.
- Experience & Education. Be honest, accurate and relevant. Do not exaggerate or lie on your profile as you will be found out and it will ruin any chance you had of success. Just like your resume, put recent and relevant information on there. Your high school job at the grocery store isn’t relevant if you are looking at getting a new job post-retirement from Policing or the Military. But it is if you just graduated high school and need to show some experience. Also, if you can link each position to an employer’s LinkedIn account you will get a little more exposure. It also makes for a nice visual attraction if they have a logo with pretty colors. Humans like pretty colors.
- Certifications. There is a spot for you to put on your certifications. Like everything, don’t overdo it. Put on your best and most relevant. Especially if they are necessary or make you more competitive for a position you are looking for.
Be Positive, Professional and Provide Value
Let’s be clear here, LinkedIn is not Facebook and it is definitely not Twitter. The posts on those platforms have no place on LinkedIn; trust me as we are on all of them. Think of LinkedIn as your online resume, but instead of being a boring piece of paper it’s an opportunity to showcase your knowledge and experience while sharing, commenting and talking with other people. Here’s the best part, you might not know when an opportunity is going to pop up. (If you read nothing else but this last paragraph you will be one up on many people, but keep reading if you want a better chance of success).
- Like posts you like. Whether it be a post or comment; if you see something you like then hit the like button. If you hold down the Like button you will get other reactions too. Every time you like something others will see it and the author will get a notification. Likes = exposure. Positive or trending content gets you more exposure.
- Professional Commentary. Commenting on other people’s posts allows you to help support others and add value. Just remember to keep it positive, on-topic and respectful. However, there is nothing wrong with proposing a different opinion or perspective, just do so in a professional manner. (Pro Tip: Don’t post the first thing that comes to mind. Give it a minute or two, or even overnight and think about what you intend to accomplish with your comment. If it isn’t going to be positive or advance your objective, then why bother. Like and scroll on.)
- Share Value. If you find articles, videos, and other great content out there on the interweb you can absolutely share it on LinkedIn. Just remember to ensure it is relevant and raises you up. (Again, LinkedIn is not Facebook or Twitter, so no cat videos, daily washroom routines, shirtless mirror selfies or other useless garbage. Go elsewhere to do those things if you feel you need to do that). (Pro Tip: Tag the author and/or the originating company. This will be a win-win-win situation. You will be sharing the valuable content provided by the author and it will reach more people, as well as potentially elevate exposure for everyone involved)
SuperPro Tip: Follow the suggestion in this article for activity on other social media platforms to expand your reach, enhance your professional image and lead by example. We like to use the internet for good instead of evil and we hope more people will follow suit.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships
A rising tide lifts all ships, while at sea; is a phrase made famous by US President John F. Kennedy and according to Wikipedia, originally coined by the New England Regional Chamber of Commerce (also used a lot by our friend Byron Rodgers on the EP Lifestyle podcast). At the time it was meant to explain the value of a broad economic diversity plan. For our purposes, I believe it is a powerful way of saying we can help other people make good things happen by working together. That being said, when you act positively and selflessly online (or offline) by promoting, endorsing and otherwise “lifting up” others, you too will rise to success. And if not, at least you did something good online (or offline). Here are some other ways you can help others and showcase yourself in a positive light in an often negative internet.
- Like, Comment and Share: The previously mentioned suggestions regarding liking, commenting and sharing professional content will help accomplish this objective.
- Endorsements. One of the other features of the profile that is good to set up is your skills, certifications, and endorsements. However, pointing out your own skills only goes so far. If others believe you have those skills they can endorse them and help improve your profile. With that in mind, this is one of those often overlooked or undervalued areas of the platform. But it’s a good practice to endorse others you’ve worked with. Maybe they’ll return the favor, but if nothing else it’s great Karma.
- Recommendations. You know what’s even better than endorsing someone else’s skills, is giving them a positive and professional recommendation in your own words and based on your own experiences with them. LinkedIn gives us this ability and it’s a very powerful tool for helping others. Some examples are complementing great instructional ability, service delivery or another exceptional professional element you’ve observed.
Connect with People
A lot of people try to keep LinkedIn locked down like their Facebook page and only connect with people they know directly or meet at say a training course, conference or another direct contact. Now, this is possible, but not necessarily the best way to take full advantage of the power of networking with LinkedIn.
- Network online. Networking is all about expanding your “network” in order to increase opportunities. The only way to do that effectively is to connect with people you don’t know. I make a point of sending out many requests to people I’ve never met. I also accept requests from people I’ve never met almost daily, sometimes hourly.
- Message People. Just like other SM platforms, LI has the capability of direct messaging, so use it. If you see someone who has experience or a career in something you’re interested in, ask them about it. Just don’t be weird, pushy or spammy. Trust me, many people want to share their knowledge and direct LI contacts is a great way to form lasting professional relationships.
- Message back. If someone reaches out to you, respond to their questions or comments. It’s very rude to “ghost” someone, but it happens all the time. Unless you’re getting hundreds of messages daily you can take the time to send a quick note back. Remember you never know who or where that next opportunity will come from.
- Talk to People Offline. Remember LI is a tool, it is not the solution to all your career woes. You are still going to have to go out in the world and talk to people. But if you combine traditional networking, with online networking you can truly open some doors, if you do it right.
Some Random Tips
Here are some more random ways that LinkedIn can be used to accelerate your career. There’s probably a lot more and I encourage you to use the comments of this post or your favorite social network to share them. But I want to wrap this up and get it out there. If I put all my stuff in one blog, you’re less likely to read it if it’s too long and it is less likely to help people if they don’t read it (inadvertent pro tip: keep your stuff short; note I don’t always follow my own advice).
- Tech Tip: If you go to your home screen (little house picture), click on My network (2 blue people) and click the person with a + sign. Here you have 3 options, but the one I like the most at conferences is “find nearby”. You can use it if you don’t have any business cards or ran out and want to connect via Bluetooth to people you meet in real life.
- Safety or Creepy Feature. So one thing you should be aware of, is that LI has this feature that when you look at someone else’s profile they will later get informed that you viewed their profile. Don’t be alarmed by this, and don’t let it put you off using the platform, looking people up or networking. It’s just part of the programming and I suspect to keep things safe, open and transparent.
- Write Articles – LI also has a really great platform for writing articles. This is a great way for you to get noticed and recognized for your subject matter knowledge, without the need for your own website. Personally I wish I knew about this feature when my business was at the prelaunch or initial phase.
- #Hashtags – These are very powerful on LinkedIn. You are able to search and follow several topics of interest by signing up for hashtags (Number sign followed by a word, ie #LinkedIn, #ExecutiveProtection). If you include them in your posts, others will be better able to see what you put out there too. Just don’t use too many. A few key hashtags at the most in your posts is a good idea. LinkedIn is not #Instagram, #twitter or #TheFacebook.
- Read, Learn and Grow. The internet is an excellent source of professional development content. Unfortunately, there is a lot of useless junk out there too. LinkedIn is one of the best places to go to get quality content in order to top up your existing knowledge base. Use it in moderation with a little bit of hesitance in order to grow on an exponential level.
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful social media platforms out there and I don’t think it gets as much exposure as it should. It is an online resume with the capability for you to showcase more than one of your dimensions. You can use it to share your voice and some insights into your professional capability. If you use it correctly then this can have tremendous benefits to your career. If you use it poorly, it may have an adverse effect. I suggest you open an account, set up a profile and then observe for a bit. Slowly use the tips in this article to get used to the platform. Once you are comfortable, start liking, commenting and sharing. When you get really comfortable and have some serious credibility on a topic, then consider publishing articles. Regardless of what you do on LinkedIn, be positive, professional and consider the optics of everything you do.
ProTip: If you like this article, hit the like button and drop a comment about what you like. If you think others will find value in it, then share it and add your own flair with a little bit of commentary. If you don’t like it, send me a message and let me know. I’m always open to feedback.
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Feature Image Credit: Esther Vargas