Almost three-quarters of the lawyers who responded to the ABA’s most recent tech survey reported that they use social networking tools for professional purposes. Among that group of social media users, the most popular network by far is LinkedIn (95% of respondents).
That’s hardly surprising. LinkedIn has firmly established itself in recent years as the professional social network.
Just last month, the website reported that it now had 433 million worldwide users, including 128 million in the United States. To put that in perspective, there are 156 million employed Americans in the U.S. in total, meaning 82% of people with a job are on LinkedIn.
But how many legal professionals have joined LinkedIn simply because it was something they thought they were “supposed” to do? It’s likely that there are many half-hearted social networkers out there — probably owners of half-complete profiles, empty profile pictures, and hardly any updates.
That’s a shame, because failing to engage in the new world of online communication means missing out on new contacts, educational resources, and opportunities to market your services.
So, what ought you be doing on LinkedIn to get the most benefit from it?
Fully complete your personal profile
When somebody searches for your name (maybe a potential client or a possible new employer, for example), it’s very likely that one of the top results they’ll see is your LinkedIn profile. You ought to be taking advantage of this and using this free space to present the best possible image of yourself to the world.
There are hundreds of ways you can personalize your profile. This range of options can seem overwhelming, perhaps leading some to give up. There are really only five things you absolutely must add, though:
- A recent, profession headshot — No picture sets off alarm bells since it implies that you may have something to hide. Choose a simple, professional-looking head and shoulders shot. There’s no need for this picture to resemble a deadpan DMV-style photo. So smile!
- A descriptive tagline — Add a short tagline that explains what you do. This can be as simple as “Experienced civil litigation attorney” or “Certified paralegal.” Avoid the temptation to use caps or special characters. Just keep it simple!
- A summary — Many LinkedIn users skip this section, which is a mistake. It’s your opportunity to write your personal “elevator pitch” (how you’d describe yourself in 30 seconds). LinkedIn advises you “use this section to provide a snapshot of your professional journey and aspirations.” Write this section in a conversational (but not too casual) tone and in the first, rather than the third, person.
- Your professional experience — Often, if not overlooked, this section gets packed with every position the professional has ever held, each with multi-paragraph descriptions. The key is to curate your experience concisely to focus on the aspects most relevant to your current career. Summarize each role by noting your responsibilities and tangible successes. Favor short sentences and bullets over blocks of text.
- Your education — Keep this section short and to the point — people just need to see the college or school you attended and the course, certification or degree you took.
Yes, you can add a lot more. You could, for example, add a section covering your volunteering experience, your additional skills (foreign languages, for instance), any additional training or certifications you’ve taken, and so on. Get the basics sorted, though, and you’ll be well on your way.
Follow influential voices and industry leaders
You shouldn’t just create a profile and then forget about LinkedIn. It’s a busy and vibrant network, full of useful information and educational resources. Pulse, LinkedIn’s blogging platform, in particular, is turning the network into a hub of work and career-related news and advice.
Every day, more than 20,000 articles are posted, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to get the news that’s relevant to you.
First, LinkedIn has designated a small number of prominent and highly successful people “influencers,” allowing you to follow their posts without having a formal connection with them. Simply choose the influencers you want to hear from and their posts will start appearing in your news feed.
Second, LinkedIn organizes posts into channels — such as technology, law and government, and professional women. Again, you can choose the topics that are of most interest to follow, thereby tailoring your newsfeed to precisely your interests.
Participate and be an active community member
People join LinkedIn because they want to make useful business connections, network with and learn from skilled and experienced professionals, and — of course — keep an eye out for job opportunities. You’ll be more successful at all three of these if you regularly participate as an active member of the LinkedIn community.
First, don’t be shy about connecting with colleagues and others in the legal sector and beyond. When you meet new people, at conferences, events, or local association meetings, for instance, follow up by connecting with them on LinkedIn. The broader your network, the more likely you are to be found.
Second, share updates, useful information, and other published articles to your profile. You don’t need to be a writer yourself; you can share useful and relevant information you come across. If you have a blog, or you occasionally write for other websites (maybe your firm’s blog), then share these on LinkedIn too. The more high-quality writing you have out there, the more credibility you’ll obtain.
Finally, join and participate in groups. There are thousands of sector-specific and geographically-specific LinkedIn groups. Check out the ABA group for your practice area, the ABA Law Practice Division, careers-focused groups like the Law Jobs Network, and also groups for your local associations.
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