Your LinkedIn Profile: An Asset or a Liability?

Over the past few years, LinkedIn has grown from an online networking forum to a professional platform that has the potential to disrupt and fundamentally change the recruitment process across a multitude of industries.  LinkedIn can be an incredibly powerful tool – but only if it is used correctly.  Failure to use LinkedIn correctly can result in being passed over for a career opportunity, especially an in-house role.  Here are some tips, tricks, and strategies for maximizing your LinkedIn experience.

DO make your profile public.  This is self-explanatory.  If your profile is not public, you will not show up in searches, and recruiters / potential employers cannot find you.

DO make sure your profile reflects the full nature of your skills and expertise.  Your LinkedIn profile should function as a public version of your resume.  Many attorneys have a LinkedIn page which only states their titles, current and former employers, and years they were employed at such employers.  You want to demonstrate your skills and competencies by communicating your accomplishments.  Rather than telling the world what you can do, show what you can do by way of example.  Quantifying or qualifying your accomplishments helps distinguish you from others. As with your resume, potential employers look for buzzwords (e.g., 144A, 40 Act, FDA, promotional review, licensing agreements) that track certain must-have skills for a particular opening, particularly if they are hiring for a position that requires a niche skill set or an uncommon combination of skills.

DO be mindful of the people you connect with.  How visible you are on LinkedIn depends on your degrees of connections with others.   Potential employers may not be able to find your profile unless such person is at least a third-degree connection.   So, along with connecting with people that are your bona fide colleagues, also consider connecting with people who are likely to have connections in your industry.

DO make sure your Endorsements are accurate and reflect your skill set as well as your professional network.  It may be a nice gesture from your roommate or your squash partner to ‘endorse’ you for your M&A skills, but unless that person is also in the same industry as you, that ‘endorsement’ could ring hollow.  You should also be mindful of this if you’ve made a slight career pivot and have retooled yourself into a second (or third) practice area.  People viewing your LinkedIn page will think you have more experience with skills that you no longer use if you are ‘endorsed’ for those skills.

DON’T forget to join groups.   Niche groups will post job openings to a group. Joining groups is a very easy way to expand your network and become visible to a much wider array of eyes.  Some groups that an attorney may want to join are law firm or law school alumni groups, geographically based groups (e.g. “private equity in Asia”), or industry groups (e.g., “Patent Lawyer Jobs”).

DON’T wait until you are in an active job search to spruce up your LinkedIn profile.  Any attorney who is receptive to learning more about certain in house opportunities should have a LinkedIn profile that is up to date and tailored to such positions.

DON’T be hesitant to identify any factors which make you unique.  We encourage anyone who could be considered a “diversity” candidate to self-identify as such if it is not readily apparent from your official law firm web bio (if you have one).  Similarly, we encourage candidates to highlight anything about their non-legal background that is important to them.  You can do this on your LinkedIn profile by making note of club affiliations, extracurricular law school activities, hobbies/interests, or anything that sheds light on who you are as a person outside of work.

DON’T forget the Summary at the top.  While including a summary at the top of a resume or LinkedIn profile is more common for in-house candidates, any candidate who has been practicing for 5 or more years, gone through a career pivot, or has experience in more than one skill set could benefit from a short paragraph at the top of their LinkedIn profile.  Your LinkedIn profile is a marketing document as well as a disclosure document, and the Summary section is your “elevator pitch”.

DON’T use your Facebook profile photo as your LinkedIn photo!  LinkedIn profiles, like law firm web bios, look more complete with a profile picture.  Your photo should convey a degree of executive presence and professionalism.  Many people use the photo on their law firm bio as their LinkedIn picture, which is perfectly acceptable.  A more ‘social’ photo, such as your Facebook or online dating profile photo (yes, we have seen many such ‘social’ photos used for LinkedIn profiles), would convey the wrong image to potential employers

DON’T underestimate the role of LinkedIn in recruitment.  Since LinkedIn’s founding over a decade ago, it has grown to over 300 million members: up from just 50 million members 5-6 years ago.  A 2013 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 77% of employers (up from 56% in 2011) use social media to find ‘passive job candidates’, i.e., candidates who may be receptive to learning about opportunities, but aren’t itching to make a move.  And 94% of those companies who use social media to recruit are using LinkedIn to source talent.[1]  Cohorts of professionals are reviewing your LinkedIn profile – whether you know it or not – and if yours is bare-bones or out of date, your career could suffer.

More than anything else, making the effort to create a full LinkedIn profile signals to potential employers that you are invested in the process, have thought in depth about your career and where you would like to take it, and are serious about your personal career management, even if you are not currently jumping out of your seat to make a move.  And that’s perhaps the most important message you can convey to a potential employer.


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