Sunday, April 6, 2014

LinkedIn Etiquette: Woo Before You Pop the Question

It's again time for college seniors to send out résumés as part of the great job search. My most recent Marist PR class focused on branding oneself on social media. A student in the Marist PRSSA chapter, Tatiana Miranda, attended a talk I gave to the college's Emerging Leaders program a couple of months ago and asked me to expand on one of the areas I covered -- LinkedIn etiquette -- for the Marist PRSSA chapter's newsletter, "esPResso." Since I provided Tatiana more than she could include in her Real Advice column, I will share my thoughts on that topic here.

Think of LinkedIn as Facebook for professionals. That starts with your photo. It should be a head shot of you, professionally dressed. It should not be you at a party with your arm around a boyfriend or girlfriend, or worse, holding a beer. Your profile is your first impression upon a prospective employer. Think of yourself as a brand. What image do you want to project? Your name is your brand name. Your appearance, not just physical, but also written and photo representations, are your packaging. Always remain a professional.

You are transitioning from your current brand as a Marist student to what you want it to be: an account coordinator for a NYC PR firm, a cyber criminologist, or a media relations professional representing a nonprofit organization. Use your summary for that. That summary doesn't have to be in great detail, but it should create that bridge from your studies and internship experiences to the job or career you want after your graduate.Stay away from jargon and buzzwords. Be yourself. Again, remain professional.

Don't treat your LinkedIn updates like Facebook updates. Share information that is valuable and informative, not that you went to a great party or ate a bagel for breakfast. Have you read a blog post about job searches that you found was very helpful? Share it. Was there an article in the NY Times online that is in your field of interest? Share it. Are you attending an event that allows you to network with others in your field, or are you speaking at a workshop? Share that info. Don't just mention things, share links. People look at posts that include links more than they do when you just write a short statement.

Follow companies, agencies or organizations that are of interest to you. There are many, many groups of interest to public relations students and professionals. Connect to them. There is a PRSSA group, a Marist PR alumni and student group, and groups that discuss areas of personal interest. There are "influencers" you can follow. They often post great tips for students and people working in their fields of interest. For your first post in any group, start with a very brief introduction so others get to know you.

Link to classmates and friends outside of Marist. Link to alumni in your field. Link to people at companies or agencies or organizations at which you'd like to work. For some of these, you can connect because you share a common connection. For others, explain who you are and why you'd like to link to someone. People like to be flattered, but don't go overboard. Explain to your prospective connection that you are about to graduate from Marist and would like to expand your network of professionals to learn from practitioners who have become successful in their careers. If you have no connection to a person but are friends with someone who does, ask that friend to offer an introduction on your behalf.

Once you follow someone or some group, don't jump in right away. Observe before you participate. Get a flavor for the conversation before you join it. Share and be helpful before you ask for something. I'm pretty liberal about accepting requests for connections. However, if after accepting you start pitching me business or asking me for a job, I will delete you immediately. You don't introduce yourself to someone by asking him or her to marry you. You have to get to know someone first before you take the relationship to the next level.

Your profile will be viewed. With each passing day, LinkedIn becomes an increasingly valuable form of networking and job searches, not just for individuals, but for companies that look to hire people. Remember that your digital footprint is forever, so think before you post. Make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Ask yourself, would my boss -- or my grandmother -- be OK with what I wrote? One bad tweet, Facebook post, or LinkedIn update can undo years of image building and personal branding or destroy a career. Don't believe me? Google Justine Sacco.

One last thing...My husband Pete and I thank all who made donations to the Alzheimer's Association in memory of his mother, who passed away Christmas Eve. The national organization and local chapters, particularly the one in the Hudson Valley, report receiving thousands of dollars to support their work. We also received many letters and emails from friends who told us how their families have been touched by Alzheimer's. Together, we carry on and support those who will one day find a better way to treat, or better yet, prevent this dreaded affliction. Again, a deeply heart-felt thank you!

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