Since you are or were active duty, you may not have had much need for LinkedIn until now. Here’s the ultimate cheat sheet to get you up-to-speed fast, so you can put this powerful technology to work for you. Follow these steps, and you should be able to get it working for you in less time than it takes to catch a movie on a Saturday night.
List your skills.
LinkedIn does not have a separate category for military service. This means you have to do the hard work of translating your hard-earned skills for a civilian audience. Driving a tank is impressive, but it’s not likely to impress an employer unless you can explain how it translates into the job you’re applying for.
In the “Skills” and “Experience” sections of LinkedIn, be sure to give specific examples of your skill sets, such as logistics, project management, staff management and supervision, and any technical or software skills you may have. Also include how those skill sets led to accomplishments. Not sure what to list? Explore profiles of other successful people in the field in which you are applying, and see what they have listed under their skills. This will give you an idea of how to detail your own experience.
LinkedIn is a place to make connections, seek mentorship and guidance, and most importantly, a way to get your network to work for you, instead of the other way around.
When reaching out and making connections, never use the “J” word in your message, as in “Can I have a job?” You want to be skillful and professional, and inspire the other person to write back. Find something about that person to give you some common ground, like the military, and something to reference when you reach out aside from just work.
Reach out to men and women who are in positions more senior than you are applying for. If you are looking for an entry-level position in a company, you might want to reach out to managers. If you are looking for a management position, reach out to directors or even other managers.
Your first email through LinkedIn should follow the following outline. Keep it short.
State your name and why you’re contacting the individual. Remember, it’s not for a job. Try something more like, “I saw your profile on LinkedIn, and see that we’re both members of [the common ground].”
Since you’re not asking for a job, explain what value you see in engaging with the individual: “I’m currently looking to expand my career options and fulfillment, and am interested in the arc of your career. I would love to briefly speak with you personally, or correspond with you, for advice on how I might create a similar career as you.”
Make an impression. What’s something that is unique about you that you could share? For example, “When I served in Afghanistan, I learned the power and grace of my connections to fellow service members.” That’s a clever way to say a lot. You might say something else, such as, “In a military career that has been rich and rewarding, I’ve learned that my success has always been tied to my willingness to reach out to mentors like yourself.”
Close politely and formally with your contact info.
Get endorsements and recommendations.
One of the best ways to get endorsements is to endorse others’ skills who you know professionally. They will often return the favor. The steps for doing this are easy, and can be found here.
A recommendation is a lot more personal, and is definitely more work. It is just what it sounds like: A written, usually short reference about your professional and personal skills. It helps to give your profile some depth, and show that you are good enough at what you do to inspire others to endorse you.
We recommend contacting someone first via email, or LinkedIn’s mail service, to let them know you will be requesting a recommendation. If you’d like to request a recommendation, follow these steps.
Join some groups.
LinkedIn lets you take control of networking so you can create large networks of people who have access to your profile. You can contact them directly, post when you’re looking for work, and ask colleagues if their companies are hiring.
A LION is a LinkedIn Open Networker. This means your profile is “open” and will accept any invitation from anyone on LinkedIn. You can form large networks this way, which can make it easier to connect with others and hunt for jobs. For most of us, it makes sense to leave your profile open to all.
Groups are more specific. Most require you to request permission to join. Once in, you’re part of a smaller network, which can really help you to fine tune your LinkedIn experience. Groups can be formed from all kinds of things. Your high school, for instance, probably has its own group, as does your college.
You should consider joining groups that are personal to you. This kind of online networking can make the difference when you’re looking for a job.
On a final note, be sure to keep your profile up to date, and stay as active on LinkedIn as you can. This helps to boost your visibility, and makes it more likely that you’re going to snag the job and the post-military career you’re looking for.