Linkedin for the Differently-Organized?
January 14, 2013 6:35 PM   Subscribe

How does one use linkedin effectively if one hasn't exactly got a career?

I mean, I would like one. I would. But instead I have a spotty employment history and few marketable skills. I have not been in a situation in which it was reasonable for me to expect to hold down a job for some years-- travelling too much for my husband's career-- so I generally just volunteered during those times and occupied myself otherwise. However, after this last move, the law has been laid down, and I am not moving trans- or intercontinentally for a while. Great! So, how in the name of all that is holy do I get started?

I have an idea of the direction I would like to move in. And it is related to the volunteer work I have done over the past few years. But it isn't related to a lot of other stuff I have done, and would be open to doing in the future as well. Am I supposed to selectively edit this? How do I keep a profile from looking like a total mess when, well, I kind of have been? How do I shape something coherent and desirable out of the amorphous blob which is my employment history?

Jeez, just, this linkedin thing, what is it for? How do I do anything useful with it?
posted by Because to Work & Money (7 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Use it to contact and stay in touch with people who you worked (or volunteered with) in a professional context, and add at least a summary of yourself saying "I want to work in x area and have y relevant experience". You can leave your profile pretty blank, you don't need to make it look like a resume, and just make sure you have connections to all the people you worked with in the related volunteer jobs so you can contact them re: job openings, possible recommendations, etc.
posted by jacalata at 6:46 PM on January 14, 2013

It's your online resume, basically. Think about the job you want, how you want to market yourself, what you want potential employers to see, and emphasize that in your profile. If it is volunteer work, internships, and education that is fine. No one needs to know that your work was unpaid. Don't edit it down to nothing though. You can go over one page.

You can and should go ahead and link to and recommend all of the people you have worked with in all kinds of job-unrelated areas-- your go-to handyman, lawyer, realtor, dog walker, etc. Add every classmate you even sort of recognize. Definitely add all the people you did volunteer work with, and if you can, ask them to recommend you. Also consider joining groups that are relevant to your interests and experiences. Getting a bunch of links will make it possible for you to access the profiles of many people, including people in the industry you are interested in. That information can be helpful in networking, preparing for interviews, etc.
posted by steinwald at 6:53 PM on January 14, 2013

From your previous questions, it sounds like you went to college. If you are really having trouble making your work history look coherent and marketable, ask your school's career services office if they offer resume help for alumni. This is one of the few things they can do well. I bet they would enjoy helping you put a positive spin on your years of relevant volunteer work.
posted by steinwald at 7:06 PM on January 14, 2013

Oh, and you are correct that Linkedin is completely useless unless you use it to interact with people.
posted by steinwald at 7:09 PM on January 14, 2013

One surprisingly useful thing that I've found through LinkedIn are the associated alumni groups and groups for professionals relevant to my interests-- in my case, my study abroad program in high school, my high school, my college, the consortium my college was in (I know!), the Seven Sisters, various museums and cultural heritage groups, etc., etc. etc. There are some wacky discussions but there are also some really great talks and pieces of news that get delivered to my inbox regularly. I see people posting questions about specific areas they want to move into jobwise all the time, and there is often a lot of thought put into it. You should poke around and see what groups and discussions you find interesting, and then go ahead and join them.

Do talk with your alumni career office if possible, or see if there's a group in your area that works on career management and resumes. Once you've got that, you can plug your work and volunteer history into their forms. I had "networking" cards made up through Vistaprint that have my professional name, my LinkedIn profile, and my email address. They're very handy for any face-to-face networking opportunities that arise.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:12 PM on January 14, 2013

LinkedIn isn't a resume, it's an online version of your Outlook contacts that updates itself automatically.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:16 PM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

LinkedIn is useful mainly for maintaining a web of professional and personal contacts because a LOT of us use it when we go "Do I know anyone that knows about (field)?" or "Do I know anyone that can (skill)?"or "Do I know anyone that works at (company)?"

I'm literally interviewing for a job this week that I have a shot at because someone I met years ago did just that, typed in a skill she was hiring for and I popped up in her network with that skill.

Likewise, when my current gig is hiring, I go "Who do I know that'd be good here and needs work?" and peruse my LinkedIn contacts before we even get around to writing the ad. And usually we don't even wind up writing the ad.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:56 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

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