LinkedIn is one of the most popular professional networks on the internet – your details are freely visible to over 467 million current LinkedIn users (109 million registered users in Asia) who can search you by name, and also depending on your settings, are available publicly to others without a LinkedIn account (you can check and change your settings from your profile page – click ‘Edit your public profile’ in the right rail).
LinkedIn also has a high Google search ranking which means it is almost always one of the first pages found by anyone doing due diligence checks on your professional life (or general internet stalking!). Clients and contacts will often visit your LinkedIn to check on your credentials – especially if you do not have a background page on your company website. Furthermore, you may find your details viewed by potential dates and old flames, classmates and long lost relatives or even landlords doing a few extra checks before offering you that tenancy.
Not just a way to get yourself headhunted, it can also be a useful tool for business development, attracting new clients and strengthening your personal brand. However, in order to do so, you have to present yourself and use the platform in a professional manner. 80% of all LinkedIn members consider professional networking to be essential to a successful career – we at Abeo Consulting noticed that there are still mistakes that several users make on LinkedIn that make us cringe and we also found that many users are not utilizing the platform to its full potential.
Here are some tips for you to get the most out of LinkedIn:
BE MINDFUL OF YOUR ACTIVITY
Following the more recent LinkedIn Updates, your LinkedIn activity now sits front-and-center at the top of your profile. This meant that one of the first things that anyone browsing your profile will see are your most recent likes, comments, shares and publications, and anyone drilling down into the section will be able to get a full record of your activity. Therefore, it is incredibly important to be mindful of this while using the platform. Everything you do – that offhand insult you made in a comment to another user on a post 2 years ago, that like of a status containing a divisive political view, that mention that your Partner is a total dragon – would all be there, conveniently listed for any other LinkedIn user to see. As LinkedIn is a very large, open network containing all different backgrounds and cultures, the best way to avoid offence is to play it safe and avoid bad language and any ‘dinner party conversational taboos’ such as politics and religion. Furthermore, keep your posts professional and relevant – avoid ‘chain posts’ or anything that belongs on Facebook or other purely social networks as failure to do so may portray an inability to differentiate between business and social and an overall lack of professionalism.
INCLUDE A RELEVENT PROFILE HEADLINE
Your headline is the first piece of text that anyone will see when searching for you, so the first rule of LinkedIn is to include your job title and current employer. For lawyers, it is also pertinent to include your practice area – a good headline could be ‘Senior Project Finance Associate at Allen and Overy’ or ‘Corporate Associate specializing in Private Equity at Latham and Watkins’. It may be advisable to avoid faux-job-title buzzwords like ‘ninja’ (unless you happen to be an assassin), ‘rockstar’ (unless you are also a member of Guns ‘n’ Roses) as some people (including us!) consider these to be tacky.
The absolute worst headline you could have is ‘currently looking for opportunities’ or ‘seeking work’ as that screams desperation and you should try and avoid this at all costs. Even if you have an excellent background, prospective employers will tend to assume that either you’ve been looking for a job for a long time without success, or that you are too lazy to actively apply to firms, or that you don’t have a sense of direction your career and are just hoping something will come to you. Experienced headhunters on the other hand would also generally steer clear of anyone with these headlines as the assumption would be that you would have been already approached as an easy target for every low quality, ‘fresh’ or desperate recruiter around, or that you have already exhausted your preferred market with (usually badly targeted) applications, so problems with conflicts will likely arise. If you are not working, a better headline would be more subtle and skill focused – perhaps something like ‘Legal Associate with 5 years of Funds experience in International Law Firms’ or ‘Columbia LLM student with a passion for International Arbitration – graduating June 2017’
GET PICTURE PERFECT
In a series of experiments studying judgement from facial appearances, Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found that it only takes 100 milliseconds to form an impression of someone from just looking at a photo of their face. I know, whatever happened to don’t judge a book by it’s cover! Apparently, members who include a profile photo receive 21x more profile views, up to 36x more messages and up to 9x more connection requests so it is important to add one instead of remaining an anonymous grey silhouette. Furthermore, users who have a professional headshot get 14 times more views so you may want to consider using your photo from your company website or get one clicked by a professional.
First impressions count – so please avoid some of these common photo mistakes:
– Selfies – Save the selfies for your other social media accounts. Whilst the high-angle shot may be your ‘best angle’, it looks unprofessional and a straight on headshot may be the best way forward
– Sunglasses – Unless you are a private detective, a sunglasses retailer or blind then it’s time to ditch the ray bans
– Alcohol – Unless you want to give the impression that you might turn up into the office with a hangover or smuggle miniature whiskeys into the office in your briefcase, please put down your glass before snapping away
– Sports Cars – Unless you are in an industry related to sports cars – for example if you work in a car dealership or are an F1 driver – then there is absolutely no reason to include cars in your profile photo. Indeed, nothing screams conceited, arrogant or phony more than posing with a Lamborghini you spotted parked on the side of street
– Inappropriate clothing – as a professional network (not Facebook), whilst you may look gorgeous in that short bodycon dress with full evening makeup and beauty-queen hair, it’s not going to do you any favours on a professional site. A rule of thumb is probably to dress how you would when meeting a new prospective client
– Inappropriate poses – Lying on a couch portrays laziness and please avoid peace signs! Nicholas Boothman lists ways in which body language can be open or closed in his book ‘How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less’. If you want to show an openness on your face, try opening your mouth – in fact, an open mouthed smile is apparently seen as more friendly than a closed mouthed smirk
– Inappropriate surroundings – It is a good idea to take your photo with a professional looking backdrop. Users on various social media have found that simply changing the colour of the background of their profile picture has led to an increase in views, so play around and find something that works for you!
– Filters – as LinkedIn is not Instagram, and whilst a little touch up here and there to cover any major blemishes may be fine, extreme filters should be left to Instagram. Stick to clean and clear, naturally lit headshots
One good way to really test the effectiveness of your profile photo is through Photofeeler, a website where you can upload a photo and have other uses anonymously rate it out of 10 for perceived competence, influence and likability. It’s free to join and you may be surprised by the results you get back! Having tried this myself using the same photo on a number of different coloured backgrounds, I found that opinion and feedback was most positive with a blue background and extremely negative with a red background.
Beyond your profile picture, also consider your cover photo. A company branded photo can really help sell your product or firm, but otherwise use a photo that portrays a professional image.
CREATE A COMPELLING SUMMARY
Adding a summary can be a good way to drill down into your experience and services you offer, and a summary of 40 words or more also makes it more likely to show up in a search. It may be a good idea to write for prospects, not recruiters or employers – for example, include how have helped clients in the past as opposed to how you’ve hit billing targets! This is your chance to exude your personal brand attributes, and a compelling summary may include figures and statements about your work life, as well as perhaps a little bit of personal or life experiences and motivations, but try not to ramble too much – keep it concise like an elevator pitch. Try to steer away from using the most overused words on Linkedin such as ‘passionate’ and ‘focused’ to avoid sounding clichéd and try to keep humour or statements that can be misinterpreted to a minimum – for example I have recently seen “shouting at my juniors and being shouted at by my seniors” written in a lawyers profile. Whilst I’m sure this written in a tongue-in-cheek manner, it could also be interpreted as an indicator of incompetence!
Also remember that people seeking someone with a certain skillset will search Linkedin with keywords – for example “public m&a”, “project finance”, “construction disputes” etc. If you have experience in any particular niche then this is good to mention it in your summary.
Summaries can also be livened up with the use of media, such as law firm/company publications. However even if you are actively looking for work then NEVER PUT YOUR CV ON YOUR PROFILE. In this same vein as putting ‘seeking opportunities’ in your headline, this seeks desperation. Furthermore, putting details of your transactions in such a public way – especially ones that are not published elsewhere may not be viewed positively.
Finally, make sure to check your spelling! As a lawyer, you should be expected to have a keen eye for detail. If you can’t spot an error on your profile, how can a client or employer expect you to be able to spot any errors in legal documentation?
CURATE YOUR ENDORSEMENTS
Endorsements are arguably the easiest way to highlight your skills on your profile, and the aforementioned keyword searches will pick these up alongside your summary, so it is important to curate them appropriately. In fact, members with 5 or more skills listed are up to 33x more likely to be contacted (messaged), and receive up to 17x more profile views. You are able to re-order your endorsements in the profile editor, so a good idea would to be your most relevant skill at the top, then list the rest in descending order. Keep out anything that is not current and relevant – for example if you are a senior Funds lawyer then endorsements for Intellectual Property, even if perhaps you did study it as a training seat 10 years ago, are irrelevant and can look sloppy on your profile. Any of your connections can recommend new endorsements for your profile, however do need feel obliged to add them if they aren’t relevant to your current practice. There are indeed some very interesting endorsements available but “smalltalk”, “house parties” and “wine”, are not appropriate on your Linkedin, even if you are the perfect host!
Endorsements were created as a way for your network to quickly and easily ‘vouch’ for your skills in a particular area, however in practice even if you have a skill endorsed to the maximum ‘99+’ times then you must still note that these are generally not seen as a reliable gauge for a person’s overall aptitude.
Arguably the best way to demonstrate your competence is to request personally written short recommendation by a reputable member of your network with whom you’ve had dealings. This could be a colleague, an old employer or, where appropriate, a client. For more junior lawyers, an academic and personal recommendation could be requested from a University professor. The number of recommendations you have is listed on your public profile, so having a few can really add to your reputability, however remember that this is not a numbers game. An effective recommendation is one that comes from a meaningful and reliable source who has a significant connection to you and you can choose what recommendations are visible on your profile by using the recommendations page.
UTILISE ACCOMPLISHMENTS PROFILE SECTIONS
Under the ‘Add a Section’ sidebar on the right hand side of your profile page, you have a multitude of options you can use to showcase your talent. These include Publications (List your published work and be found 7x more), Certifications (5x more profile views), Honors and Awards, Courses, Languages, Projects and Organizations. If you have been recommended by one of the directories (Legal 500, Chambers etc) or have won an award for your work, list it under your honors and awards section. Interesting courses should be included, but don’t feel the need to mention every CPD seminar that you are sent on unless they are particularly unique. Even courses done outside of a business setting, for example extreme sports certifications can be added, and can provide interesting talking points when building rapport with your network. Bar Admission should be added under your ‘Certifications’ section.
MAKE SURE THAT YOUR EMPLOYMENT AND EDUCATION HISTORY IS COMPLETE AND ACCURATE
Members with “up to date” positions are discovered up to 18x more in searches and get up to 8x more profile views. Make sure to include your employer (not specifying this can look like you have something to hide or be ashamed of) and your correct dates of employment. Make sure to include your practice area and a brief description of your firm and responsibilities. Keep it relevant – for example non-legal work done prior to qualification can be left out unless it is particularly significant and admissible (e.g a Shipping lawyer who previously had a seagoing career may want to demonstrate this). An NQ+ lawyer does not need to include all of their internships and paralegal experience.
Education history should generally include anything from undergraduate level up, unless you went to an exceptionally prestigious high school. Including your education history can help old classmates track you down and can help provide some interesting common ground with other alumni who are perhaps prospective clients or other business contacts. If you are currently studying, but the end date in the future and feel free to add a note in the freeform text saying ‘in progress’. Remote learning or part-time students should consider mentioning this, as not to give the impression that you are located elsewhere or that you have taken longer to complete a degree because you’ve had to resit years! If you have a degree that you only partially completed and are not currently in the process of finishing, then state how many passing credits you earned (e.g. earned XX credits towards a Bachelor of Science, 9/10 to 5/12) or state which modules you passed (e.g. passed 4 core modules: The Law of Contract (30 Credits), Criminal Law (30 Credits), Equity and Trusts (30 Credits) and Land Law (30 Credits)). If you did not earn any credits or are in any way unsure then it may be safer to leave it off completely than to imply that you hold fictitious qualifications!
KEEP IT REAL
My biggest piece of advice for LinkedIn users is to avoid being dishonest on your LinkedIn profile. Remember that LinkedIn is publicly available, and anyone can call you out on your dishonesty at any time (incorrect profile information can be reported anonymously here). Furthermore, LinkedIn has been granted a patent for an automatic fact-checking system that has the potential to flag up falsities even faster. Lying on LinkedIn is the same as lying on your CV – best case scenario if you get caught is that you damage your reputation, and worst case scenario, not only could you lose your job but it has the potential to completely destroy your career.
The biggest example of this is the now infamous Alan Blacker – more widely known as ‘Lord Harley of Counsel’ who was first dubbed ‘the undisputed Lord of LinkedIn’ (and later the ‘Harry Potter lawyer’ due to his unconventional choice of court attire!). His lengthy profile claimed he had been he has been a member of nearly 30 different societies (including the Society of Model and Experimental Engineers, the Institute of Mental Health Act Practitioners, the Royal Artillery Association and the Zoological Society of London) and contained more than 30 different certificates and qualifications (including being a Transactional Analysis Psychoanalytical Psychologist, a Licensed Boiler Examiner and a Stanford University graduate). Whilst his profile is no longer available you can find some of the more entertaining highlights here. The eccentric LinkedIn page came to the SRAs attention, and following a two-day hearing at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) the SRA had proven seven out of eight charges made against Blacker, some of which concerned “inaccurate and misleading” statements he had made about his academic qualifications and professional memberships. Mr Blacker was ultimately struck off and ordered to pay £86,000 costs – and whilst this is an extreme case – it should serve as a warning to all.
The most commonly spotted LinkedIn lies are inaccurate job titles, falsified employment dates and incorrect education information – usually given the impression that a degree has been completed when it has only partially been undertaken. Incorrect job titles and dates can be discovered by future employers when doing reference checks, or could easily be called out by past companies or colleagues. From an ex-employers perspective, you are still somewhat of an ambassador for their brand as an alumni of them if you are still advertising their name on your profile – to pass yourself off as something you were not could tarnish their reputation as well as yours.
Finally, one thing to remember before you make any update is to change your settings so your updates are not broadcasted to your network
To disable these settings:
1. Click the Me icon at the top of your LinkedIn homepage.
2. Click Settings & Privacy.
3. Select the Privacy tab at the top of the page.
4. Under Profile privacy, click Change next to Sharing profile edits.
5. Switch the toggle to the left to disable notifying your network when you change your profile, make recommendations, or follow companies.
If you are a lawyer looking for career guidance or more tips then please do not hesitate to contact Abeo Consulting on (+65) 6100 1900 for tailored advice.
Authored By Daniella-Louise Bourne from Abeo Consulting – a specialist legal search firm headquartered in Singapore.
We place a high value on our relationships and work with a comprehensive list of clients which include international law firms, multinationals and financial institutions operating in Singapore and within the Asian region. We give an objective, impartial and honest advice on your career and we pride ourselves on the tailored recruitment solutions we offer.