This article is the third and final instalment of our ‘Confessions of a LinkedIn amateur‘ series. Follow Debut’s own Content Creator Alex Ekong as he navigates the minefield of employability and personal branding on his way creating his very first LinkedIn profile.
Hello, precious Debutants.
First of all, let’s all take time to welcome me back to the realm of the living. Shortly after the publication of LinkedIn & The Chipmunks 2: The Squeak-uel (AKA ‘I tried to nail the exact science of a LinkedIn header‘ if you’re boring) I got sidelined with tonsillitis. But as I lay there, choking down tomato soup and staring, mouth agape, at 13 Reasons Why, I plotted how I would make my glorious comeback to the world of the employable.
See, shortly after I made the decision to make a LinkedIn, I made the decision to become the best at it out of spite and revenge for the childhood it made me give up. Hence why I have spent the better part of a month hate-improving my profile. I’m a healthy, well-balanced person, honest.
Now that I’ve finished my LinkedIn header – my business card, if you will – the connection requests started rolling in. As it turns out, building your LinkedIn as part of a series is great advertising. By the time I accepted all the pending ones in my inbox, I was up to 60 connections. Not bad for an amateur.
Well on the way to 100 connections, I realised that in order to have truly conquered the LinkedIn beast, I needed approval from its elders. So I decided I would submit my LinkedIn profile to a bunch of already-ordained professionals to see if it passes the test. But to appeal to their appetites, my profile would need some more meat.
Like Homer Simpson once said about Canada, it’s easy to miss the skills section, all tucked away down there as it is. But this right here is one of LinkedIn’s most valuable elements, particularly if you’re going to use it from a recruitment standpoint. People who list a skill on their profile get 13 times more views than average. Push that up to 17x if you have five or more. I’m told that’s a good thing.
It’s hard to be skillful when you’ve only been working for nine months. So I just put down all the things I’ve done at work at least once. As you can see, it’s quite a bouquet.
I’ll be honest, I was surprised at how competent I look now with all these things listed. This couldn’t have gone better. I also see that you can have skills endorsed by other professionals, so I’m going to ask my team of LinkedIn experts to support your boy when they are meticulously judging my page later.
This part’s just like a CV so really it should be pretty straightforward. At least, so I thought. Filling in my previous jobs did go rather swimmingly though, with me getting a chance to show off some of my famous prose.
The stats say that potential employers like you to have at least 3 jobs on here, to show your confidence and comfort in an office setting. I didn’t have 3 previous jobs, but having two still very fresh in the memory made this section a breeze.
After I was done sounding important, I realised that you could add even more to the bottom of this section, from languages to awards to projects. This didn’t seem compulsory, nor were there any stats to suggest it was necessary. It just seemed like the kind of thing you would put in if you’re extra. But am I extra? YOU BETCHA.
So in it all goes; my French proficiency, my personal blog, even my Redbrick Award for Best Review. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this.
And so at last, my profile was completed in its vast array. Now, I needed a base level of connections who could bask in it with me. I was sure I had enough content on my profile to entice people into my web of professionalism, but in order to truly embark on the #RoadTo100, I needed a strategy.
So I asked two people who I was sure would know. First, Dan Doherty of QA Apprenticeships. Dan’s a friend of Debut and a mastermind of corporate personal branding. He gave me a pro-tip which I may not have lucked into by myself.
“Optimise the university Career Insights sections,” he said. “You can at a glance, see where your university (and subject area) alumni are working, who for and what skills they’ve attained.”
So I did. And it’s pretty sweet. You can find link to the Careers Insights section on your university’s LinkedIn page and it’ll give you some valuable inside knowledge about what sectors people you studied with are working in now. Very useful if you’re looking for a direction to go post-graduation. The part of me that wants to network loves it, and the part of me that wants to make sure I never run into anyone from my seminar group again, loves it even more. Something for everybody!
Next, for a sense of balance I asked my good friend Jonny Morris, whom regular readers may remember as the founder of InfoEve. He’s still a student at the University of Sheffield but he’s a networking pro and had some simple, but sage advice.
“I went to a workshop on networking a couple of years ago, and one of the things the guy said was to always, always include a message when you add someone on LinkedIn. So: Hi Alex – great to meet you at *FUNCTION*, hope we can sort something out regarding *OPPORTUNITY* in the near future.”
So this is the approach I took to reaching out to people who weren’t old school chums. I remember all the employers I collaborated with on Insight articles and start with them first. Because hey, they owe me.
A little bit of work later, and I’ve finally passed the magic 100. The time of reckoning has come.
The LinkedIn experts weigh in
This is what I trained for. Several weeks lost in employability wilderness, 3 articles, one profile offered up to please the gods. Would the LinkedIn experts smile on my efforts? I asked them to break it all down and rate it out of ten. Here’s what they said:
Marilyn Benjamin, Commonwealth Secretariat Head of Office, Mother
“Your LinkedIn profile tells me that you are dynamic, progressive, tech savvy and results-oriented – desirable traits of millennials. Having been in the job for less than a year and being given the responsibility to manage others is an indication that you have demonstrated a level of management and leadership which can only improve with the right kind of nurturing and development. Your profile shows diversity and your smooth and engaging writing style shows flexibility and an ability to tailor your articles to your specific audiences.” 8/10
I’ve always had a face only a mother could love. The same, apparently goes for a LinkedIn profile. A nice high score to start off with.
Brenda Wong, Debut Social Media and Community Manager
“You have a strong short-descriptor at the top. It has personality and sums you up to a T. Your work experience probably needs more concrete examples. So, it’s great that you’re a content creator, but what sets you apart from other content creators out there? Results-based descriptions will probably help you stand out. Numbers and examples will give your claims more weight. Overall, it’s a great start. I think once you move forward with your work experience and get involved with more projects you’ll just have more content to put on your profile, which will make it better over time.” 6/10
Oh Brenda, how could you?
Tbf though, she’s a personal branding expert, not easily impressed by my amateurs overtures towards LinkedIn. And she raises a good point. It’s all well and good to write attractively about your achievement, but without numbers and numerous examples, it means nothing to the discerning employer.
Cristina Astorri, Debut Senior Marketing Director
“As Brenda has pointed out, it is important to quantify what you have achieved for the companies you have worked for. Any metric that you can use would add value to your work. E.g. how many views your best articles have brought or how may articles you have written so far. You should start writing some articles. As a writer I would expect you to be prolific on LinkedIn too. Considering you had never used LinkedIn before, it’s a great start.” 7/10
Cristina, surprisingly, is a lot more forgiving. I do aim to start sharing articles on LinkedIn of course, but this is another compelling ‘the content will come with time’ argument.
Yema Coker, Founder, Elevante Events
“Having looked at your LinkedIn profile, I would rate it a 7 at the moment purely because it needs more content which you will get over time.
I love that it speaks to me about the type of person you are: quirky (as per your header and the round glasses), your profile pic tells me you are someone that would be fun to have in the office, good cultural fit for startup tech world. I love that in just 10 months you have achieved so much, your LinkedIn tells me that you are an asset to Debut!” 7/10
An alternative view from within the start-up community. I took a calculated risk using that very colourful Neck Deep album cover as my header photo, but it seems to have paid off.
So, overall, it’s a 7 out of 10 for my LinkedIn profile. Not a bad score, but considering that I set out to build the ultimate LinkedIn as a monument to the new employable Alex, it has to be said that I fell short.
It’s okay, though. It’s been a hell of a journey. From my original descent, to wrestling my rebellious teenage instincts, to every time I accidentally typed ‘Linkin Park’ instead of ‘LinkedIn’ out of instinct, I feel I’ve grown in a URL and an IRL sense. Student Alex couldn’t have pulled it off.
I think the most important thing I’ve taken away from the feedback is this: you can’t build employability overnight. Hell, you can’t even build it over a month. Like a career, a LinkedIn profile needs constant incremental work and improvement.
A LinkedIn profile is bottomless and the average grad isn’t going to have everything to make a convincing one, no matter how well you lay it out. But it’s a continuous process. And that’s what you get with LinkedIn that you don’t get from any other social network. ‘Fake it ’till you make it’ doesn’t play well here. It’s a long-term project. And you know what? I have to admit, it’s pretty fulfilling.
So check out my profile to continue to follow the Adventures of Alex on LinkedIn: Amateur No More. I have a feeling this is far from over. Aaaaaand roll credits.