Finito mentor, Amanda Brown, who has expertise in social media aspects of employability, and takes questions from our international readership
I am just out of university and I probably should have done more work experience to date than I have done. I’m concerned that LinkedIn will showcase a thin CV and hurt me in interview. Would you advise I compile more experience before acquiring a significant web presence? Katie, 21, Tunbridge Wells
Katie, your question is one which concerns many graduates who have focused on their education and may have had little time to undertake work experience. However, I would strongly recommend that you do not delay completing your LinkedIn profile and your CV under the guidance of a mentor who will be able to assist you in presenting your skills and experiences in the best possible light.
For example, if you have taken extra-curricular activities in the past, these should be added into the About section of your LinkedIn profile. There is also the opportunity to include any volunteering you may have done.
Work experience comes in different guises from internships through to offering part-time help with a charity. Not-for-profit organisations are frequently looking for an extra pair of hands in many different roles.
Scan the job listings on LinkedIn in fields which interest you, and look for the skills and competencies employers are looking for. If necessary, take online courses and skills tests which you can add to your LinkedIn profile. This demonstrates that you are able to show initiative and determination.
Finally, one of the main benefits of having a LinkedIn profile is the value of building a large network with your contemporaries at school and university, family members and friends, who may be useful connections throughout your career.
There is a company which I really want to work for in the legal industry. I have so far been unsuccessful with getting my foot through the door. Would you advise connecting with relevant people at the company on LinkedIn? What are the benefits and dangers of private messaging? Ian, 34, Florence
In the first instance, Ian, I would do as much research as possible into the people and the company you are interested in. Follow their LinkedIn company page so that you are up-to-date on their news. Where relevant, like and comment on posts where you can add value to the content. Avoid generic comments such as “interesting post” by contributing your own inciteful observation on the topic.
Check to see if they are hiring currently. If there are no job opportunities listed on LinkedIn, create a job alert and then check the careers page on their website. If there are career openings this may be a welcome indication that the company is growing.
When it comes to connecting with relevant people, I would firstly look at their LinkedIn profile and also whether they are active on the platform. What is the style of their posting? Is it formal or informal? Are their posts strictly industry related or do they share more personal insights? Find something in their profile which you can use to start a conversation. Look at where they have worked previously, their education or even volunteering. If you share connections with the people you want to connect with then ask for an introduction or mention someone you know well when you send your invitation to connect.
In my opinion it is unwise to open up immediately that you are seeking an opportunity. Accompany your connection request with a short opening message which expresses your interest in building your network with people in the legal profession. Always thank people who connect in a timely manner and follow up with an open-ended question. Communicating on LinkedIn is similar to meeting people face-to-face; adopt the same rules you would if you met in person.
I am a good writer and had thought about starting a blog on LinkedIn. What are the opportunities and what are the dangers? Yasmin, 28, Paris
Yasmin, there are currently two ways you can publish long-form content, akin to a blog, on LinkedIn; namely, LinkedIn articles and LinkedIn newsletters. All members have the article-publishing function which can be found on your home page under the ‘Start a post’ box.
If you have set your profile to “Creator” mode then you may have the facility to publish a newsletter. This functionality is currently in beta and is being rolled out slowly to members. The advantage of publishing a newsletter is that you gain subscribers and when you publish new content, they receive a notification and, more importantly, LinkedIn sends out an email to every subscriber. This increases the potential consumption of your blog.
Care should be taken when it comes to the selection of your topic. I would advise avoiding content which might damage your career, as once published, shared and read, it is difficult to rescind. On the other hand, content which is too generic or already frequently reported will fail to ignite comments.
Be prepared to commit to regular writing so that you do not disappoint your readers. Ask an expert for help in coming up with a content calendar so that you are preparing in advance which helps to maintain the quality of your articles.
There seems to be a lot of hate online and I am worried about my online presence being somehow a distraction and spoiling my productivity and my mental health. How can I make sure my online presence doesn’t negatively effect the rest of my life? Robert, New York
Robert, I sympathise with your experience and you are not alone. If you are finding yourself drawn to spending hours on social media every day then I would highly recommend that you have a digital detox for a period of time, say a week, or at the very least one day a week – maybe a screen-free Sunday to start with. If you really feel taking time away from social media for a long period of time would be too difficult then try placing your phone in another room while you are working so you are able to hear it ring but are not distracted by any notifications.
I would also recommend reducing the number of different social media platforms you participate in.
Studies show that every time you check email, a social feed, or respond to a notification, your mind requires 23 minutes of re-focus time to get back on task.
Another solution is to delete the social media apps from your smartphone and tablets and to only use the browser version. Alternatively, use productivity software which allows you to block websites which you find distracting for certain periods of the day.
Once you have reduced the number of platforms you use, the time you spend on social media each week, removed apps from your phone and taken control of your internet browsing on your computer you will feel more positive and productive.