If you dismiss LinkedIn as just a social media network for job-seekers, you’re missing out. LinkedIn is also a great tool if you find yourself in a career rut. Here are three major ways LinkedIn can help you get un-stuck:
If you’re stuck in a job you hate and aren’t sure how to move forward in your career, researching the career paths of others can be incredibly illuminating. Understanding how someone got from point A to point B in his career might open your eyes to different ways you can move up the ladder — or closer to a career that excites you — in your own way.
Before LinkedIn, we didn’t really have a way to do this, but now it’s even easier with LinkedIn’s new Field of Study Explorer. Simply select a field of study (if you’re logged in to LinkedIn, it will automatically select the field you studied in college, but you can change this under “Explore More”), and LinkedIn will tell you what others who studied that field are now doing — even where they’re living and working. It also shows you profiles of people who studied that field, starting first with your own connections and then moving on to people you don’t yet know but with whom you have connections in common. Don’t be afraid to click around and read what people have chosen to make publicly available. Reverse-engineering the career paths of others can be helpful if you’re not even sure what the possibilities are, much less how to accomplish them.
2. Rebrand yourself
Your LinkedIn profile tells a story about you: your history and path, your skills and interests and where you might go next. If the experience section seems like just a list of jobs, your summary is where you tie everything together. It’s your opportunity to connect the dots for your reader while articulating the best of your achievements. Your summary will go through many revisions as you gain new experiences and evolve personally and professionally. Writing about yourself forces you to consider things from someone else’s perspective and think objectively about your past. This can open your eyes to new possibilities.
Don’t discount the power of a good headline, either. Most people just default to using their current position and company, but there are better ways to make a fuller, more encompassing statement about yourself professionally. And if you’re job-seeking, don’t put that as your headline! As the first thing people read about you, it positions you as a beggar — not a chooser — and makes people worry you’ll just ask them about jobs. A better option is to describe yourself as the professional you are, whether or not you have a job. If you were recently laid off from a job as a marketing manager, you might choose to use something like “Proven marketing manager with eight years of experience.”
How you choose to portray past experiences is also important. Let’s say you’re that laid-off marketing manager and you’d like to work on more digitally focused campaigns at your next job. In that case, you might highlight the digital aspects of your prior projects by pointing them out first in the experience description.
3. Reach out
What’s the point of a network if you don’t connect with others? This is where you take your research a step further and actually connect — in real life — with people in your industry or who started from the same place. There’s definitely a right and a wrong way to do this, but most people are happy to help others; they’re flattered you want their advice, and if you end up being successful, they get value from the relationship as well. Making it easy for them to say yes is the tricky part; you don’t want to burden them with a long email or ask for too much of their time.
Thinking creatively and proactively about your trajectory is a necessary part of moving forward in your professional life, and LinkedIn can be an excellent resource and tool to help you map your career.