An Architect's Introduction to LinkedIn - 4 Simple Ways to Get Started
When you hear the word, “LinkedIn,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Are you thinking about you need to update your resume?
Are you pondering whether or not to look for another job?
Are you dismissing it as ‘just another social media site’?
You’re not wrong to think any of the above by any means, but I see LinkedIn as something more.
To me, LinkedIn is a career resource unlike any other. It’s place to establish yourself professionally outside the confines of your workplace. You can slowly build connections throughout the world, learn new skills, share your thoughts, search for new opportunities and create those opportunities for those you meet.
Unlike the other social mainstays like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, LinkedIn was established specifically for professionals. It’s purpose to help career-minded individuals build themselves up as they rise through the ranks of their own careers.
As an Architect, I’ve found LinkedIn to be an invaluable resource for my own career growth. Today, I wanted to share the four ways I’ve found to get started in LinkedIn so that you can hit the ground running for yourself.
1 // Present Your Professional Self
Above all other things, I treat LinkedIn as the primary place to present my professional side to the world. I think of it as a hub where I can showcase my career endeavors, my successes and my failures.
The first step to create an epic profile.
Now, depending on where you fall in your career right now, you may not feel like your career is particularly epic - and that’s perfectly ok. You just need to get started and build it up over time. One day you’ll look at your profile and smile at how amazing it’s become.
HEADSHOT / BANNER
There are two graphics you need to make sure are on point for your profile - regardless of your experience level.
The first is your Headshot. Keep it simple, but professional. It should NOT be the random selfie you put on Facebook. Think of it more like the type of photo a model might use in their portfolio, but geared towards an office setting - tasteful, hopefully in business attire, at about a medium range (head, shoulders part of your torso).
The Banner is often neglected on LinkedIn, so make sure you create a graphic of your work or something that’s professionally important to you. For my own banner, I created a graphic that caters both to my personal design sensibilities and incorporates a quote of my own, speaking to my professional beliefs as an architect.
TITLE / SUMMARY
Your Title and Summary will differentiate you from the crowd and begin to speak to your personality and intentions as an Architect. Don’t squander the opportunity here to rattle off your professional life as though it’s a grocery list.
You have a point of view.
You have made successful accomplishments that you’re proud of in your career.
You have an interest in building your career.
Take this as the opportunity to blend those together into something that doesn’t sound like just anyone wrote your story. Make it sound like it could only have come from you. You are the only source you need here.
EXPERIENCE / EDUCATION
Now we’re at the place that you’re all too familiar with. If you’ve ever made a resume for yourself, I bet you listed the places you’ve worked at, the degrees you’ve earned, and broken down all of your accomplishments in a tidy, well-conceived list.
For the most part, the same can be said for your Education and Experience Sections in LinkedIn.
The difference - try and piece together an interesting dialogue describing what you did at each of the places you’ve listed. Remember, LinkedIn is sort of the creative counterpart to your resume. It doesn’t need to be as stuffy, but it should still follow a few key rules. Be brief, be truthful, be interesting, and be professional.
RECOMMENDATIONS / SKILLS
Ready for the LinkedIn secret weapon?
LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to ask for recommendations from anyone else you may have as a connection on the platform. Gone are the days of long, drawn out recommendations and the process it takes to get them. All you need to do is select the ‘Ask for Recommendation’ option in your profile, select someone from your network and the person on the other end is given the option to write up something and send it back to you.
The key here - be specific and brief in your request. Not only in your ask for recommendation, but in who you ask of a recommendation. For example, you might ask a colleague at your firm to recommend you based on a project you worked on together. Or you could ask a peer on a volunteer committee to speak to your work as a volunteer.
Did you know that you can also list your skills on your profile? Yep, it’s true! Think of it as the lighter version of recommendations.
For example, if you’re an all-star with a software program like Revit, you can list it in your profile and have your connections simply click to confirm that you actually possess that skill. Even better if you find someone with a lot of endorsements in that same skill. LinkedIn considers them to be ‘highly skilled’ after a certain threshold of endorsements. If a highly-skilled connection endorses you, LinkedIn will list that.
After you have a few skills endorsed by your connections, make sure to list your top three. They’ll pop up on your profile as the skills you’re essentially the most proud of. This is really helpful if you’re trying to prove to others that you are well-versed in something specific.
2 // Connect
Once you’ve established a killer profile, it’s time to build out your connections and your overall network.
These are the primary types of connections you might consider trying to make depending on your interests or experience level:
Colleagues / Peers
Classmates / Alumni
Professionals with Similar Interests
The way you connect is technically simple, but it does take practice to successfully connect with someone on LinkedIn.
Think of it this way - if you saw someone in person at an event who you thought would make a great connection, would you walk up to them, hand them your card and ask for theirs?
Please tell me you’re yelling ‘No’ at the screen right now.
While it may be tempting to connect with absolutely everyone on the platform, you have to be careful. Trying to connect without an additional message that introduces you may leave you vulnerable to either rejection or worse.
Side note - LinkedIn added a feature to ensure that individuals can’t SPAM others. When someone chooses to ‘ignore’ your connection request, they have the option to also select ‘I don’t know this person.’ If you have too many of those listed against your account, LinkedIn will shut it down.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool to connect with others professionally, but you need to approach each new connection with respect.
Start small and connect with a few people who seem to share some of your interests. After that, broaden your reach a bit and start to connect with other Architects and designers in cities or at firms that you admire. Talk to them about something that they’ve posted that you appreciate.
Start a dialogue that matters.
3 // Get a Job
Since you’re starting to get the hang of LinkedIn now with your fancy profile and new connections, it’s time to consider another aspect of the platform - job searching.
Now, perhaps you’re perfectly fine with the job you have now. That’s great!
But if you ever have the itch to try something new (architects tend to move around many times during their career), LinkedIn was built to help you find the job you’re looking for. There are a few tools in particular you should check out.
The Job Search tool will allow you to plug in keywords, locations, and other information to identify jobs that have been posted to platform. If you find a job posting with ‘Easy Applications,’ that means that you can apply directly using your LinkedIn profile for that particular position.
See, wasn’t it a good idea to brush up that profile!
In your search, you’ll see who works at the locations you’re applying to from your own connections. Say that you want to move to a new firm and your friend works at that firm (even if they work in a different office), you can have them refer you on LinkedIn as another type of direct recommendation for that position.
The Salary Search tool will give you a ballpark salary based on a job title and location that you enter into the system. The salary is generated based on data collected through the job search platform. It can help to give you a ‘relatively’ accurate look at what you might be able to make if you were to switch jobs in your area, make a move up in your career to a higher level, or move to another city altogether.
Take a look around the job tools. They can be used to help you find a new job, understand the requirements of positions you’re aiming to have someday, or help you understand your overall value. Maybe it’ll even help you ask for that raise you’ve been meaning to get after.
4 // Learn and Share
Last, but certainly not least, LinkedIn is a social media platform meant for learning and sharing of ideas, knowledge, and opinions.
Like most other social media, LinkedIn has a News Feed where you can read articles others post on the platform. You can comment and like updates your connections make and even celebrate milestones in their careers.
Looking to share your voice in a more structured way? LinkedIn has a built-in platform, similar in many ways to Medium, that will allow you to write articles and post them to both your News Feed and your profile. After each article you write, a link will be added to your profile to help you slowly build up a library of your written work on the platform.
Side note - everything I’ve mentioned so far on the platform is 100% free as of this article. But if you’re looking for something truly amazing, you may want to consider upgrading your profile to the paid version of LinkedIn for this next item. It’s truly a game-changer.
Online courses are trending upward exponentially because of how convenient they’ve become. The technology to produce them has never been easier and the overall ability to distribute the high-quality videos over an internet connection has become second nature for many creators.
That said, LinkedIn acquired a little site by the name of Lynda.com and essentially connected all of the online courses there for members of the premium version of LinkedIn. At about $30/month as of this article, you have unlimited access to hours upon hours of guided tutorials on everything from Revit to SketchUp to Construction Detailing to Business Management and everything in between.
Now, $30/month isn’t cheap for most people. However, if you’re looking to learn something new in a variety of topics, it might just be worth it for you. Not to mention, LinkedIn does offer the first month for free.
I know that I may sound a bit like an ad for LinkedIn, but that’s just because I really believe in the product they’ve created.
It’s easy to forget that your career needs to be maintained and cared for in order for you to grow professionally. LinkedIn simply fills in the gaps and, dare I say it, makes it really freaking fun in the process.
I may be a bit of a career nerd, but I’m glad something like LinkedIn is out there to help Architects like me navigate my own career with confidence.