The best LinkedIn tips for veterans
If you’re a veteran who served many years in the military, you may be unsure how to get into today’s civilian job market — including through the LinkedIn® professional networking website.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone, says Garland Williams, PhD, a retired U.S. Army colonel and associate regional vice president of the University of Phoenix Military Division. “LinkedIn is a great way to connect with other vets who have already made the same journey you are,” he says. Here are six ways to make the most of the site:
Create a robust profile.
Your free LinkedIn profile is an online resumé. “Be sure you have a professional photo and complete all the required fields; otherwise employers may bypass you,” advises Sherrie Madia, PhD, a social media expert and author who teaches online courses in the University’s communication program.
To translate military experience into business language, Madia suggests looking at job postings you’re interested in and modeling your profile after them. “Pay attention to keywords, such as ‘project management’ or ‘supervisor,’ and include them in your profile,” she notes, “because that’s how employers may find you.”
Don’t buy any LinkedIn “premium” services, she adds. “If you have a robust profile that illustrates how you add value,” she says, “you’ll connect with employers more easily, and for free.”
Build your network.
“Think creatively. Look up people from high school, from past military units, from … community organizations,” Madia says. “LinkedIn works intuitively. Once you add even a handful of people, the system automatically suggests new contacts for you.”
As your list of contacts grows, so does your potential employment network. “For every contact you have, you also have access to your contact’s [network],” she explains.
Make careful choices.
Madia cautions against adding people haphazardly. “Your network is a reflection on you,” she says, “so choose wisely.”
Relationship building is also important. “The same social rules that apply in real life apply to LinkedIn,” she notes. “You wouldn’t crash a cocktail party where you didn’t know anyone and start passing out your resumé, [so] you [shouldn’t] spam a bunch of random strangers … to ask for jobs.”
Instead, show others how you can help them before asking for favors. “Join discussion groups and answer someone’s question, or offer support,” she advises.
Join veteran-specific LinkedIn groups.
“Over the past year alone, some fantastic [user] groups targeted at vets have emerged on LinkedIn,” Madia notes.
She recommends the Veteran Mentor Network, which pairs vets with career mentors; Veterans Hiring Solutions for Veterans and Companies, a veteran-employer hub; and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Career Networking group. Broader groups like U.S. Veteran can help you become comfortable with using LinkedIn.
Search for jobs.
Most LinkedIn groups have a Jobs tab on their landing pages with targeted opportunities. “LinkedIn has job-search and filtering capabilities built in,” Madia points out, “which allows you to enter and save search criteria,” and it emails you updated listings.
She suggests searching LinkedIn for jobs when your network is well established. “This can show how your own skills match up with others’ before you apply for jobs,” while demonstrating your commitment to career development, she explains.
Many employers now do much of their recruiting via personal referrals on LinkedIn, so take advantage of all the site’s options — especially the Recommendations and Endorsements, where contacts can vouch for your skills and experience on your profile.
Madia stresses that it’s perfectly acceptable to reach out to your contacts for job-search help: “Anyone on LinkedIn knows the objective is to connect candidates with employers, so don’t be shy.”
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