6 Mistakes Veterans Make on LinkedIn. How Many Are You Making?

Photo courtesy of kevinmccarthy.house.gov

If you are transitioning from the military in the next few years, you are probably getting tired of hearing this. Everyone from your career counselor to the neighbor down the street has let you know that LinkedIn is the place to be as a job seeker.

So you establish an account. That's all there is to it, right? Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. Your well-meaning advisers are correct in that LinkedIn is a very powerful tool for a job seeker, but there's a lot more you still need to do. There are a growing number of transitioning military personnel who are making serious mistakes with their profiles and hindering their job prospects as a result. For example:

  • Establishing an account and not using it. A bare-minimum profile with scant connections screams out, "I have no idea what I am doing on LinkedIn, but I heard I needed an account." Worse, it may stereotype you as technologically inept.
  • Establishing an account when it is not appropriate for the target industry. Looking to further your career in the intelligence field? LinkedIn is not the place you should be advertising your skills.
  • Using it like a Facebook account. Images of pets and posts of a personal, political or religious nature are more likely to hinder than advance your prospects in the job market. If you wouldn't email it to your future boss, don't post it on LinkedIn.

So how do you create the sort of profile that will position you as a top-notch candidate transitioning out of the military? Here are a few insider tips:

1. Amend Your Short Text Summary.

When a recruiter searches LinkedIn, they will see your abbreviated profile that showcases your name and the short text summary listed underneath. This summary will default to your current job title if you do not amend it.

Would you prefer a recruiter saw "Soldier at U.S. Army" or "Transitioning Security and Law Enforcement Specialist Seeking Opportunities in Texas?" In a recent post, we gave you 10 ways to civilianize your resume; the same principles apply to your LinkedIn profile.

You may also want to use a military skills translator. The question "Should I use a military skills translator?" is one that I hear often from service members. To answer the question simply: It will not hurt you and it will probably help you overall, but do not rely on a translator alone.

2. Use an Appropriate Headshot.

You may have a wonderful headshot of you in uniform, but this may not be the most appropriate image for your job search. You want your future company to picture you as one of them, so dress for your future job, not your current one ... and please don't upload that family image of you and the spouse or you on holiday in your swimsuit.

I am a huge advocate of building your online personal brand; this is how to position yourself as an expert, and a professional headshot is an often overlooked personal branding strategy.

3. Make Your Skills List Relevant.

LinkedIn has a Skills and Endorsements section that allows other people to recognize you for your professional skills. This section influences recruiter search engine results, so make sure the skills you list are relevant to your career objective. Listing expertise on 10 different weapon types may detract from your profile if you are making a career change into human resource management.

Companies hire people for their experience, their potential or a combination of both. If your military specialty has a direct civilian equivalent and you want to continue in that occupation, then highlight that information on your resume: Operating or maintaining gas turbines does not need much translation.

If you are not continuing in your current specialty, you are then selling your "potential" more than your experience. In either case, how well you do a job is more important than your job description. Why? Because your accomplishments sell your potential; your experience sells your past.

4. Customize Your URL.

LinkedIn issues you a URL that you can use as a hyperlink on your resume, but the default URL is unwieldy. Look directly under your image in the edit mode, and you will see a small icon that will allow you to customize your URL. Select this icon and create a short URL using your initials and name, so that it appears professional when listed on your resume documentation. A custom URL is a great way to show up in the Google search results when a potential employer researches your name.

5. Write for a Reader Who Has No Military Experience.

Stating that you were a 79V, a SGM or the G-2 means absolutely nothing to someone outside the military. Your target reader should understand your position titles, responsibilities and accomplishments without having to have been in the military themselves. Avoid using acronyms and abbreviations! Getting a military-to-civilian resume ready to send out to a prospective employer can be a difficult and time-consuming process. You may only need a resume every couple of years or so, unlike sending out an email, which most people do every day, so you may have to relearn how to create an effective resume.

6. Let Employers Know What You Are Interested in.

Recruiters are not mind readers. You may have the skills and experience to position yourself for a number of different industries, so you need to make it clear what you want. Use your profile short text or your professional summary to spell out exactly what you are looking for in your next job.

LinkedIn is a very powerful tool that allows you to connect with recruiters and employers across the globe. Create a strong profile, use it wisely and you are well on the way to positioning yourself for a successful transition.

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