How Showcasing Your Volunteer Experience on LinkedIn Helps Your Job Search

Author: Brett Pucino, Career Advice

Let me ask you a question: do you use the Volunteer Experience box on LinkedIn? If you have volunteer experience, then I hope the answer is yes. I’m not saying it will be a difference-maker in getting you a job — you still need a solid core profile as well. What I am saying is that a good recruiter can tell a lot from that experience.

Showcasing your Volunteer Experience shows you’re altruistic
Volunteer work differs from work-work in one glaringly obvious way: volunteers aren’t paid. In today’s time-obsessed world, you’re a good person if you donate your time to a worthy cause. How does being a good person matter to your job search?

It shows you’re a good culture fit. Today’s business world is seeing a shift toward socially-conscious capitalism. Consumers, especially millennial consumers, demand brands to be environmentally and socially responsible. In order for brands to achieve the goal of such a reputation, they need good people from the bottom up. Not to mention your volunteer experience makes your more attractive to B-Corps and nonprofits.

Showcasing your Volunteer Experience can show off soft skills
This point piggy-backs on the previous — it’s pretty much impossible by looking at a person’s resume to tell if that person cares about anything other than themselves. You can’t tell if the candidate has interpersonal skills like compassion and a desire to help others. You can’t tell if the person is good at working with others.

Your volunteer experience shows off these interpersonal skills with concrete evidence. It can also show off other hard skills depending on your position. For example, being President of your fraternity or sorority chapter in college shows that you have leadership skills.

Your volunteer experience also shows you believe in something bigger than yourself. This is important when it comes to culture fit. A recruiter who sees this experience in a candidate is more likely to deduce that the candidate will be an employee who will fall in line with the company’s overall mission.

volunteer_cropped

Showcasing your Volunteer Experience attracts networking opportunities
In my mission statement I outline my five drives, and one of them is embodied by this quote: “Your Network is Your Net Worth.”

I believe people should always pursue opportunities to grow their respective networks, which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest benefits of volunteering. It is emotionally rewarding in that you grow your network through the people you help, and it is professionally rewarding in the contacts you make with those you volunteer with.

Listing your volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile provides an instant common ground with anyone who browses your profile and believes in the same cause. Even better, it can lead to meaningful connections with people who have also volunteered with the same organization. All of these could potentially lead to a job opportunity someday…you never know.

Final Thoughts
Like I said in the intro, I’m not hyping up volunteer experience to be the secret sauce of a successful job search (if you’re looking for that, then I have a book for you). All I’m saying is that if you have this experience, you absolutely should be highlighting it on your LinkedIn profile. Just because you weren’t paid, doesn’t mean the experience has no value.

3 Steps to Writing Your LinkedIn Headline Like a Copywriter

Author: Brett Pucino, Career Advice

There’s an old copywriting adage that says 80% of the time spent on a piece of copy should be dedicated to crafting the headline. The reason? You could write the best copy in the world, but it will never get read without a headline that piques the reader’s curiosity enough for he or she to continue.

This same concept applies to your LinkedIn profile: You could have an amazing summary and tons of relevant work experience, but recruiters won’t click through to your profile if your headline doesn’t grab their collective attention.

So, how do you write a headline that gets your profile read? Follow these three steps.

Make a swipe file of headlines from people in your industry
Have you ever made a Pinterest board for a specific topic? If so, then you know how to make a swipe file.

Copywriters create swipe files of headlines, calls to action and otherwise memorable and effective sentences. As a job seeker, you want to create a swipe file of LinkedIn headlines from successful professionals in your industry.

Each industry is different. Designers may typically have more offbeat headlines, while lawyers may typically have more traditional keyword-based headlines. Creating a swipe file will give you a guide to the vibe your headline should convey.

To find relevant headlines to put in your swipe file, all you have to do is type your desired job title in LinkedIn’s search bar. Read through at least 25 and pick the ten that resonated most.

Use your examples as a template to craft a headline which conveys your unique value proposition
Your unique value proposition is the reason why a recruiter should pick you over your competition. It is comprised of your tangible skills and your intangible values. Here’s my own headline as an example:

brett-headline

On LinkedIn, you have just 120 characters to convey your unique value preposition in your headline. The main question that should drive your headline is: so what?

What about your headline will make a recruiter care enough to click through to your profile?

Spend at least 30 minutes brainstorming headlines. Remember how I said some copywriters spend 80% of their time writing headlines for a piece? They often write dozens of different headlines for the same piece before deciding on the best one. Aim for at least five headlines to choose from at the end of the 30 minutes.

Test, Tweak, Repeat
One of the most important things to remember about your LinkedIn headline is that it can be changed. You aren’t going to craft the perfect headline on your first try.

Take that list of five headlines from step two and narrow it down to your top two choices. You can now perform what is called an A/B test in the marketing world. An AB test looks at a piece of copy is published with two different headlines, and then the marketer analyzes the data to see which performs better.

For your A/B test, put each choice as your headline for a month. Apply to the same number of jobs each month through Linkedin’s job board, and then analyze your results.

What are some of your proven tips for creating a LinkedIn headline? Share your thoughts in the comment box!

The Reason I Became a Career Coach

Author: Brett Pucino, Career Advice

“DUDE. I was just browsing LinkedIn Jobs and I think I just found my dream job

I got this text from one of my best friends – whom I met during my SUNY Oneonta days -early one morning about six weeks ago.

“Nice! Details?”

I replied instantly. My buddy, who is an accountant, had recently expressed his dissatisfaction with his pay at his current job.

“It’s a global accounting firm with an office in Manhattan. It would be a significant pay increase and it is in the field of accounting I want to work in. I know you’ve been learning the career development field and I really want this job, so I figured I’d pick your brain.”

I felt the sweet rush of validation warm my insides. It is one thing to present your professional self to someone who only knows you through that context. It’s another thing entirely for one of your best friends to trust you as a professional.

I was excited because this was my opportunity to use the breakthrough methodology – the collective career coaching strategies, compiled by my mentor Jay R. Lang, that I’ve been mastering over the last eight months. It was my chance apply the theories. I sent my buddy my advice via text.

“First thing you do is send your application to that job opening. Next, go to the firm’s website and find the highest-ranking decision maker’s e-mail address. Send your resume right to that person and write a passionate e-mail explaining why you’re so excited about the opportunity.”

He took my advice and a couple of days went by. It was a Thursday when I heard back from my buddy.

So…I found the managing partner of the firm’s email address and sent my resume. He emailed me back and said he loved my initiative and that he wants to schedule an interview for Saturday. I can’t believe that strategy worked THAT well!” 

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more proud of any achievement. Personal achievements are nice, but to be able to help someone get closer to achieving his dream was an indescribable new rush.

My buddy nailed the first interview. He got invited back to a second interview, which actually never happened due to the firm wrapping up busy season. He was all set to accept another offer when he got an e-mail back from the managing partner inviting him in for that second interview. He told the partner about the offer he had on the table, and the partner liked him so much that he decided to skip the second interview and offer him a job. All because this partner really valued initiative in his employees.

My buddy now works at the firm and absolutely loves his job. And the feelings and satisfaction I derived from this experience exemplify why I became a career coach.

The New Grad’s Guide to LinkedIn, Part 2: Using the Secondary Sections to Showcase Your Career Brand

Author: Brett Pucino, Career Advice

Take a second to think about this scenario. Someone asks you, “What makes up a LinkedIn profile?” What are the first things that come to mind?

You probably thought about the top box, summary, experience, education and skills sections. I covered how to build these sections of your LinkedIn profile in Part 1, which you can check out here if you haven’t already.

We’re now going to cover how to use those secondary LinkedIn sections that most tend to forget. Not all of these may apply to you. Your goal is to pick which ones work best for YOU, and then use this advice accordingly to make those sections stand out.

Volunteer Experience
Of all the secondary sections, this one is applicable to the greatest amount of people. There’s a good chance you had to volunteer at least once during your high school or college career.

If you were involved in Greek life or an honors society during college, then there’s a good chance you did lots of volunteer work. Treat each volunteer role you’ve held the same as you would a job in your experience section. You may not have been paid, but you did accomplish some things and acquire some skills.

In Part 1, I had you use a mind map to figure out your duties, accomplishments and skills acquired for each job you’ve held. Now I want you to do the same thing for each volunteer role.

LinkedIn Publisher
As a writer, LinkedIn Publisher is highly valuable, so I am a little biased when I say this section is huge when it comes to differentiating yourself from your competition in the job market.

One reason is that it shows off your written communication skills. This LiveCareer article states that the average corporate employee spends two hours per day performing tasks which involve writing. Think about how important email communication has become for businesses. If you can showcase well-written blog posts on Publisher, then hiring managers will assume you can put together a professional email.

Using LinkedIn Publisher is also a great way to showcase thought leadership. Typically, industry experts come to mind when one thinks of thought leadership. I believe that an industry expert is one type of thought leader. Another type of thought leader is the aspiring industry expert. Someone like you: a recent graduate with an insatiable curiosity towards his or her industry.

Courses
The courses section is a relatively new addition by LinkedIn. You can add each course you’ve completed toward your degree and add the school’s course number for verification. You can also add a description for each course to highlight the skills you’ve acquired. This section can be useful for those who are light on work experience. Check your course catalog to find course numbers and a description that will highlight the skills taught in the course.

Certifications
In this section you can highlight industry certifications that you earn throughout your career. While this aspect of the certification section may not be useful to recent graduates, you can make use of this section through taking courses on Coursera.

For those that don’t know, Coursera is an online learning platform through which you can take courses from real universities at a fraction of the cost. The best part of Coursera is that you earn a certificate for courses and specializations that you complete and you can showcase these certifications on Linkedin with the click of a button.

Do you have a skill you need to learn in order to make yourself more marketable to employers? If so, I highly suggest browsing Coursera’s catalog.

Publications
This final section is for the writers out there. The publications section allows you to list your digital publications with a link and description.

On my Linkedin profile, I link to all of my posts for ChelseaKrost.com and JustHaves.com, the blogs of Chelsea Krost and Justine Santaniello respectively. These two young women are power players in the millennial space, which is why I regularly contribute to their blogs. My clout instantly goes up when those viewing my LinkedIn profile recognize their names. If you enjoy writing, then you can utilize guest blogging to build up the publications section of your Linkedin profile.

Are you ready to level up your Linkedin presence? If you answered yes, then Tweet me @BPucino and let’s get the conversation started!

The Recent Grad’s Guide to LinkedIn, Part 1: The 5 Core Sections

Author: Brett Pucino, Career Advice

First off, congratulations! You’ve made it through four grueling years of undergrad and finally have that piece of paper you were told would be your golden ticket to a job upon graduation.

The bad news is that just having a college degree no longer guarantees you a job. The post-recession job market is hyper-competitive.

The good news is that your college degree is still valuable—if you know how to use it. That’s where LinkedIn comes in.

Career Branding: Why You Need to be on Linkedin as a New Graduate
I know what you might be thinking. LinkedIn is the social network for old people, right? It’s just a bunch of professionals the age of our parents, right? Why would we want to spend our time on such a social network?

Valid questions; but, they come from a faulty perception of LinkedIn. You can’t judge LinkedIn relative to the other social networks you use. It’s the only social network that’s strictly 100% professional (although some people haven’t gotten that memo). Of course, using LinkedIn isn’t as appealing as snapping your friends or browsing Instagram, but there’s still value in having an all-star LinkedIn profile as part of your social media portfolio. Just ask the 87 million millennials on LinkedIn.

That’s 38% of LinkedIn users who are millennials. The value of LinkedIn really comes down to two words: Career Branding.

The Value of LinkedIn as a Career Branding Platform
What’s career branding, you ask? Think of career branding as personal branding in professional attire.

When we think of personal branding , we tend to think of entrepreneurs trying to sell a product or service to their target audiences. Career branding operates under the same principles, just in a different context.

With career branding, you are the product and your target audience is potential employers.

In order to succeed in career branding, you have to start thinking of yourself as the CEO of “ME INC”. In this article for ChelseaKrost.com, I provide a fun Pinterest exercise to get you in the CEO mindset.

The Five Core Sections of the LinkedIn Profile
Building an all-star LinkedIn profile doesn’t require decades of experience and a massive amount of professional connections. This myth is a common barrier between new graduates and LinkedIn.

The following strategies aren’t revolutionary—they’re just geared toward recent college graduates. Let’s get started.

The Top Box

The top box is the section of the LinkedIn profile that includes:

  • Your Title
  • Your Professional Headline
  • Your Education
  • Your Current Job
  • Your Location
  • Your Profile Photo

Your title is simply where you put your first and last name. Use the same name that you use on your resume and only include abbreviations if they’re relevant to the job you’re seeking.

Your professional headline is a little less straightforward. Think of a headline for a piece of copy. The goal of your tagline is to get people to read your summary.

So how do you do that? The answer is keywords. Although LinkedIn is a social network, it has a secondary function as a search engine for professionals. Like all search engines, Linkedin’s search engine relies on keywords to provide relevant results to user’s queries.

Now you’re wondering what keywords to use, right? I have an exercise for that.

Remember those brainstorming diagrams you were taught in middle school English class? I use a variant of those, called a mind map, to do all of my brainstorming.

Using a mind map is pretty simple. The center node is the topic you’re brainstorming. In this exercise you put yourself as the center circle. Each primary node off of the center node are the things that first come to mind regarding the topic. The next step is to dig deeper into the primary nodes with secondary and tertiary nodes.

  • For this exercise you’ll only have two primary nodes—personal and professional.
  • Your secondary nodes will be hobbies, skills and interests related to either your personal or professional life.
  • Your tertiary nodes will be keywords and phrases related to these hobbies, skills and interests.

I like to use good ol’ pen and paper for my mind maps, but if you’re looking for a mind map software, then I highly suggest Mind Vector. Here’s an example of the beginnings of the exercise that I made using their software.

Mind Map

Once you’ve spent 20 to 30 minutes filling out your mind map, look at the words you have listed. What are the three to five words that best describe you? Or think of it like this: out of all the things you have listed, what are the three to five things you’d like someone else to use to describe you? Let’s look at my headline as an example.

Linkedin Top Box.JPG

See how I have keywords and phrases separated by “ | “ rather than one flowing sentence? That’s because you only have 120 characters to work with.

I suggest this style of headline because it allows you to get more relevant keywords and phrases in there, but you could also go with more of a traditional tagline. Here’s an example:

“Aspiring Talent Acquisition specialist with a passion for recruitment, on-boarding, and employee engagement”

With this type of headline, you want the position you’re seeking to be a primary keyword—it’s how you’ll get found by recruiters.

The rest of the top box is pretty self-explanatory. For the location area, list the area where you’re seeking a job. So, if you live on the outskirts of New York City but want to work in Manhattan, put New York City as your location.

For the profile picture, well, you know what to do. Find a plain background, dress professionally and smile. Now let’s talk about the summary.

The Summary Box
The summary is hands-down the most important section of your LinkedIn profile. The Muse has a list of five LinkedIn summary templates that will give you an idea of a couple of different styles you could go with. They are:

  • The Mission-Based Summary
  • The Personality Summary
  • The Short & Sweet Summary
  • The Blended Summary
  • The Accomplishment-Based Summary

Regardless of what style LinkedIn summary you use, there are core components that are in every successful one, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.

Component 1: An Attention-Grabbing First Sentence
If your professional headline resembles a headline of copy, then the first sentence of your summary is like the lede. The purpose of that first sentence is to suck the reader in and get them to keep reading.

I suggest using the question-based lede. Here’s the formula:

“ Are you looking for a (insert specific job title) with a passion for (keywords relative to job desired)?”

You don’t have to follow it verbatim, but that’s the general idea. The goal of using the question-based lede is to ask a question that you know your target audience will answer with a yes.

Component 2: The Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
Your unique value proposition combines skills, experience, interests and values that separate yourself from your competition.

Convey your UVP by using those keywords from the mind map exercises. Which keywords do you want to be the first words people think of when they think of you in a professional sense?

Component 3:  Strategic Use of Industry or Job-Specific keywords
As mentioned above, the summary is where you should highlight your core keywords. It’s not just enough to write some sentences with these keywords—you have to utilize them strategically.

Create a swipe file of several job descriptions for the position you seek. Study these job descriptions and see which keywords pop up most. These are the keywords recruiters in that particular industry use to search for candidates, so these are the keywords that should be featured in your summary.

Component 4: Key skills and accomplishments
Whether in paragraph or bullet form, every successful LinkedIn summary highlights the user’s key skills and accomplishments.

I use the Professional Profile, which was taught to me by Jay R. Lang, my mentor in the career development space. If you want to find out more about the Professional Profile and the other innovative tools Jay has used to help hundreds of people achieve their career breakthrough, you can check out his book on Amazon: Breakthrough! How to Get Hired in Today’s Tough Job Market.

Component 5: A Call to Action
Next to the lede, the call to action is the most important part of any piece of copy.

End your summary with the actions you want people reading your profile to take next. You want to have your summary section public, so be careful leaving your phone number or personal email. I suggest asking those interested in contacting you to send you a direct message on LinkedIn—and then from there you can exchange personal contact information.

The Experience Boxes
The experience section is the meat of your LinkedIn profile. This is the place where you can list all of the information regarding your previous jobs that you couldn’t fit in your resume.

Your resume is the cliff notes of your professional story—the experience section of your LinkedIn profile is the full version.

Like the summary, you get 2,000 characters per job you list. Since us millennials don’t have as much work experience as those in the middle or back-end of their career, we have to be as detailed as possible with the work experience we do have.

I break my job sections into three subsections: job duties, accomplishments, and skills acquired.

The job duties section is the place to expand upon your resume. Use this section to show skills you’ve listed in action.

The accomplishments section is where you show that you were good at what you did. Include raises, promotions and specific awards. Don’t be afraid to brag about yourself.

The skills acquired section is where you list the specific skills you’ve acquired from each job. This  part will be tough initially, but it will help you think in terms of transferable skills. These are the soft skills that transcend specific job titles.

An example from my work experience is my ability to work in a fast-paced environment. Most of my “traditional” work experience is in retail at the Woodbury Commons. I have tons of experience working in a fast-paced environment. When I first did this exercise for myself I realized that this was actually a skill I could work with in applying to a job in virtually any industry.

Remember the mind map from the first exercise? I want you to make some more for this exercise.

Make a separate mind map for each job you’ve had. In the center circle put the title of the job and the company you worked for. Then, make a primary node for job duties, accomplishments and skills acquired. Spend 15-20 focused minutes brainstorming for each job.

The Education Box
Your education section can be so much more than just listing your degree.

Make yourself stand out by adding membership to any clubs or honors societies. Use the description section to describe some of the skills you acquired—and which courses taught you those skills. You can usually find this information in the course description listed in your college’s course catalog if you get stuck.

 The Skills Box
Most people don’t take full advantage of this section. They list generic skills like “team player “ and “Microsoft Office” and move on to the next section.

Remember how we talked about the importance of keywords and how LinkedIn functions as a search engine? LinkedIn’s algorithm uses each skill listed in the skills section as a keyword that describes the user.

The key to this section is using skills that are most commonly listed in the job descriptions of the position you’re seeking. This practice gives you the best chance of showing up in the search queries of recruiters in that industry.

Now that you have all you need to build these five core sections of your LinkedIn profile, the only thing left to do is to get to work! Part Two of this series will be in our fourth issue, so be sure to subscribe to our email list here  so you don’t miss out! You can also contact me on Twitter (@BPucino) with any LinkedIn questions. I’m more than happy to help!