Everyone is on LinkedIn these days. Let’s face it. Almost every CEO from every Fortune 500. Last count was over 50 million users.

In contrast, job boards have only about 3.5 percent of available jobs. This is common knowledge in the career industry, but then why do so many people spend so much time on job boards?

The answer is because it feels safer. LinkedIn is really all about networking. And socializing in an unfamiliar environment can be frightening. I know, I’m an introvert. I totally understand why job seekers try to spend as little time as possible in front of LinkedIn.

So I want to offer you 3 of the most common mistakes in using LinkedIn and how to avoid them. My goal is to help job seekers get over any unconscious resistance to using the most powerful job finding tool ever invented.

Mistake 1: Not Having a Brand

Shoe companies have brands, not people!


Looking for a job is just another sales situation. You are your product. And everything about you is going to either sell you or turn people away.

It’s really just a choice you have to make inside.

Just like how we make buying decisions emotionally, sometimes based on silly things, like the color of the packaging. So too do hiring managers unconsciously make decisions about our candidacy.

If your résumé doesn’t quite match your LinkedIn profile, and that doesn’t match what your referral said about you, then you are in big trouble.

The risk of being inconsistent is huge, and it helps to have defined “who you are” long before you put yourself out there.

The second part of branding is knowing your audience. What are their two biggest problems right now, problems that you could potentially solve?

The trick is to align the “who you are” with the “what they need” so there is a nice overlap.

This, my friends, is your personal brand. It will define your strategy, your writing style, your colors, photos and everything else about you online.

Most people crank out their LinkedIn profile without doing this step first.

Mistake 2: You are NOT Your J-o-b

“Systems Engineer”

“Marketing Executive”


These appear under people’s names in their LinkedIn profiles. And they tell us nothing about who this person really is.

They are a commodity.

Quick story. I had a client, a network engineer, who wanted to work for a very large shoe company. No, not Nike, but good guess.

He knew they had two problems. First, they had no internal network. Second, their external network was so broken that it was affecting supply chain.

So in order to really appeal to this company, we needed to directly address their biggest challenges — challenges that he had the capacity to solve.

So his headline went like this, “Powerful Intranet builder | Supply Chain thought leader | Project management guru”

You have 120 characters to tell the world who you are and what value you bring.

And every communication you generate on LinkedIn will have this professional headline attached to it.

So choose wisely.

Hint: don’t use your job title as your headline

Mistake 3: Don’t Look Like an Axe Murderer

Every single time I speak about social media in the job search, someone always comes up to me afterward to ask me this question, “But I’m just not that comfortable putting my picture up.” They are either too young or too old or too something.

Yes, ageism, racism and sexism are very real. It’s sad and terrible that they still happen in our society. But using a black and white photo, or zooming way out to try and hide something about ourselves is not going to solve the problem.

The only thing we can do is put some time and effort into our photos, to reflect who we are honestly. And to make a nice looking photo.

All too often, people will put up a mug shot, and wonder why they aren’t getting call backs.

This happened to a friend’s client. And the day he changed his photo, he got a job offer. No exaggeration. (I can hear the HR people cringing from this story, but it’s true).

So the lesson from this is that it is worth getting a professional headshot taken if you are serious about getting a job.

Joshua Waldman, author of Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies, is recognized as one of the nation's top authorities in Social Media Career Advancement. To learn Joshua’s secret strategies for shortening the job search and getting the right job right away, Get The Missing Manual for LinkedIn Success

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