As our world continues to evolve into a more virtually-connected society, the ability for military spouses to network from wherever they are geographically is greatly enhanced, especially for their employment endeavors.
Regardless of your career goals or your ideal employer, establishing a network of like-minded peers, decision-makers and thought leaders within your industry has never been more possible than through LinkedIn.
While military spouse un/underemployment rates hover at 24%, LinkedIn offers career-minded candidates the opportunity to shine a light on their skills and employment goals while positioning themselves in front of potential employers.
Consider your LinkedIn profile a digital representation of yourself: a living resume with a built-in target audience. Therefore, the more care you take establishing your digital footprint on LinkedIn, the better your chances are in landing your dream job. Did you know you may qualify for a free LinkedIn Premium Account? Learn more here.
Whether you're a newbie or you're looking to spruce up your current LinkedIn profile, these tips will come in handy as you navigate the platform and build your network:
1. Tackle the basics of your profile
Before you get too far into making connections, take the time to fill in the framework of a resume that LinkedIn is requesting. This includes your name, photo, headline, summary/bio, work experience and education history. The last thing you want is for your connections to arrive at your profile only to leave without an understanding of your goal OR how you can help them (and vice versa). For those uncertain of what to put for your location, consider using the area where you're looking to be employed or will be PCSing.
2. Your first impression: a quality headshot
While you don't necessarily need to pay big bucks for a corporate headshot, this is also not the time to post a selfie from your most recent vacation as your LinkedIn profile image. This is your opportunity to make a strong first impression with your connections, and you'll want to offer a photo that is professional, warm and welcoming. Therefore, use the phrase "dress for the job you want" as a best practice for headshots. Consider asking a friend to help you with this by using portrait-mode on an iPhone in a well-lit space.
3. Personalize your outreach
When inviting others to connect with you on LinkedIn, the spray and pray method is probably not the best recommendation. Instead of adding every person you see on LinkedIn and hoping they are interested in learning more about you, personalize your invitation to people you already know or would like to know more about. Help them recall how you might know them, what you're seeking by connecting with them or compliment their work.
4. Engage ... and often!
Frankly, this cannot be understated. If the goal is to elevate your visibility to future employers and make meaningful connections, you must commit to networking in the digital world. You can begin by liking your colleague's post or commenting on a news article shared by decision-makers, but the real engagement lies in creating your own posts (short-form, high frequency) and perhaps writing articles (long-form, timely and relevant). LinkedIn's algorithm prioritizes engagement, therefore the more you interact with your network, the more often you will appear in your network's timeline AND the timeline of your connections.
5. The details matter
Take the time to elaborate when filling out education and work history in your profile. Identify the keywords you wish to be found when recruiters search and be sure to use those words in your headline, summary and profile. It's totally fair to include volunteer work (key spouse, non-profit involvement, etc.) that you have been involved in to provide insight into strengths, skills and experience. Use this as an opportunity to elevate yourself and emphasize what YOU bring to the table.
Bonus tip: Now is a great time to audit your social media footprint. LinkedIn is not the only way potential employers will learn about you. It has become common practice for hiring managers to search candidates on other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Take the additional step of either making your profiles private and/or cleaning up what you may not want to share with your future employer.
-- Lyndsey Akers is an Air Force spouse, corporate communications professional and a passionate military spouse employment advocate. In addition to making memories with her family, her latest passion project includes leading the marketing efforts for Spouse-ly, the one-stop shop to support military/veteran spouse- and service member-owned businesses.
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