If you’re like many LinkedIn users, the last time you logged in to the networking site was to proudly update your profile to reflect your latest promotion or scope out a friend’s (or rival’s) flashy new job title.
But if you’re waiting until your next job search to perk up your profile, you may want to rethink that strategy.
“This is the time to start telling your story and making connections,” said Stacie Saunders, senior manager for social business and member engagement at the AICPA. “A strong profile can help establish you as a thought leader in whatever niche you want. Over time, this develops your personal brand and helps you stand out, whatever your next step may be.”
In an interview with The Edge, Saunders provided 10 tips on what young CPAs need to know about LinkedIn:
1. LinkedIn is practically the best free advertising you can get.
It’s really important for people to be able to find you easily online. If you do a Google search of your own name, your LinkedIn profile is going to appear near the top of the search results—often, above even your own firm’s website.
2. LinkedIn is where the CPAs are.
LinkedIn is No. 1 when it comes to business-related social media, especially by CPAs.
3. Profiles without photos don’t get viewed.
People are more apt to connect with somebody if they can put a face with a name. A photo gives you a little more context and also shows that your profile is a legitimate account.
Make sure the picture is clear and shows only you in a professional setting with professional attire, not a pouty-lipped selfie or wearing your favorite team jersey.
4. Recommendations matter.
If you don’t have any personal recommendations yet, ask a potential reference if they’d be willing to write one. Remember to send a gracious thank-you note afterward. You can also reciprocate by writing a recommendation for the other party.
5. Your profile is not a résumé.
Avoid replicating your resume. Your LinkedIn profile is a good place to offer additional information to your paper résumé. You can upload a project you led or a video of a speech you gave, or you can describe your volunteer work, especially if it complements your professional skills.
6. Keep your cash. The free version does all you need.
The upgraded version, which allows users expanded search capabilities and the ability to email more connections, may be useful to recruiters or salespeople. But for most young CPAs, the free version is adequate.
7. Express your opinion.
Don’t be afraid to interact with your LinkedIn networks or discussion groups. And don’t worry about people who will disagree with you, or the chance that your idea might flop. You’re never going to please everyone, but if you don’t speak up, there is a 0% chance anyone will hear your ideas.
8. Participating in group discussions.
When participating in group discussions, don’t overtly pitch your services. Focus on contributing to the conversations and establishing yourself as an expert. This will help build your credibility and trust, which is more likely to garner future business.
9. Remember your manners.
Interact with people on LinkedIn as you would in real life. You wouldn’t just walk up to someone at a party and start trying to sell them something.
If you are hoping to be introduced to a prospective client, consider phoning a mutual connection to ask for an introduction. The personal measure may go further than an email from a stranger.
10. Download the AICPA’s user guides.
For more detailed information via a users’ guide to LinkedIn, designed for AICPA members, click here.
Two profiles get makeovers
Saunders reviewed the LinkedIn profiles of two young CPAs and made specific improvement recommendations.
Matthew Walker, audit senior, Thomas Howell Ferguson, Tallahassee, Fla.
102 connections on LinkedIn
- Create a custom URL for his page.
- Join relevant discussion groups.
- Add to profile with more information in each section.
Results: Walker joined five discussion groups and plans to do more volunteer work that he can include on LinkedIn.
“These suggestions are really useful to any young professional to expand their network and industry footprint,” Walker said. “It took a short time to complete and could have big benefits.”
David Shibli, audit assistant manager, KPMG, Cayman Islands (a graduate of the AICPA’s 2014 Leadership Academy)
418 connections on LinkedIn
- Create a custom URL for his page.
- Add tasks in current role and previous job titles.
- Ask colleagues for recommendations to make profile stand out.
- Add the “Projects” widget to highlight specific teams and initiatives.
Results: Shibli has strengthened his profile by adding previous roles and set a goal of getting two recommendations in the next three months.
“I want to be more active in group discussions, and maybe I could try initiating discussions on topics I’m passionate about,” Shibli said.
Samiha Khanna is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C.
The Edge e-newsletter, is dedicated to providing tips and tools of interest to young professionals, including articles on building career resiliency, networking for success, and de-prioritizing the immediate to focus on the important. Watch for it in your inbox. Subscribe now.