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The Accountant’s Definitive Guide to LinkedIn

The business savvy social network LinkedIn can actually help you land a better job than the one you call home right now. I’m sure some of you have actually used it to help you find a job, in which case I hope you share your triumphs with the rest of us.
We’ve covered the importance of LinkedIn here (and here) (and here) before, but since the site has been enhanced so much in recent memory, it’s worth revisiting. Before I get into some of the features of LinkedIn that you should be taking advantage of, let’s get your profile polished up first.
The Importance of Your Profile
What you decide to make of your profile is up to you. It can be as active as your 2006 MySpace profile and just be another place on the Interwebs that collects dust, much like your “foodie” blog you started with your girlfriends after your 7th drunk brunch in as many weekends. Or you could actually use it to stay on top of job postings, industry news, and where your public buddies have gone since jumping ship. 
Remember: Everything on your profile acts as a searchable keyword. This is important to remember when you are listing details about your work experience. If you are trying to make yourself more visible to potential employers or recruiters, it is important to include relevant industry terms in your profile. More on this later. 
Profile Picture
Yes, LinkedIn is a “social” network and yes, it was “funny” when you wore a Borat-like onesie to your bud’s Vegas pool party, but that doesn’t mean the full-frontal shot deserves to be your profile picture on LinkedIn (or anywhere for that matter). If you are posting a picture (and I think you should) it should be more of a headshot than anything else. Recently promoted to manager and had your photo taken? Great, slap it up on LinkedIn too. A decent yet professional shot is the first step in humanizing your profile. Here’s a quick screenshot of some interns who are ahead of the curve:









Unsurprisingly, these photos are more professional than what’s going on over at KPMG these days.

Moving on!

Editing your Profile
LinkedIn makes editing your profile HR idiot proof. When you click “edit profile” you have a number of easy options to edit changes:

Like I said, idiot proof.
Summary — a quick and easy place to describe your background in a few sentences. Describe your background and industry focus and give a bit of color to who you are as a person. It is also where you can talk about your CPA status.
Are you unemployed? This is the ideal place to discuss how you’re currently looking for a new position and what kind of opportunities (permanent, part-time, temp to perm, etc.) that you’re open exploring.
Experience — keep things updated. If you’re being promoted this summer, make the changes when things become official. If you changed jobs a year ago but never got around to adding the new employer to your profile, you have potentially missed out on a year’s worth of networking from old colleagues and clients. This is a no brainer, people. 
Add details. This is an area that allows you to provide background on your work experience and it’s a good first place to add those keywords I talked about. A dead giveaway to recruiters (and your colleagues) that you’re actively looking for a new job is when you simply copy and paste the bullet points into this section. Take it from Bill Murray:

What should you do then? –Paraphrase, duh. Talk about the kinds of clients you focus on. Describe testwork that you have done. Experience with 10-Ks? Squeeze that term in somewhere. Have you audited fixed income trading at Bank of America? Talk about fixed income trading at Bank of America. 
Skills and Expertise
This has been a great addition to LinkedIn. You can now list skills and areas of expertise that are relevant to your background and your connections can endorse these skills as well. I’m sure you’re familiar with how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works for rankings and exposure for websites; consider this section to work very much like a Social SEO on LinkedIn. These are searchable terms that recruiters and potential employers can use to find you.
It’s easy to overlist or overreach in this area since LinkedIn allows you to list 50 or so different things, so I suggest using this accurately and in a way that portrays you the way you want to be positioned in the professional space. Like I mentioned, these skills can then be “endorsed” by your connections. There are no quality controls around this, meaning your girlfriend (or better yet, your summer interns) can run down your list of skills and endorse every one of them even if they don’t know what 10K’s or cash flows are. But this doesn’t matter – the point of this is to build your rep on LinkedIn.  If we take a peek at Adrienne’s profile we can see that she’s an active user of these things:
(Sidebar: why “Tearing commenters new a**holes on Going Concern” isn’t listed is beyond me. We all know it’d be the most endorsed skill.)
Education and Certifications
Simply put, list everything you’ve earned, but don’t list high school. No one cares anymore.
This is kind of an outdated section on LinkedIn, when profiles were set up to mirror traditional resumes. Again, keep in mind that this isn’t your Facebook profile so keep your interests limited to topics that you are comfortable with your employer seeing.
Receiving recommendations from colleagues and fellow professionals are an excellent way to promote your skills and add positive third-party feedback to your profile. I wrote about the ins and outs of asking for recommendations on GC before, which you should check out here. It is possible to get them from your current boss after a successful engagement, you just need to be careful how you ask for them. Be honest and straightforward about your desire to have your accomplishments presented fully on your profile. 
The benefits of groups are mixed, IMO. Sure, they are a way to connect 1,300+ GoingConcern readers, and Caleb & Company can post information anytime they want. But they can also be an incredibly annoying inbox filter, because when you join a group the default settings put you down for regularly scheduled emails throughout the week (for those of you still getting these emails, go into your group settings and change things for yourself). Once you’re in a group, you’ll see a lot of crap, like so:

The point of joining a group is not to fill your inbox with ridiculous amounts of spam. Joining groups help to expand your network. LinkedIn works along the lines of three degrees of separation, plus shared groups. Joining groups extends the reach of your social network on the site, thus increasing your exposure to recruiters and employers…see a theme here?

Influencers and Channels
This is a newer addition to the LinkedIn profile, and although it does not increase your network size, it can be a way to spice up your newsfeed. Just as your Facebook feed is increasingly filled with engagement, wedding, and placenta photos, it’s probable that your newsfeed on LinkedIn is rather dull. By creating these new channels of readership, LinkedIn hopes to increase the amount of time users stay on their site. You can access the Influencers section through the “Interests” drop down menu on the homepage (or just click here). You can follow a number of influential people in the workplace, from Richard Branson (the most popular) to Martha Stewart (not as popular, but definitely hotter).
There are also Channels now, where you can follow and interest and LinkedIn will curate the news for you. Neither Influencers nor Channels will show up in your inbox, just on your newsfeed. Here’s an example of how a Channel shows up:

Pretty self explanatory. Follow companies that interest you, including your own. PDubs, here ya go.
Note that all of these — Influencers, Companies, and Groups show up on your profile by default. You can also join one when you are browsing someone’s profile with the click of a button.
Finding a Job on LinkedIn
If you’re active on the job market these days, it’s probable that you’ve snooped around in LinkedIn’s job section. If you haven’t, here are a few takeaways that are common-in-the-field-but-good-nonetheless. 
  • Email alerts for jobs
  • Privacy (nothing posted to your LinkedIn profile)
  • Free to use 
Again, these aren’t mind-blowing features and are all features that GC Jobs has as well (e.g. email alerts). My advice is to always keep an eye on both. If you’re looking to move to another part of the country, this can be a great first step in making contacts. You can also set email alerts so you receive regular updates on jobs in your area(s) of interest. 
How to Best Leverage Yourself In Your Job Search
The most important thing to remember about everything you do and share on LinkedIn is this: make sure what you share is fair representation of who you are in the workplace. It is okay to share articles and updates about topics that interest you as long as they are office appropriate. Because your LinkedIn profile is public, remember that it is yours to manage. It’s fine if you want to remain private. But when your colleagues tells you they landed a sweet new gig because a hiring manager found them on LinkedIn. Don’t be sitting there in your cube, scratching your head and wondering why you were not contacted when you know in the back of your head that your profile is basically a blank canvas. 
So that's LinkedIn, everybody. Miss any of the other posts in our Definitive Guide series? See them all here