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Episode 38: "Optimizing LinkedIn Profiles, Networking, and Learning" with Oliver Schinkten

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Episode Description

Join Carol and Oliver Schinkten, LinkedIn Staff Author, Business, Education & eLearning for this informative episode detailing how relaunchers can best use all that LinkedIn offers. Whether it’s learning how to portray yourself in your Profile, using LinkedIn Learning resources to build your confidence and skills, expanding your networking opportunities, or maximizing the Newsfeed, Oliver and Carol explain how LinkedIn can help you send the message you want potential employers to see.

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Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we talk about strategies, advice, and success stories for returning to work after a career break. This is Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of iRelaunch, and your host for today. And I'm very excited to be speaking today with Oliver Schinkten, who is a national speaker, consultant, writer and staff instructor for LinkedIn.

He's an expert in education and career and professional development. As a learning facilitator, passionate about revolutionizing education and empowering others, Oliver believes in helping people discover the tools, skills, and opportunities they need to be successful. He's the author of over thirty-five courses, including Learning LinkedIn, Learning LinkedIn Recruiter, and Learning LinkedIn for Students. We are thrilled to have him here.

Oliver, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Oliver Schinkten: Thank you, Carol. I am honored and excited to be here today.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And we're thrilled to be talking with you, because as we tell all relaunchers, it is mandatory that they have a LinkedIn profile. And one of the pain points of relaunching is to figure out how to best portray yourself on your LinkedIn profile. In addition to that, I want to get into how people can use the resources of LinkedIn Learning as a way to update skills, and build confidence, and better prepare themselves for the job search process, as well as the job that they will ultimately get.

Oliver Schinkten: That sounds great, that's awesome, and that's why I love the work that you guys are doing. I'm extremely passionate about helping to empower people to be successful, and really confident that LinkedIn is a tool that can help people to connect and define jobs and all of these different things.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent. So let's start with the profile itself. If you can talk to us and talk to our audience, and remember in our audience we have mostly people who we call relaunchers, people who have taken career breaks for elder care, childcare, pursuing a personal interest, a personal health issue, both men and women, and people who have taken career breaks from one to over twenty years. So that's who's listening, and we really want to dive in and understand, how do people who are relaunching best project themselves on the LinkedIn platform? Any initial guidelines for people in setting up their LinkedIn profiles?

Oliver Schinkten: I think the first thing that I'd like to do is just, when people hear LinkedIn, a lot of times they're intimidated by it, or think that they don't need to use it, or it's something they're just not sure how to utilize.

So, I do want to emphasize that I've worked with a ton of relaunchers, I've been one myself, and so I definitely understand the situation. And I think that LinkedIn is great because it can help people to establish and improve their digital footprint, which is important. They can connect with others, build a professional network, search for job opportunities, learn new skills, stay up to date on industry news.

And another important thing, I think, especially for people returning to the workforce, is that a LinkedIn profile really offers an opportunity for you to tell your story, to showcase some of your personality, your skills, your interests and more, in a way that a resume or a job application can't necessarily do.

I understand that returning to the workforce can definitely be stressful. And one of those stressors is the fact that you have this gap in your work experience. It could be because there's a reason, or you're switching careers, different things like that. What is the best way to handle that?

And when we get into a LinkedIn profile, I think the first thing that I'd like to mention is that keeping a profile up to date is extremely important. LinkedIn has some different statuses that you can reach, I think the top is all-star status, meaning that you have a complete profile and it's all good. But I like to emphasize the fact that, in my opinion, a LinkedIn profile is never complete. It's an evolving document that as you learn new skills, as you get new experience, you constantly are adding to that and making it better.

But when we look at it initially, the first advice that I would give to people is to say that this is a great chance for you to reach out to other people and a great chance for people to find you. You're going to want to create an account that looks professional and sends the message that you want to be sent. And I think that starts with a good profile picture.

One thing that LinkedIn has been emphasizing a lot lately, and I'm glad they are, is that this doesn't necessarily mean you have to get a professional photo done that's going to cost you a ton of money. It could be one that you take with a regular camera or even a smartphone, they have the ability to take great pictures. But it's one that you would take the time to make sure it's clear. It's preferably a headshot that shows a recent image of you, and one that you conduct yourself professionally in.

No, this isn't Facebook, we're not going to have pictures hanging with friends and things like that. But to have a good professional image that represents you right away, because you don't know how long you have someone's attention when they first see your profile on LinkedIn. And that first thing they're going to see is your picture. The second thing they see is typically the headline, and that's what you put right below it. The usual advice for it is to put your job title as well as your employer. So in my case, it would be Oliver Schinkten, Staff, Author, LinkedIn.

In the case of a relauncher, obviously this could be a pain point or a frustrating point because, what do you put if you don't have a current position? I think there's a number of ways that you can handle that where in that position, you might, or in that headline, you may just put what it is that you're interested in doing. For instance, maybe you are a digital marketer, a leadership coach, a business analyst, and put that in there just as your headline, and that's fine. Another thing is some people like to take it a step further and be extremely transparent and say something like, "actively seeking employment," or "open to employment opportunities," things like that, that you can add in there as well.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Can you talk about, for example, volunteer work or certain coursework that you're taking? If those activities are relevant to your career goals, do they belong in the main body of the LinkedIn profile or in the special sections for education or volunteer work?

Oliver Schinkten: So that's a great question. And so right below the next thing, I think if anybody sees your profile and they're interested in it, they're going to dive further in the next place they'll go for that is the summary. So, the summary is a part that is underutilized in my opinion. I see a lot of people with a LinkedIn profile and they don't utilize that summary section, and they should. It's an area where you can put in up to 2,000 characters, so you can add quite a bit. And that's an opportunity to, like I said before, to tell your story, to show some personality, and do things like you just said about, highlight maybe some volunteer work that you did during that time that is relevant to your job, or some other things that you did, books you read, courses you took that are relevant to your job.

I think putting them in there into that main summary, my advice on that would be, if you think it's something that one, an employer reads it, it gives them a better idea of who you are and the asset that you are bringing to them if they were to hire you, you can work it into that section.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I think that's really interesting because one of the topics we discuss, especially for relaunchers that might be in their fifties or older, is how to combat age-ism and we talk about subject matter expertise as being the antidote to age-ism. So, the idea that you can work in some discussion of how you're building up or maintaining your subject matter expertise in that summary is really intriguing to me.

Oliver Schinkten: Yeah, absolutely. And with that in mind, I think it's important to look at LinkedIn as there are two different perspectives that you need to consider when developing your profile, if you're in it for looking for jobs. And the first one is that when you apply to places, or request to connect with others, or share things in your newsfeed, people are going to look at your profile. So you want to have a professional looking profile that is set up, again, with the summary on your account, it'll only show like the first three or four lines that people would have to click on to go further. Having something that captures their attention, but really representing yourself there, do they like what they see? How well did you brand yourself? But also, there's another aspect to it, and that is people who find you. There are recruiters, there's hiring managers and other people using LinkedIn to find people.

So, not only how good does your profile look, but are you able to be found? Can people find you? And with that in mind, I think that's where it's important in that summary section, and in all sections of your LinkedIn profile, to add some of that stuff. Add those skills that you have, what it comes down to, they're called keywords.

But if somebody is going to go look up web design or things like that, will they come across you? Are you using that terminology in your summary, in your profile? And then again, like you said, I think that a summary is a great opportunity, something you can't get from necessarily just an application or resume, for you to explain more about your expertise, explain what it is you're passionate about, ways that you've been keeping up to date in the industry.

Carol Fishman Cohen: We do advise people to look at the job descriptions of jobs that they are aspiring to be hired into, in part to see what kind of language is used. And I'm guessing that you would say that's a good place to find some of the right keywords?

Oliver Schinkten: That's absolutely right. For a while there, I had talked to some people, we were looking for the best tools to find out which keywords you should be using for your industry, until it really hit me, and I've given this advice now and people are like, "Oh my God, that works perfectly."

Like you said, go look at some job postings, read the language, have a piece of paper there, write down some of the key words or those keywords that they have mentioned in those jobs. Not only that, but I think to go on LinkedIn, search for people that have a similar position that you might be looking for. And then find ten of them, look at their profiles, find a couple of the profiles that you think really stand out that you like, and look at what they're using, look at the terminology they're using. So I think the best way to do it is to go find great examples and then use, not saying obviously to plagiarize exactly what they put, but find out what those keywords are, and the things that they're saying in order to get noticed.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Right, and just in the body of the profile, I know we already talked about portraying your career break and maybe mentioning it, or not mentioning if you're open to looking for employment in the summary, but the body of the LinkedIn profile itself. In some of the groups that we have of relaunchers, when we look at the way people portray their career breaks on their LinkedIn profiles, some people out and out say "career break" and then have a one-line sentence talking about why they took a career break. I know that on my LinkedIn profile, I wrote community leader because during my career break, I did a lot of volunteer activity and was in leadership roles, even though I wasn't getting paid for them. And that is how I accounted for a number of the years that I was out of the workforce. Any comments on how to treat that career break in the timeline part of your LinkedIn profile one way or another?

Oliver Schinkten: Well, I've seen people where they just actually don't end the last career that they have as far as their LinkedIn profile. I think the way to deal with it with the highest integrity is to have it, obviously when it did end. And if you have that gap, there is also, some people say, "I'm not going to advertise that and explain it. If they ask, I'll tell them." But there are other people who want to list it. And I think the hard part here, and I'm sure you would agree with a blanket summary to this, is just the fact of why you had that career break. So for instance, if it was to take on a community leadership thing, if it was elder care, if it was care for children and stuff like that, I think right there I personally would want to be very open and say, "Hey, this is what I did. I took this break, but now I'm extremely excited and passionate to get back into the industry, get back into a job." And being this upfront, again, I think that's where the summary in LinkedIn allows you to do that, to tell that story.

Now, in other cases where, and we're in tough times, as far as there are excellent employees who are let go from positions because as innovation changes things, jobs are lost and they just are. And if so, if you're leaving because you lost a job, it may be a little bit different, where you don't necessarily want to put in there, "I lost my job, that's why I had this gap." Some people might choose to be more open there, but I think there again, rather than put the emphasis on that and worry too much about it, I would put more emphasis on what I can do, and what I bring to the table, and what I am excited for. And, if they want to ask more questions on that, obviously have something well prepared that you can explain it and say it. But yeah, I think being open and honest is the best way to approach it, and depending on your situation, however you think is best to handle it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's actually very consistent with what we recommend to relaunchers. We say, “Be matter of fact, don't apologize, just state that you took a career break for whatever reason, and now you can't wait to get back to work,” a very similar to the approach, Oliver, that you were just outlining.

So I want to now get into the use of LinkedIn for networking purposes. But first I want to tell our listeners that you are listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we talk about strategies, advice, and success stories for returning to work after taking a career break. This is Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of iRelaunch and your host for today, and I am speaking with Oliver Schinkten. Oliver is Staff Instructor, Education E-learning and Business for LinkedIn, a teacher, consultant, speaker, writer, and game-changer, and we're thrilled to have him on our podcast today.

So we're about to talk about using LinkedIn for networking purposes. I know that we tell relaunchers that LinkedIn can help you find all of those long lost people from the past, people with whom you might have lost contact with, and if they have a LinkedIn profile now, and you can put in their name, and the company that you worked at together, you are going to be able to find where they are today. So Oliver, can you comment on how people can best use LinkedIn for networking purposes?

Oliver Schinkten: Absolutely, and I think one of the big myths that's out there is that LinkedIn is just an online resume, or it is a job board. And people treat it as this and say, "How can I optimize my profile as if it's a static profile that just sits there for people to look at?" If that's the case, it's a short-sighted view on LinkedIn, which provides so many other opportunities, and one of them, as you mentioned, is networking, is going out there and contacting people and connecting with them.

And really when you look at networking, I like one of the definitions of it that is by Andrew Hennigan, author of Payforward Networking. He says, "Networking is a deliberate activity to build, reinforce and maintain relationships of trust with other people to further your goals." Now, right away, when you look at that, it sounds to me a little bit almost unethical, where okay, I'm trying to further my goals, but I think once you take a step back and realize that, wait, that's why people are networking. That's what we're all doing. We're trying to network together, make ourselves better, find opportunities, share resources, share advice, and that type of stuff.

And I think it is critical right now. Establishing and having a social network is incredibly powerful. So in doing that, like you said, I think the first thing to do in the first steps are to establish a core network, and that might be twenty to thirty people that are people you used to work with, like you said. It could even be family members, it could be friends, it could be other things like that, just people from a different way that you connect with. Because sometimes these connections can come about in the weirdest ways, where they might not necessarily work in your industry, however, they are connected to someone else who they can introduce you to from their network, and find opportunities that way.

So I think that networking and staying connected with like-minded professionals is a great and powerful thing to do on LinkedIn. I actually saw a stat recently that 70% of people who were hired through LinkedIn, were hired at a company where they already had a connection from that place in their network. So again, there, two of the biggest ways now that places are hiring, are either recommendations from employees, or people who are in their network that they recognize through a social media network like this, and see the potential in. So I think, it's almost to me not even a luxury or something that would be nice to do. It's something that we need to be doing if you want to stay on the map and really find the best opportunity.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That statistic does not surprise me at all, because we tell relaunchers that there's only so much they can do with the online resources that they have, but they need to supplement that with actually getting out of the house and getting in touch with people personally. And LinkedIn can be the tool where they identify who these people are, that they're going to then take that next step to reach out to. And, one comment I want to make along those lines, and it's a gift that we at iRelaunch feel that LinkedIn gives to relaunchers, is that not only can you find those long lost people from the past, but once you find them, you have this very low key way of getting back in touch with them. You reach out to connect with them, they accept the connection, and then you can get in touch with them. But we say, right away establish that you are in information gathering mode.

So you could say, "Hey Jim, I know we've been out of touch for the last ten years. I've been on career break. It's great to be back in touch." And so the other person might be groaning on the other side thinking, "Oh, this person is getting in touch with me because they want me to help them get a job." So that's your cue to dispel that right away and say in your next sentence, "I'm in information gathering mode. One of the things that I'm serious about right now is getting back up to speed in the field before I begin my active job search. Would you be able to recommend who the top experts are in the field, which blogs and websites you follow, or YouTube lectures that you've watched?"

And that's a super easy question for people to answer. It takes them off the hook in terms of any obligation they feel at least immediately to help you find a job that might come later. Or you can ask them, "Could you walk me through some of the career decisions that you've made over the last ten years," or "Can you talk to me about some of the changes in the business." Very low key ways to reestablish relationships that LinkedIn allows you to have that opportunity.

Oliver Schinkten: Yeah. I love that advice. I think it's excellent. You could even take it a step further with, "Is there a book you've read recently to stay up to date that you'd recommend," and just reaching out with more of a soft reach than a hard reach saying, "Hey, I need a job." Because I think the importance is establishing those connections, and nourishing them and that type of stuff, rather than just going out and being like, "I need to go right now and just ask for a job."

That's not going to work. People aren't going to be as open to doing it, unless you're reaching out for a reason and establishing that connection.

One of the biggest tips I have on LinkedIn, when connecting with people, you can find them, and there's the connect button, and when you do it, it will send an invite to them. However, they also have a thing that when you do it, it says "send a note," and to me that is extremely under utilized. For every ten connection requests, I receive probably one note along with it. And I think that's definitely an under utilization of that tool, because that note provides you that opportunity to say in there, "It was great meeting you at that conference, I'd love to connect," or "I remember working with you at ___ company, I would love to connect," or like you said, reaching out and saying something like, "I know you're a leader in this, who are people you recommend following," asking a question like that. And the chances that someone is going to connect with you when you leave that note is so much higher than you just leaving an invitation where they have no clue why you want to connect. So I think that is extremely important.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. And I can tell you from my own experience, because a lot of people reach out to me to connect, and the people who write me the notes are the ones that I connect with a lot quicker than the ones who don't. The only comment I'll make about this is every so often when I'm reaching out to someone on LinkedIn, it doesn't give me the note option. I'm expecting it to, and then it just says "an invitation has been sent." But I'm always wondering, what did I forget to hit? Because most of the time it will say "do you want to send a note," and I always make a point of doing it because I know how important it is to me.

Oliver Schinkten: Yeah. And a lot of that I bet comes into the fact of the level of a connection. So anyone who you're directly connected with as a first level connection, anyone in their network is then a second level connection for you. So that's really another reason why it's important to start connecting with a base of people, because as you grow your network, it grows exponentially. Because if I were to connect with you, then everyone in your network is a second level connection to me. And I have a little bit more of that opportunity to connect with them and to leave a note, than I would if somebody was a third level. I think it's a protection against just not being able to go out and connect with everybody and send out requests too rampantly.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I see what you're saying. We're heading into the final segment of our conversation, and I want to make sure that we spend time on other ways to use LinkedIn, and especially the focus on LinkedIn Learning, and if you can give us a bit of a glimpse of the breadth of course offerings, and how many, and what they're about, and any specific recommendations about accessing them.

Oliver Schinkten: Yeah, that'd be great. As far as using LinkedIn too, when we talk about the profile and making connections, remembering as well that there are other tools on there that I strongly suggest people utilize, one of them is your newsfeed. When you come across a great article in your industry or something, you have the ability to share that in your newsfeed, and it's then shared out with your network. They might share it out again and it's shared to their network. And that is a great way to show that you're actively involved in your industry, to show that you're on top of it, that you're a sharing person, that you're willing to be a thought leader and putting stuff out there.

A lot of times, if I put out a great article or something like that, that's where you'll get people to respond to you and say, "Hey, I love that article that you shared. Would you like to connect?" So, I think utilizing that newsfeed, on top of that, you even have the ability to go in there and write your own articles. Now, when you're in there and you're sharing something in the newsfeed, you can click on "write an article" and it allows you with the platform on LinkedIn to create a very professional looking, extremely easy to use thing that you could put in your insight, or maybe what it's like right now to be a relauncher, or whatever it is, and then share out that article.

And again, establishing yourself as a thought leader, establishing your credibility, your passion, things like that. And then the other one that I'd mentioned is just, groups. There are a ton of great groups that you can join there. And a lot of times that's a great way to do it, whether it's one revolving around the industry you want to go into, or if it's people who are job hunting, to go in there and find people to connect with, find people, to ask for advice and also find out what they're sharing.

Carol Fishman Cohen: We have probably over 2,600 - 2,700 people in the iRelaunch LinkedIn group, for example.

Oliver Schinkten: Which is awesome. And what I would recommend to people there is, stay active, don't be passive in those things. Don't just be a passive, like, "I'm reading these articles and I'm doing it." Put in comments or, when people ask for advice, answer it. I think that's a great way to be noticed, that people start to take notice and be like, "Hey, I like this person. They share some good stuff. They answer questions when we have it." And all of a sudden, when a job opportunity comes up, you might be someone that's on their mind, that is someone who has shared and been an important part of their network.

The other one that you had mentioned is probably the part that I'm the most passionate about, and that is LinkedIn Learning, which they recently added. LinkedIn in the past had it where you could go get new skills and then update your profile. So if you went and took courses or something like that, you could add them there. But now they have the LinkedIn Learning section, which in most of the things that I share and I've shared today are absolutely free for use, it's for free LinkedIn accounts. LinkedIn Learning does have some free courses and free videos unlocked. However, to get access to their entire library, it is a feature that comes with a premium LinkedIn account. Now it is something that I think is in this case worth it, it's extremely powerful.

What it is that they have a library of over 10,000 video courses on a wide range of topics, and it's constantly growing. We're putting out more and more courses, experts are coming in to record them, teach them, and they're put out on the platform. Now in there, there's a wide variety, like I said, of things you can learn all the way from specific software. If you wanted to go in there and guaranteed, if you type in Microsoft Excel, there's likely twenty plus more than that courses directly on Microsoft Excel. So you can find out what's the reason you need to use it, what would you like to learn? So Excel, PowerPoint, Google Drive, Adobe products, there's tons of courses in the library training on different software titles. As a relauncher, and as someone with who has taken a little time off, I think that can be one of the most intimidating things is, "Now that I'm going back here, are there tools that they're using or am I really okay right now with technology and some of these software programs that I'm going to have to use?" Here's an opportunity through LinkedIn Learning, whether it's this way that you do it, or however you do it.

I think it's one of the keys to really keeping yourself marketable and showing that you are on top of your game and you're learning those things. They also on top of that, besides the software, do have a number of business skills, soft skills and courses related to those. So when I was looking it up in particular and just saying, "I wonder what would be just a few courses that would be really great for relaunchers." And in going through the library found right away, just in a quick search, one that's a whole course titled Mastering Interview Questions, which is an awesome one, or one on writing a resume, another one was Creating a Career Plan, another one extremely relevant as Recovering From a Layoff, and another is Job Searching Strategies.

So, I think that it's a glimpse of the type of courses that are in there taught by experts. I love the way that the courses are structured. They're typically one to two hour courses, but they're broken down into small videos that you can skip around if you need to, you can do whatever you want as far as that and go rewatch sections of it, pause it. It's a great way to learn. Anytime you finish them, you get that certificate of completion that can automatically be added to your LinkedIn account. So there's a lot of great ways, I think, of utilizing that to show that you are up to date and that you're constantly in that lifelong learning mode and improvement mode.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Thank you. That's a great and very quick overview and it's fitting a lot into a short amount of time, so I really appreciate that. So Oliver, we're at the end of our podcast time, and I wanted to know if, as we are closing out, do you have a favorite piece of advice for relaunchers, even if it's something that we've already talked about during the course of our conversation today?

Oliver Schinkten: Okay. Mine would be, it would go back to one of my favorite sayings ever, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is now." So if you look at it and you're overwhelmed and you're saying, "Wow, I have a lot of work to do to build up my profile or to start networking and to start doing that," my advice would be to do it now. Look at your profile, and how can you improve that? How can you make it better? And then there's something that Reid Hoffman, one of the LinkedIn founders said that I love that he's talking about that, "as people we're in a permanent BETA mode." And I love that. I like that. We're always improving. We're never done. And I think it's the same for our LinkedIn account that your LinkedIn account is in permanent BETA mode.

You're not going to finish it because as you gain new skills and things like that, you'll add it to there. So, my advice on that would be to start improving your LinkedIn profile and your online digital footprint today. And be an active member of it, add to the newsfeed, add to groups, add to different things like that, don't just passively take in that information and hope that it works out.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Thank you. It's been a real pleasure speaking with you today, Oliver.

Oliver Schinkten: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Can you tell people how they can get to know more about you and your work at LinkedIn, and or any additional information about LinkedIn itself?

Oliver Schinkten: Yeah, if you type my name, obviously in LinkedIn, feel free to connect with me. I am passionate about helping people and if you have further questions, people can reach out through there. So if you were to look me up and connect with me, that'd be great. And I do have a course in the LinkedIn Learning library which is completely free, called Learning LinkedIn, that walks you through all the different steps of how to create an account. So it'll have, when you go to my profile you'll see that there is that course that walks through how to create a headline, how to create a summary, and all those different things that you can click through to the video and find that.

But feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, connect with me on Twitter, my handle is @schink10. And I would love to hear your stories and learn from you, as well as share anything that I have.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Terrific. Thank you very much. This is Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of iRelaunch and your host for today. You're listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast for strategies, advice, and success stories for returning to work after a career break. If you want more information about what we're doing, go to

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