LinkedIn is one of the most popular professional networking sites available—and for good reason. It’s helped people from all industries and backgrounds find their next career. Your military career is now in the past, but how do you best prepare for the future?
As Code Fellows’ military program manager and a military spouse of 24 years, I am able to help prepare military members for their life as a civilian by teaching classes on military bases on how to use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an invaluable tool to use during the transition from military to civilian, but it can be overwhelming to translate all of your experience into one online place. Here are my top tips for veterans to create and optimize a LinkedIn profile that attracts employers and helps you land that next job.
(1) Remember: LinkedIn isn’t an accessory, it’s a necessity
Gone are the days of dropping off a paper resume at an office. Today, LinkedIn reigns supreme when it comes to job searching, personal brand building, and networking. Companies want to know more than just your resume—they need to get a feel for who you are. The tech industry is known for using LinkedIn to search for talent, so applicants without a profile are likely to be overlooked or not be taken as seriously as those with a strong online presence.
The job market is no longer about the people you meet day-to-day—it’s about the people you meet around the world. Eighty-five percent of jobs are filled by referrals, so the more diverse connections you have (even—or especially—if they’re digital), the better.
(2) Have a profile picture out of uniform
It’s essential that your LinkedIn profile has a profile picture, preferably professionally taken—and that picture shouldn’t show you in uniform. Even if you’re still in the military or in the process of transitioning out, you should provide a profile picture in civilian clothes because it better reflects your personality and communicates to prospective employers that you could be a good fit for their company.
Your photo should reflect the career area you want to work in. The way those in the finance industry dress compared to those in a creative field, for instance, can be drastically different—and dress codes even differ region-to-region. Do your research: find profiles of people already in the industry and location you want, take note of how they’re dressed and posed in their photo, and do something similar.
(3) Broaden your location for more opportunities
For your location, always put the greater area of the city you’re in or near (for example, put “the Greater Seattle area” rather than a specific neighborhood or town nearby). You want to make your field as large as possible so more job opportunities become available to you. If you’ve set your sights on moving to a different city, LinkedIn offers you the ability to set your location for where you want to go instead of where you currently live. Living in Seattle but want to move to Boston? Set your location for Boston and start the job hunt.
(4) Remember to explain military service in civilian terms
When you’re filling out your profile with past experience and skills, make sure to explain your military experience as if you were talking to civilians. You know best how your job functioned on a daily basis, but the average civilian won’t understand military vocabulary, titles, or acronyms the same way you do. How would you describe it to family members who haven’t served in the military?
Another way to optimize each job description is to search for other veterans who’ve had the same job or title as you and use how they described their past military experience as inspiration. Refer back to your ratings for accomplishments instead of listing tasks. Highlight any positive leadership, membership, or team-oriented instances and remember to use the numbers: the amount of people, the quantity of money, etc.
An added tip: When listing your military experience on LinkedIn, you should list your experience by job rather than separating it by duty station. Your job and company didn’t change—the only factor that changed was your location.
(5) Sync your phone contacts and follow companies you want to work for
When you’re first setting up your LinkedIn profile, you can start to build your network by syncing your phone contacts. You never know who’s in your contacts’ networks or who they could connect you with.
Another way to start developing your feed is to follow the companies you’re interested in. Read their posts and keep up-to-date with what they’re doing as a company. When you do land that interview with them, you’ll have a leg up on other applicants simply by paying attention to what they’ve been sharing.
(6) Join groups—and participate in them
Joining groups serves as another way for you to build connections and start networking. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups, but we suggest you join between five to seven so you can focus on participating in each one.
Become active on LinkedIn by reading posts, commenting, sharing, liking, and posting content yourself. Your LinkedIn feed should be full of content that interests you. Join some tech groups—maybe there’s a specific language you like that has its own group. You want to be viewed as a professional who’s engaged and knows what they’re talking about. Even if it’s an article you read online, and you simply share it, explain why you feel compelled to share or why others in the group should take the time to read it. Share content with meaning so your engagement goes up—posting consistently means your connections will see you in their feeds more often and will be more likely to remember and start conversations with you.
There are tons of military groups out there—as tempting as it may be, don’t join them all (one or two is OK). You want your feed to be focused on the career you want to go into—not what you’ve done in the past.
(7) Invest in LinkedIn Premium
LinkedIn’s free version may already have everything you need to begin your job search, but LinkedIn Premium has multiple exclusive benefits to elevate your profile and job search. Some of the features available to LinkedIn Premium users include informational training videos, the ability to see who has viewed your profile, and regular job listings where you are a competitive or ideal candidate—and they’re worth it.
As if LinkedIn Premium wasn’t already good enough, they offer a one year free-trial for transitioning military veterans—so take advantage!
Finding a job can feel overwhelming, but setting up your LinkedIn profile should be anything but. These tips will make your LinkedIn experience less stressful, while helping you create a profile that puts you ahead of the pack. If you’re a veteran interested in learning more, give me a call—it’s what I’m here for.
Whether you’re already experienced in tech or you’re looking to shift your career (or life) path, we believe in you—and you can use the GI Bill or the VET TEC program to help fund your classes. Check out our course map to see where you can take that first step.