How to get the most out of LinkedIn

Written by Kathryn Hall

The Career Owl

LinkedIn is one of the most untapped resources for people to utilise to raise their profile, whether seeking to build network connections or indeed to find a job.  Whilst a large majority of people create an initial profile it often gets left alone until there is a need to find a job.  This blog will give you some easy and quick wins on how to make your profile work for you even when you are asleep!

Make yourself memorable with great stories

Your LinkedIn Profile needs to be a living, breathing document that clearly represents at all times who you are and what makes you unique. 

  • Share updates on topics related to your field adding your advice and insights on this to reinforce your experience.
  • Make your profile visual by using videos or infographics to enhance your posts and add these to your featured posts.

You could use your stories to advise network connections that you are seeking a new role.

Build Connections

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

When LinkedIn was initially set up it was designed primarily as a networking tool, effectively a Facebook for business! It is a great way to stay up to date with the latest developments in your field and to share information with others in your field.  There are a few ways of building connections.

Connecting with people you don’t know

When connecting with someone you don’t know on LinkedIn, such as a person who works in a similar role at another company, add relevance by letting them know why you’re messaging them. You might say, “I’ve seen your posts and noticed some of your work. I really appreciate your perspectives and would love to connect.”

LinkedIn has a section called “People also viewed” which gives you suggestions of people in similar fields or industries that you might want to connect with.

Using the search box to find people from past organisations you worked in

Building connections with people you know is particularly useful as you will able to ask them to complete a recommendation and give credibility to your profile.

Choose to follow certain organisations

You could use the search box by clicking on companies and selecting location and stating where you would like to look.

Join LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are a great method to find like-minded professionals in your job role or industry.  You can use to share ideas and discuss key topics and show your engagement and expertise within your chosen field.  You also can use these groups to further expand your connections.  You never know if one of these connections holds the key to your next role!

Use LinkedIn to find a job

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

LinkedIn has two main advantages when looking for a job.

First, use your network connections to let them know that you are seeking a new role.  You could do this by writing a post to add on your profile which says something like

Hi everyone – I am seeking a new role as  xxx and would appreciate your support in finding my next opportunity.  I have x years of experience as a xxx plus qualifications in xxx.

What makes me different?

{Insert your key strengths / key skills}

Thank you in advance for any connections, advice or opportunities you can offer.

#opentowork #journeytoajob #jobsearch #jobhunting

Second, find a job via LinkedIn

Many organisations have recognised the power of advertising their roles through LinkedIn Jobs portal.  As a candidate you can use the search box to restrict your search using elements such as job title, location and type of role (such as Hybrid, Remote or Onsite – a recent update to LinkedIn).

One final point …..Remember your online footprint

Think about what other sites you are on and your security profiles for these.  Are there any posts on sites such as Twitter that might affect your employment in the future? Posting something at the age of 16/18 could have repercussions for the rest of your employment life. Think before posting and ensure that your settings are secure and only accessible to your friends and not friends of friends.

Some recruiters now check out candidates as part of the recruitment process to see that they fit with the visions and values of an organisation.

9 tips to create an “All Star” LinkedIn Profile

Written by Kathryn Hall

THE CAREER OWL

As of 2021, LinkedIn had over 756 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide and is an incredible platform for networking.  That is 756 million people who could help you with finding your dream career or helping to develop that skill you have always wanted to do! 

Think about LinkedIn as a gigantic spider’s web that stretches around the world multiple times and allows you to show people your value, skills and achievements in multiple locations not just in the UK.  In the age of technology remember that “the world is your oyster” and you don’t necessarily need to be based in the country that the company is based in. 

Your LinkedIn profile is your 365 day a year window for recruiters and network connections to truly tell your story about who you are and what you want to be known for.  With LinkedIn “first impressions count” the more complete and professional your LinkedIn profile looks the better the impression you’ll make to a prospect, contact, recruiter or potential employer. 

You need a great LinkedIn profile that draws attention, says the right things and helps you really connect with the people who can help you expand your career.  The following tips will help you on your journey to creating an “All Star Profile”.

Upload a profile photo

Put a photo as this puts a face to your name and makes it more likely for people to view your profile as people buy people.

Write an eye-catching headline

This is the first thing that profile visitors read and often people will leave it with just their current position.  You have 220 characters that you can use as a small advertisement for you and what you do.  Consider your target audience and show them what you do, what you bring to the table and shows your credibility.

Use the Blue/Green banner/cover photo to enhance your profile

Remember to make a good first impression with this and make it as inoffensive as possible.  There are a few options available to you.

  • Use a picture of your favourite place or something which demonstrates your brand
  • Have a picture of you doing your job
  • Use words or a quote that sum you up
  • Use it as a call to action with details of key strengths, skills and contact details.

Craft an interesting summary for the About section

You have 2,600 characters to use to show what you do well and what you can bring to a new employer.  Paint a picture of what makes you unique and how you can fix the problem that an employer might have.

  • Introduce yourself and the value you bring to an organisation
  • What are your key skills, experiences and achievements
  • Bring in a bit about you outside of work – this could bring you something in common with recruiters or network connections
  • Call the reader to action by asking them to connect with you to discuss new role, network connections or whatever you want your profile to do

Highlight your experience

Rather than just regurgitate every duty completed or responsibility held in your current and/or past roles use this section demonstrate the impact you’ve made along with 2-4 interesting and impressive bullets for each job.

Customise your URL

Your URL is the web address for your profile and is set up with your name and some gibberish numbers.  Try to make it more relevant and memorable.  You can adjust it within the edit your profile URL down the right-hand side of your profile.

Ask for recommendations

This section is key when looking for another role as employers want to know that others have approved your work.  By asking for recommendations this gives real examples of how you made a difference to previous organisations.

Make yourself accessible

Being clear on how a network contact or recruiter can get in touch is really important especially as most people only have the free version and are restricted at sending messages.  It is therefore important to list your email and phone number in both your contact section along with prominently within the about section.  Remember to weave any specific words or phrased that are used within your industry or job role as this will help you appear more within searches.

Avoid using Out of Work or Unemployed or Seeking New Opportunities in your Headline

Recruiters don’t use words such as out of work, unemployed, seeking new opportunities or job seeker in their searches.  There are a couple of options available to you.

  • Within the about section reference that you are seeking new opportunities
  • Use the Open to Work option to let recruiters know that you are looking for a new role.  You can specify job titles, location, and type of work e.g. hybrid, remote, office-based etc.
  • If you are unemployed create a role listing the job titles you are interested in and open to opportunities or seeking new opportunities.

Conclusion

The LinkedIn profile page is the foundation for your personal branding and needs to form part of your weekly strategy, whether using it for networking or indeed searching for a job.

Download this free checklist to check that your LinkedIn Profile has all of the required elements to make it an “All Star” Profile.

The “Why?” and “How?” of cover letters

Written by Laura Harmsworth

Caversham CV Writing

When you’re applying for a role, you should write a cover letter whether it’s asked for or not.

The purpose of the letter is to:

  • Introduce you to an organisation, explain your motivation for applying to the role and company, and highlight your key skills.
  • Illustrate your level of written communication skills.

You need to sell yourself in a succinct manner and grab the reader’s attention so they want to look at your CV.

Tailor your letter to each application, just as you do with your CV

The recruiting manager wants someone who is genuinely interested in the company and the role, so don’t churn out the same letter for each application.

Spend time researching the company.

Match your skills and experience to those being sought by the company.

Keep your letter to one page

Too brief and it shows a lack of interest/effort; too long and it won’t get read. 

Spend time on presentation and format.

  • Create a document similar to personalised stationery e.g., name/address as header; phone/email details as footer.
  • Ensure the letter is well spaced and use a font such as Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri – matched to what you have used for your CV
  • Include the date, contact name and address of where you’re applying to. If the name of the recruiter is not on the job ad or your letter is speculative, try to find out the name of the appropriate person to send your letter and CV to. If you can’t find the name, remember to end your letter with Yours faithfully rather than Yours sincerely.
  • Write in a succinct manner, don’t copy and paste sections of your CV into the letter.

Don’t be boring or desperate!

A cover letter gives you more freedom to show more of your personality than a CV – making your letter stand out from the crowd is a good thing, but don’t go over the top.

Don’t be overly friendly, keep it professional and ensure you sound enthusiastic, without begging for a role e.g. I really need this role because…. Your application is not about what you want, but how you can solve a problem for the employer. Focus on the key skills and experience you have that they are looking for, ensuring you refer to the job ad/description and person specification.

You can sound enthusiastic without going overboard e.g. “I’m a big fan of xxx company, having seen your success in introducing xxx product into the market.”

Email or letter?

Either is acceptable and if not stated in the job advert, it’s your choice. You can copy your letter into the body of the email and attach the CV / attach CV and letter to an email / copy your letter into an email and attach both documents.

Whichever option you choose, keep it professional – do not start out with “Hi”, use text speak or abbreviations, or add emojis 😊.

If emailing, rather than uploading the documents to a website for example, ensure your email is appropriate (not something like ilovetodance@hotmail.com), professional and not your current work address– you could set up an email purely for your job search.

Always check out the company prior to sending your CV with personal details on – keep ID fraud in mind.

Spelling and grammar

As with your CV, don’t rely on spellcheck. Proofread, proofread again after a night’s sleep, ask a few people to read it, then read it again. Using Grammarly and Word’s “Read Aloud” function are also worth doing.

You don’t want to end up saying you are seeking a party-time role or are currently a senior manger.

Spending time on your letter is as important as the time you spend writing your CV.

Simple secrets to totally rock your career search

Written by Kathryn Hall

THE CAREER OWL

Are you at a career crossroads and don’t know what to do?

Are you new to the world of work and don’t know where to look?

The driving force guiding your career must come from you and requires you to clearly think about what you truly want by treating yourself as a business with a product to sell and show why an employer should attract, hire and retain you.

The following steps will ensure that you will be set up for a successful job search before you even start applying.

#1 Know what you are looking for

The key in any career review that will enable you to move forward is to analyse your past, being honest about what was good and what wasn’t so good so that you can plan your future career pathway.  This applies even for new entrants into the world of work as you should analyse what you are ideally looking for from a job.

Analyse the why to bring clarity to what the right job will look like for you.  Don’t just assume that the grass is always greener…..!

  • Where have you been?
  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to be?

Ask yourself ….

  • What have you achieved in your career so far?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What have you enjoyed and why?
  • What have you not enjoyed and why?
  • When are you at your best?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What do others say about you/what feedback have you had?
  • What is important to you about a job?
  • Where do you want to work? Home-based, office-based, hybrid based, compressed hours? Is it a must-have or nice to have?
  • What hours do you want to work?
  • What type of company do you want to work for e.g. do you prefer smaller organisations where you do a little bit of everything or larger organisation where the work is more predictable?
  • What sector do you want to work in?
  • What type of work do you want to do? What activities, challenges and responsibilities do you want to do?
  • Would you consider short term, interim or self-employed work?
  • What salary and benefits do you need? What is the minimum salary you are willing to accept? Does it match the industry norm?
  • What type of culture do you want to work in?
  • What are you prepared to compromise on?
  • What are my career goals for the next 12 months, 2 years or 5 years?

Sometimes roles are not advertised with salaries. The following sites will let you research the average salary for jobs and give you an idea of where the role might be positioned.

Total jobs

Payscale

Hays

Randstad

Establish a clear vision for what you want your ideal role to be.  This will help align your professional interests, aspirations and skills to the jobs that ensure that you perform at your best.  What is your wish list for your next role? Try to be specific as this helps narrow down search parameters and means that you are more likely to find your dream role.  Would you be content and confident in this role?

Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

#2 Spruce up your documents and social media

Do your CV, LinkedIn Profile and other social media showcase your brand appropriately?

Is there anything that could affect your application? 

There is a good chance that a future employer will check out your online profiles, both personal and professional, before making a job offer and sometimes even before interviewing.  Employers are also using LinkedIn to find candidates.

Do your CV and LinkedIn profile show how you can fix the problem that an employer has? Weave your narrative into what they are looking for.  Try to work on your personal brand.  Write down what you want to be known for and what you want people to think of when they look at your profiles.

#3 Fill in the gaps

Having completed initial research into your dream role are there any gaps in your knowledge?

  • Knowledge based – are there any online courses or classes that could be completed?
  • Experience based – could you volunteer within cross functional teams at your existing employer or undertake new projects to get exposure to areas that you need to grow in?

#4 Perfect your elevator pitch

Before you start approaching businesses and/or network connections you need to be able to clearly articulate the question “tell me about yourself”.  This can be achieved through creating a great elevator pitch which is engaging, short and tells a story clearly and concisely.

Photo by Gaurav Baya on Unsplash

#5 Network/schedule informational interviews

70% of jobs are filled by employers using their connections and networks, the so called “hidden jobs market”.  Below are some examples of different sources of networking opportunities.

•Customers

•Suppliers

•Colleagues – past and present

•Parents and teachers at children’s schools

•Fellow worshippers at a place of worship

•Volunteers in a community project

•Friends

•Relatives

•Alumni

•Acquaintances

•Referrals from people you know

•People from social clubs or sports clubs

•Neighbours – past and present

•Book club members

•Fellow dog walkers

•Online friends in social media groups

•People from other social gatherings

•People you meet in your job search through referrals/cold calling

•People you meet through volunteering, hobbies, community events etc.

#6 Handling job rejections

The journey to finding your dream career may not be a smooth affair. You may be faced with receiving rejections which can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially if you have prepared a lot as it was your dream role.  With the right mindset you can turn this is into a career development opportunity which will help you in the future.

  • Ask for detailed feedback – a great way to learn is to request feedback from the recruiter.
  • Review and reflect – if you can get feedback from the recruiters use this and your thoughts to truly reflect on why you weren’t successful.
  • Identify learnings and build a personal development plan – what do you need to do differently?
  • Be philosophical – sometimes things are out of our control, other candidates might have better suited the needs of the organisation.
  • Be prepared to refine or change the direction of your career search – you might look at other similar roles in different industries or a change of career if the roles available don’t meet your personal needs and circumstances.

In conclusion, the journey to a job could take you between 3-9 months so the overall key is to build resilience – you need to try to develop a thick skin and recognise that things happen for a reason and that it might take time to find and secure your dream job.

Never underestimate the influence of job application rejections

Written by Kathryn Hall

THE CAREER OWL

The journey to finding your dream career may not be a smooth affair and it is hard not to take it personally or feel discouraged when you are hoping for a ‘yes’ but hear ‘no’, especially when you have spent a long time preparing your application or for an interview.  

Rejection can often strike at the very core of your confidence and be viewed as a sign of failure, a feeling that many of my clients and myself have experienced, particularly as our world and the way that we live, work and play has changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Image by 은주 송 from Pixabay

Whilst it is perfectly acceptable and understandable to wallow for a minute or two you should use this as an opportunity to deconstruct your failures and extract all of the learning points thereby creating stepping stones to build on your core strengths, address development points and ultimately find a job that suits you best. 

As Aristotle stated “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light” and with the right mindset you can turn rejection into a career development opportunity, keep your spirits up and provide you with SMART solutions for handling future applications.

The tips below may assist you in how can you overcome this and move things forward.

  • Ask for detailed feedback – a great way to learn is to request feedback from the recruiter.  Be humble not defensive when you speak to them.  Accept the feedback and learn from it.  You want the recruiter to remember you positively and reach out to you if another job opportunity comes up in the future that fits your skills, experience and abilities.
  • Review and reflect – if you can get feedback from the recruiters use this and your thoughts to truly reflect on why you weren’t successful, did you really give those awesome concrete examples during an interview? Can a recruiter see in your CV how you would add value to an organisation?.  If you find yourself constantly downplaying yourself take a step back and truly think about what makes you different and what you have achieve in your career so far? Ask your friends, family and network contacts for feedback too on what makes you different?
  • Identify learnings and build a personal development plan – what do you need to do differently?  What are your development needs? Can these be easily overcome? What can you do to fix any gaps in your performance so that they don’t occur next time?
  • Be philosophical – sometimes things are out of our control, other candidates might have better suited the needs of the organisation.  Remember that it isn’t just you that got rejected, the majority of people who applied for the role also didn’t get it. 
  • Be prepared to refine or change the direction of your career search – take a look at other similar roles in different industries or a change of career if the roles available don’t meet your personal needs and circumstances.
  • Build resilience – you need to try to develop a thick skin and recognise that things happen for a reason and that it might take time to find and secure your dream job.  Overcoming obstacles along the way will increase your chances of landing the right role, learn from it and get ready for the next role.

Remember, whilst a job rejection might seem like the end of the world, never let your inner driving force down, keep pushing yourself, learn more about yourself and improve yourself for the future. 

Mahatma Gandhi wisely said “The future depends on what you do today.” — Your dreams can and will come true, it might take you a while, but you will eventually get there if you plan the steps to achieve.

Essential best practice for tailoring your CV

Written by David Smith

Careervisa | Professional CV Writing Services | Job Search Coach

If anyone described you as ‘off-the-peg’, I am sure you would feel pretty upset about that. After all, we are all unique, with a unique set of skills, attributes and experience, some USP that we offer an employer or organisation that makes us the clear candidate – or at least one worthy of being interviewed!

So, why would we present the same CV for every role we apply for?

True, whatever we have done in life is what we have done, we worked at such-a-place for so long, got X, Y, Z qualifications and certificates, but there are bound to be variations on the elements of our skill-set that would appeal to some roles or businesses over others, so it is vital that these nuances be brought to the fore – depending upon what we see in the job description.

How to Tailor Your CV | Application

What are some tailoring best-practices that will make reasonably sure our CV will end up on the ‘Interview’ pile?

It may be a little obvious, but the process starts with a thorough consideration of the content within the job description, we need to make a list of the keywords related to the general criteria to be filled by the ideal candidate.

It is so easy to skim over the details and very quickly upload the same CV you always use and pitch it into the ether and hope for the best, but that does seem more like wishful thinking rather than a clear job search strategy. Does ‘quick and easy’ always yield the best results?

Once you have a clear focus on what the recruiter is looking for, you can start to emphasize these skills and experiences within your CV.

For every single vacancy you apply for!!

The Recruiters Viewpoint

I know what you are thinking…this seems like a lot of hard work….

It is, but looking at this from the recruiter’s standpoint, he or she will be looking for good quality candidates with a good range of skills outlined within the job description.

If you don’t include this information – you will stand out less than someone who did take the time to implement this best-practice, it is that simple!

More scarily, depending upon the recruiter or organisation, your CV may be scrutinised by ATS technology – in which case, it is vital that you tailor each CV as the cold and unreasoning eyes of a bot will not be able to read between the lines or make any assumptions about you as a possible candidate!

Speaking as an experienced recruiter, accustomed to shortlisting from scores of applications, spotting the CVs that have been tailored is simple as they tend to jump out as such from the many, many ‘copy and paste’ type of applications that appear in my inbox.

What if I Don’t Meet All the Criteria?

Of course, tailoring is much easier if you fit the criteria perfectly, but that is quite rare – you tend to have a list of ‘must haves’ and a list of ‘it would be nice if you had….’

As long as you meet the criteria to a reasonable degree, it is usually worth taking some time to submit a tailored application.

How do you include keywords in your application for skills you don’t have or for experience you haven’t had yet?

If you are being asked to include a covering letter, then you have an ideal opportunity.

For example, if the job spec asks for experience with Xero, but you have used Sage, QuickBooks, then you can include a statement that says you have used Sage and/or QuickBooks and you welcome additional development to understand Xero, so you have included the keyword and added two more, plus your willingness to learn new skills!

Research the Business

As well as a careful consideration of the job description, researching the organisation will also provide some excellent ideas to fine-tune your tailoring process [sorry about the mix of analogies].

What is the organisation’s training and development culture? Do they mention their Inclusivity and Diversity policies? What is their ‘Mission Statement’?

Gleaning this type of information from their website is the first step, but you should also take a look at their social media feeds for up-to-the-minute intelligence on your target organisation.

The market is particularly tough at the moment, so it is absolutely essential to gain any edge possible, get your applications up on their tip-toes to stand out!

Help Available

Following just these few best-practices should improve the quality of your applications. Feel free to reach out to us if you are having difficulties with any aspect of your job search, we have the expertise to provide a thorough diagnosis of job search strategies.

During the pandemic, we are also offering a free, no obligation, 20-minute demonstration of how well your CV would perform during a live application, so drop a message to info@bacvw.org to request a slot.

The 4 most common mistakes people make with their CV

Written by Laura Harmsworth

Caversham CV Writing

Image by Nina Garman from Pixabay

Inside the BACVW LinkedIn group a couple of weeks ago we were discussing the most common mistakes people make with their CVs.  Between us, we must have seen and written thousands of CVs and as a job seeker, this blog will help you discover the most common mistakes and how to rectify them.

Your CV reads like a job description

Does your CV list only your duties/responsibilities?

To prove you have the skills and abilities a recruiter is looking for and that you can deliver results for the company, you should focus more on your achievements. Can you solve their problems, impact the bottom line, increase efficiency, decrease costs, improve customer service?

💡 If you struggle to think of achievements, think about

  • positive feedback received
  • awards
  • targets achieved
  • things you have implemented/actioned that have saved the company money/time/resources or that have increased profits/customers/sales/enquiries.
  • how you have overcome a challenge.

💡 Ensure you back your achievement up with evidence.  Quantify with numbers if you can e.g., percentages.  If your achievements aren’t measurable, consider things such as the number in your team, number recruited, how you developed a client relationship, contracts renewed, specific projects, how often you do a task, time saved, a discount negotiated, presentation to an audience of xx, fines avoided, keeping up to date records, meeting audit requirements.

You send the same CV for each application

It’s so easy (and common, you’re not alone!) to think that once you’ve written your CV you can fire it off to multiple places.  This is probably one of the biggest mistakes made by job seekers.

💡 It’s worth investing time in each application tailoring it to the job advert.  Everything on your CV should be targeted to the information in the advert, job description and person specification.  Highlighting keywords and skills are key.

If you have a skill or achievement that you’re proud of but isn’t relevant to the role applying to, leave it out. 

💡 Have a document with all your achievements and a document with all your skills, then pick and choose the ones relevant to each application.  This means you’ll have one master CV, then a different CV for each application.

Your CV is crammed with detail

Your CV won’t be read if it has too much detail on it – your job is to make it easy for a recruiter or hiring manager to see how you will fulfil the role – they don’t want to be searching through reams of text to find what they’re looking for, to see if you’re a suitable candidate.

If they can’t find the information quickly there’s an extremely high chance your CV will be cast aside to the reject pile.

Your CV is a snapshot of your career – you don’t need to include all the detail.

💡 Keep it relevant to the role you’re applying to, keep it succinct, save the detail for the interview.

💡 Certain details are not required on your CV e.g., date of birth, marital status.

💡 If you have a wealth of experience, you usually won’t need to include older qualifications e.g., O-levels, unless specifically asked for in the job advert.

Layout

Your CV should be easy for the recruiter to read as well as being ATS compliant (Applicant Tracking System is a computer programme that quickly scans through CVs to identify potential candidates). ATS isn’t perfect and certain things can make your CV unreadable.

💡 For ATS, don’t use tables, unusual fonts, graphics and submit your CV in .docx rather than PDF

💡 For the human eye, break up large blocks of hard-to-read text and use concise bullet points.  Ensure there is white space on your CV, but not too much.

Contributors:
David Smith

Debbie Dymock

Debra Mills

Elizabeth Openshaw

Jen David

Kathryn Hall

Laura Harmsworth