My recent posts about Upskilling and Reskilling, Top Skills for Future Jobs, and A Two Year Review of Workforce Education left me thinking about how workers market their education, skills, and experiences to employers.
Nearly three years ago, I wrote an article titled The Job Skills Students Need That Colleges Don’t Teach. My article critiqued an article written by Chloe Anagnos for the James G. Martin Center at the University of North Carolina. Ms. Anagnos’ article was written for college students and continues to be sage advice for students entering the full-time workforce at the age of 22.
Building a LinkedIn profile was part of the advice offered by Ms. Anagnos. I concur and can’t emphasize the importance of a LinkedIn profile for anyone who anticipates working as well as anyone currently employed. Ms. Anagnos noted that everyone should have a printable digital resume and “a LinkedIn profile for networking purposes.”
With the emphasis on skills, especially upskilling and reskilling, I would encourage everyone to keep their LinkedIn profile current. Currently, Linkedin is a popular choice to house badges that are issued for completion of training and academic courses as well as for attendance at seminars and conferences. I am a critic of badges issued to anyone who attends an event or completes a course, with little additional information provided. Digital badges have been around for at least a dozen years. Companies using the open-source software developed by Mozilla have formed a consortium to utilize the format for their badges making them configurable and readable uniformly.
In some ways, badges are still in their infancy, but the potential for their utilization to explode is still strong. I have been a proponent that all colleges and universities issue badges to everyone who completes a for-credit course with a passing grade. This could enhance the profile of a student who has stopped-out of college before earning a two- or four-year degree. It could also enhance the transferability of credits if the badges issued for credit include the same information that a transfer credit reviewer needs to approve the credit such as the course syllabus, textbooks or other learning materials utilized, and the final course grade.
LinkedIn has many users (over 800 million worldwide), and many companies search its database for workers with specific experience or skills. It is the perfect repository for digital badges denoting skills, competency, and education. There are two other features of LinkedIn that are just as important, particularly when badges representing competency and skills are still in their infancy. These features are recommendations and skills endorsements.
LinkedIn caps the number of skills per individual at 50. However, they rank the skills in order of how many people have endorsed them so it’s not too hard to find the strongest skills recognized by your connections. If I were thinking about a job change, I would check my LinkedIn skills endorsements to see how aligned they are to the position that I am seeking.
Recommendations require someone to write them. In my opinion, recommendations are stronger indications of support than clicks on skills. In a future where it is predicted that individuals may have a 60-year career and switch jobs more frequently than the current four- year average, I believe a strong LinkedIn profile should include a recommendation from at least one colleague and one supervisor for every job of significance listed in an individual’s profile.
Lastly, I believe that networking is the most productive way to find a job. Ms. Anagnos recommended using LinkedIn for its networking benefits and I concur. LinkedIn has a messaging feature for its connected members. It also has an InMail feature that allows members to email a certain number of members who are not connected. In either case, I would recommend anyone thinking about searching for a new job to utilize this tool to communicate with people about a potential opportunity. Obviously, if you know a person well enough to meet with them in person or call them, that’s a stronger way to communicate. Having been a LinkedIn user since its inception, I almost always send a LinkedIn connection request to people that I meet with or interview. Once that connection is made, I don’t have to worry about finding a misplaced business card since LinkedIn has an email feature as well as lists regular email options for its members.
As we continue to expand education options such as dual credit (high school students taking college courses for high school and college credit), I would recommend introducing high school students to the features of LinkedIn and how to utilize it for displaying their education, work experience, volunteering, and skills. If that’s not possible or advisable, I would recommend initiating a profile by the time they are freshmen in college. Adding classmates, teammates, teachers, and coaches as connections could be very helpful for that first job.