LinkedIn – a highly underrated tool for your board search
It is no secret that I love using LinkedIn – infact, with over 20,000 connections, I am a Top 10 Australian, LinkedIn user. I love using it because: it has some great functionality; it allows me to connect with individuals directly and provides an easy way to keep in contact. But, most importantly it is a great way to do business.
For these reasons, i believe that every director should maintain a complete and up to date LinkedIn profile. More than that they should have an active presence and put time aside to using it. However many people don’t know how to use LinkedIn effectively and many more don’t have the sort of profile that is going aid in their journey towards a board appointment.
LinkedIn is, I believe, a thinly veiled recruitment tool. Yes you can use it to develop new connections or find new opportunities but for the majority of users much of the action is about finding and connecting with people you either want to work with or hire. This works very much in your favour in your board search.
LinkedIn is, by design not, specifically targeted towards the Non Executive Director and not intuitively useful for those searching for Board Opportunities. Instead it offers a blend of Executive & Non Executive functions that need to be ‘gamed’ to properly sell yourself as a Non Executive whilst also, if required, pitch your executive skills. This takes time and effort to do effectively but very much worth doing.
So how do you make LinkedIn work for you?
Nothing here is, i hope, going to rock your world. But that does not mean you should assume what you have done already is appropriate. Below is my advice on how to write a compelling (board orientated) LinkedIn profile.
- You have to have a professional profile picture – It needn’t necessarily be professionally taken but avoid pictures of you in your Halloween costume or splashing into the swimming pool. Since your LinkedIn profile is often the first port of call for boards or recruiters when shortlisting candidates, it’s important that your profile picture portrays a professional individual.
- Ensure that your job titles reflect your experience but also your aspirations. If you have board aspirations but only have your executive titles included then expect to be viewed that way and for this to reduce your impact.
- Include details of your non executive & executive experience. This is one of the areas LinkedIn will let you down if you are searching for a NED position or have lots of NED experience. They don’t have a specific section for Board Appointments. As such you are forced to combine both in the same section – unlike in a Board CV where you can separate this experience.
- As always your experience – both executive and non experience – must focus on any tangible evidence of success you achieved in the role. Prospective boards find NED’s with a successful track record appealing and this will help you get shortlisted for an interview. Short and succinct is key!
Finally, and most importantly. Many recruiters and Chairs use Linkedin to ‘double check’ your qualifications, picture, experience and motivations. So it is absolutely critical that anything you list on your Board CV is reflected accurately in your LinkedIn profile – as any discrepancies will call into question your legitimacy. To make it easy for people to find you on LinkedIn you should also include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your CV, as this will give the board further confidence you have nothing to hide and therefore pose less risk if appointed.
Like any social media tool, LinkedIn is only as good as you the time you put into using it.
Personally, I put in between 5-10 hours a week on maintaining my relationships. For the majority of you you will have neither the time nor the inclination to do this. That is understandable but if you aspire to attain your first or a subsequent board appointment then you must dedicate some time to using LinkedIn to generate and maintain the sorts of relationships you need to achieve your board aspirations. Here I recommend at a minimum:
- Publish relevant articles on LinkedIn Pulse. They don’t necessarily need to be ones you have written yourself – you could reference someone elses work. Doing this begins to brand you as an industry expert and reinforces both your passion for and your credibility as an expert in the field you work in. Things that Boards look for in prospective members.
- Post to relevant LinkedIn groups and contribute to conversations. While establishing you as someone with expert knowledge on the subject matter, it will also help you keep a finger on the pulse of your industry. While you are at it, join the Board Direction group on LinkedIn to stay up to date with matters regarding governance and board appointments.
- Connect with people you are interested in. Don’t just send them an invite – write them a brief message explaining why you are connecting
- Meet your connections. I don’t care how many are in your ‘network’. The value comes when you develop personal connections. To do this you need to speak with your connections, meet them or provide them some value. This means doing more than clicking a button or accepting an invitation.
- Be helpful & Contribute. LinkedIn is full of people asking for advice. You won’t be able to help everyone but perhaps you know of people who could help – make introductions and use these requests to generate new relationships.
Above are just a few of our tips – like i said, not rocket science but i hope they have inspired you to do more with your LinkedIn profile & membership.
If you need a hand, as part of our newly revised product offering, we offer LinkedIn Profile Writing, LinkedIn Training and a combined Board CV & LinkedIn Profile Writing services . If your LinkedIn profile is not all it can be, contact us to help you make your profile part of your board search toolbox so you can dare them not to appoint you.
About the Author
David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Direction – Australia’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world. He has been described as Australia’s leading board recruitment expert, is a published author, a regular speaker on the board appointment process and runs Board Search Masterclasses across Australia. He is one of Australia’s Top 10 LinkedIn users with over 20,000 connections. Email: Contact@boarddirection.com.au