Find Your Dream Job, Episode 275:
How LinkedIn Content Can Help You Land Your Next Job, with Andy Foote
Airdate: December 23, 2020
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
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One of the most effective ways to get an employer’s attention is to post content on LinkedIn. And today’s guest says to do it well, you need to study what works, learn from those who do it best, and give yourself time.
Andy Foote is here to talk about how LinkedIn content can help you land your next job.
Andy is a writer and coach who teaches LinkedIn strategies. He also hosts the podcast, Foote-Notes. It’s an interview show with interesting people on LinkedIn.
Andy joins us from Chicago, Illinois.
Well, let’s jump right into it, Andy, can posting on LinkedIn really help you get your next job?
Yes, I believe that it can, Mac. How are you? Thanks for inviting me on.
Well, it’s a pleasure to have you, and let’s talk about LinkedIn and how content can help you. What do you say to people who might be skeptical about that, Andy?
Yeah, I think, as far as LinkedIn goes, it really is the place for you to unearth your next opportunity. And I would say that the bar has been set pretty low, Mac, in terms of how you can stand out from the crowd, and my favorite way of doing that is all about content and what I call the content journey.
Why can’t you just set up an account, Andy, and just wait for the recruiters to reach out and the offers to come in?
Well, of course, there’s nothing stopping you from doing that, and of course, you know, some lucky souls may land that way, but I can tell you from experience, and other people may agree with me, that it’s not always going to work out that way or work out for you, and the passive approach to LinkedIn usually only benefits exceptionally lucky individuals. My approach, my advice is for you to, A, Understand the platform and B, leverage it, and of course, there is a lot of that in-between stuff.
Let’s talk through those different steps but before we do that, Andy, you spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, and I know you’ve looked at all the different features and different strategies; why are you such a fan of content and how it can help someone in the job search get their next position?
Yeah, I’m really glad you mention time, Mac. Because time is one of those things that’s crucial, I’d say, in terms of fully maximizing and leveraging the platform. My favorite expression, right now at least, is, “I’m an overnight success that took 10 years.”
And what I mean by that is, I have obviously invested a lot of my time and energy into building a profile, hopefully, a high visibility profile, on LinkedIn, and there’s nothing special about that.
Anyone can do it, everyone should do it, but the issue with, I think most job-seekers, most people in transition, is that they parachute into the platform and then say, essentially, “Help me. Help me.” And no one‘s listening, or if they are listening, they don’t know you from Adam because you haven’t spent the time, you haven’t dug your well before you’re thirsty on the platform.
Now, of course, you can start doing that now but it will take time, and if you’re one of these lucky folks or folks that have seen the writing on the wall, or been prepared, or thought of LinkedIn as an insurance policy, you’ve been doing this all the while, then good for you. But most people essentially are in a state of panic, and I say, “Well, take a deep breath and understand that you can build that profile, you can gain that additional visibility.” And yes, the way that I suggest you do this is via pulling all of the levers on LinkedIn, but in particular, the content lever.
In other words, I’m talking primarily about posting, so short-form content posts and articles. Articles are slightly different because they are indexed on the web, or on search engines. Posts kind of like the newspaper of the day on LinkedIn.
I want to talk about time because you mentioned your journey, your 10-year overnight success; we have listeners who need to find a job this month or in three months or six months, and what would you say to someone who says, “Andy, I don’t have 10 years. Am I doomed?”
No, not at all. I would spend a lot of your time, invest a lot of time on LinkedIn, but before you put pen to paper, before you start typing on that keyboard, I would take a good look around you in terms of the content out there that is doing well. So, is it getting high engagement? Why is it getting high engagement? Is it relevant to me? Is it relevant to the people who I think are going to be decision-makers, in terms of my transition and what I want to do next?
Then, once you understand that, Mac, once you understand what makes good content, how well is it doing, and why is it getting a strong engagement, incorporate that information into your own content production.
So, think about, “Okay, what am I gonna write about?” Because I firmly believe that everyone has something to share. Whether it’s a story, whether it’s insights, whether it’s knowledge, et cetera, et cetera, and these days, it’s not just strictly professional content or knowledge.
You may have noticed yourself that over the last 18 months or so, it seems like a lot of the folks who are comfortable on Facebook have come over to the LinkedIn platform and are sharing aspirational, sometimes deeply personal stuff that is still getting high engagement. There’s an opportunity there and it’s not just boardroom anymore, sometimes it’s after work, sometimes it’s water cooler stuff, but you know, content can be creative and there’s so much diversity and variety in the type of content that you can share and build your profile, gain that visibility and get on the radar of some decision-makers.
Is all content created equal, Andy?
That’s a great question. Well, I mean, at a base level it is. It starts equal, doesn’t it? What makes it special is how people react to it, how well it’s received. If you’re writing content that is read in silence, then, unfortunately, it could be the best content in the world but you really need an engagement kick for it to be sent wide and far throughout the LinkedIn platform. If it’s read in silence, Mac, and no one reacts to it, no one comments on it, then that’s kind of a failure. Because you really need other people to jump on that content and coalesce around your content and around you for it to then be distributed to others, and to continue with that distribution throughout the platform.
You really need that engagement. Comments are like rocket fuel to the algorithm, and the algorithm is the mastery head that you must, must satisfy continually, whenever you post.
What leads to great engagement? Is it the number of connections you have or is it something else?
Yes, a great question. So, you can’t really expect to get engagement without building it first. So, if you’re not in expansion mode in terms of your network, then you are really going into the boxing ring with one arm tied behind your back. You do need to constantly build your audience. So, that typically means connecting with people, and you know, what I was saying about a passive approach, that’s not going to work in terms of building your network either.
You’ve got to actually build some kind of inbound connection pipeline so people come into you, not you just going to people and saying, “Hey, connect with me.” And that message, by the way, it’s got to be succinct, it’s got to be relevant, because you’re not going to connect with me unless I can lay out precisely and with an excellent reason why you should connect with me, so it’s got to be…you’ve got to be aware of those kinds of messages.
Yeah, you need to be in expansion mode. You hope, obviously, that when you’re connecting with people that they are going to dig your contact enough to show up and the algorithm certainly will show it to, not just your current connections, new connections, current followers, new followers, but it will also vary it up. It’ll start showing it to other people who you’re not connected with, who have never heard of you, and in that sense, it’s random testing, but yeah.
I succeed whenever I publish on content because I have a fierce band of loyal Andy Foote fans because they know what to expect when I publish and they, thankfully, dig what I publish. But they don’t do in silence, you know, they do react and they do comment, and everyone can do that. You know, there’s nothing special about that. Everyone can do that. And what I was referring to about the bar being set pretty low, most job seekers are not doing that, so if you do that and you do it well, then the world is your oyster and you will land much more quickly than just putting your resume in your about section and just hoping for the best.
Why is that, Andy? Is it because you’re getting the attention of the employers you want to impress? Why does that help you get your next job, creating great content that engages others?
Think of two strategies, Mac. You’ve got your shortlist of potential employers that you scoped out, the dream jobs that you’re currently gunning for. You’ve attempted to get on the decision maker’s radars by browsing their profile. If you’ve got a premium account, then you can see if they browse you back, so now they’re at least aware of you. You’ve gone and looked very hard inside the company, you’ve scoped who is around the decision-maker, who else you can possibly engage with or connect with, that’s one strategy.
The other strategy is all about potential, isn’t it? Because when you’re in expansion mode on LinkedIn, you truly, really don’t know who’s going to be the next person to open the door for you so sure, you have your shortlist and you go after those strategically, and you don’t just think of yourself as a content creator but you look at other folks. Perhaps some of those decision-makers, are themselves in the content creation business, or perhaps they’re coalescing around LinkedIn content. Make it your business to understand what they’re interested in and how they show up on LinkedIn and how frequently.
It’s very easy to do by looking in that person‘s “All Activity” section. Look at that tab to see exactly how active or not they are on LinkedIn. If you’re lucky, and they are active, then that’s a great window into what they’re doing and what they’re interested in. So, certainly, you can be tactical, strategic, but also there’s this big promise of potential and possibility and discovery when you’re putting yourself out there in a very public way but you’re doing it in a way that you’re in control of your brand and what you stand for, what you’re interested in, and what you’re interested in doing next.
Know who you want to reach, what matters to them, and, with a laser-like focus, create content that is going to engage them and help them recognize you and eventually build an online relationship, am I getting that right, Andy?
Absolutely, you know, we’re all unique, we’re all different in our own way, and increasingly, I think that’s what organizations are very interested in. They’re not just interested in whether or not you can do the job, they’re also interested in the type of individual that they’re going to get, that’s going to join our team, what else do they bring to the table? It’s very much about personality and is very much about, what’s unique about you? Because I think it’s a mistake just to think, you go to your job and you tune out and you don’t relate, you don’t integrate with who or what’s going on around you. So, you know we are multifaceted, and certainly LinkedIn content is a great way to demonstrate just how different we are from other folks.
I want to pause and take a break, Andy. When we come back, I want to dig into a step I know you recommend which is to study what others do on LinkedIn in order to get clear about great content and how best to engage others.
Stay with us. When we return Andy Foote will continue to share his advice on how LinkedIn content can help you land your next job.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Andy Foote.
He’s a writer and coach who teaches LinkedIn strategies. Andy also hosts the podcast, Foote-Notes. It’s an interview show with interesting people on LinkedIn.
Now, Andy, before the break, we were talking about how LinkedIn content can help you land your next job. One step I know you recommend taking to get good at this is to study what others do on LinkedIn. Tell us more about that, why is that important?
Yeah, so it’s certainly the way that I learn and continue to adapt and try out, you know, I experiment with a wide variety of different ways of what I call “going to market” on LinkedIn. By that I mean, if we consider the diversity in terms of how we can approach content creation and how we can try and engage with our audience, LinkedIn is certainly giving us new tools and new features, shiny new objects, fairly regularly. And the most recent one, Mac, is stories, and I think my initial response, reaction to stories was, “ Hmmm, why would I want to do a video vignette that lasts 20 seconds? Who’s my audience? Who’s that for?” And now I’m using it creatively.
I just added a funny, very relevant cartoon. So, I’m using it for humor in that instance but, you know, it goes back to what I was saying earlier, Mac, that it’s all about expressing your personality, and there are many, many different ways that you can do that. I’m particularly fond of adding a post but with a document attached to it because historically, articles are not doing wonderfully in terms of reach on LinkedIn. LinkedIn decided to turn off notifications for articles and it kind of killed them, certainly in terms of internal reach and audience size.
However, articles are still indexed on search engines, so a friend of mine swears by still writing articles because he gets business inquiries, he’s a consultant, from articles that he’s written three or four years ago. It has that long-tail engagement. So, in terms of monitoring, observing what’s doing well, you know, there’s so much data out there around LinkedIn that is public. So, we can easily see whether not content has legs, and the task, as I said, is to understand why and whether not it could be relevant to us to do the same kind of storytelling or information sharing.
What tips do you have, Andy, for a job seeker who wants to master the basics of LinkedIn content but may not have a lot of time during the day to do that? Are there suggestions that you have about people to follow, sites to visit, or just good hacks or habits that someone can practice in order to get good at content creation by looking at the examples of others?
Yeah, so there really isn’t, I think, a better substitute than spending time on LinkedIn and looking at the content that is evidently doing very well. I use the newspaper analogy, you know, what are the posts that are flying off the shelf? And why are they doing so well? So, in terms of being that observer who is paying close attention to what successful content looks like. I don’t think there’s a substitute. I mean, there may be LinkedIn causes, there may be some blogs, but certainly, follow people who have gotten thousands of followers and who can back it up frankly.
It’s not just enough that they have a large audience but they are consistently posting great, highly engaging content and you will be able to see that. So, I think a fast, or a shortcut way, of doing that would be to start looking at specific hashtags in your industry, in your function, so start looking at hashtags. Those hashtags will signpost, not just content but also great authors because you’ll be able to filter in the hashtag feed by the stuff that’s the most popular.
Start with hashtags, start your research there, and then start to, as I say, observe, learn, incorporate, and essentially, leverage the way that they’re doing it in a way that benefits you. Hashtags are version one right now. I think version two are going to be much more excitement in terms of the data that LinkedIn is going to share with users, so think of google analytics but for hashtags, because right now we don’t have that much information about hashtags.
We essentially have followers, and the amount of times a particular hashtag has been used on LinkedIn.
I want to touch on a point you made just a moment ago, which is that having a large number of connections doesn’t necessarily lead to significant engagement. Because sometimes, I think listeners think, to have lots of likes and comments, they’ve got to have thousands of connections or followers. That’s not true is it, Andy?
No, not at all and that’s something that I think is a pitfall. I think people believe that, “Okay, I’ve got 40,000 followers. Then that’s it, that’s a bottom-line success, and I don’t need to do anything else.” But the fact is, you only need a small group of loyal fans that will turn up and are constantly engaging on the platform. You only need that small, hard-core group to turn up for you, for your success to then be distributed. And of course, having a large network to start with is obviously going to help in terms of determining who’s your fanbase, who those hardcore fans are, for sure.
It’s much easier to have 40,000 followers and from that, you have that hard-core fan base rather than having 400 and hoping that a proportion of those turn out to be hard-core fans. So yeah, it’s complicated. I wish that LinkedIn would make it easier for us to find those folks who are serial engagers and for folks to understand who is active, but why. You know, that’s certainly hard to determine currently. Perhaps, you know, what I was saying about hashtags and more insights there, perhaps that’s coming too. I really don’t know but that would be helpful to, certainly job seekers when they’re trying to build something.
“Build something and they will come.” As the movie quote goes.
You spent a lot of time studying people who are good at engagement on LinkedIn; are there two or three practical examples you can give that might be especially useful for jobseekers related to content creation, Andy?
For example, you mentioned that LinkedIn articles just don’t see the level of engagement that was common a few years ago because LinkedIn turned off notifications. Are there good habits that you see master content creators practice when posting or using hashtags or links that job seekers should keep in mind?
Yeah, what I think is a hallmark of success is folks who seem to understand how many hashtags should I be using? Not just which, but how many? What kind of structure should I be using in my post? Should I be using signal lines and treating the reader like a child? Would that look bait-y?
There are so many different decisions that you have to make when you’re publishing. What I would encourage all of your listeners to do is to look at LinkedIn tips, as a hashtag, look at various LinkedIn trainer blogs, and absorb as much information as you can about publishing and what they recommend. And then, what I would like for you to do is to experiment and see for yourself, “Okay, did that work for me? Why?”
Get into that mindset and the other thing that I’d recommend is that you really can’t learn some of this stuff until you start doing it. So, overcome any kind of humility, any kind of…I was going to say a lack of confidence but that’s not quite it. Overcome any kind of roadblock that you might have mentally in terms of doing this and just start doing it because once you start doing it, you’ll get more comfortable and you’ll start to see results for yourself, you’ll start to understand what’s working and what isn’t, and then you’ll be able to tweak going forward.
That’s how I learned. My early stuff was terrible, my writing was really, really bad. So, I’m glad that’s now hidden by the dust of time. It’s very hard to find my early stuff, and I’ve just become, I think, a much better communicator, a much better writer, because I realize that I should just write how I speak. As long as I do that, then I’m engaging with my audience. So, I think that’s certainly a mindset that your listeners should adopt.
We’ve talked about the importance of identifying the audience you want to reach, understanding their needs, studying what others do who are good at engagement on LinkedIn, and writing like you talk, which is always excellent advice. Now, how do you pull all this together, Andy, and leverage what you’ve learned, and put it together in a way that is going to help you with your job search and get that offer faster?
Yes, so there’s a new section on the LinkedIn profile page called, “Featured,” and it’s pretty prominent. It comes in at just above your about section and it’s prominent for a reason because that’s your place to show off. To add the most impressive content that you have and that’s where decision-makers will look to see whether or not you’re producing content and what kind of content you’re producing. So think about, once you start down the content journey, once you start building up your portfolio, of written or other kinds of content, frankly- if you’re good at video, if you’re comfortable in front of the camera, then have at it.
That’s what I meant by the many different ways that LinkedIn allows you to show off and to flex those intellectual and professional muscles. Yeah, think about the Featured section. It’s prominent for a reason, utilize that, and certainly, in the about section, make it all about you and let your personality shine. There are so many missed opportunities in the about section I see every day where people just copy and paste something from their resume and think that’s sufficient, that’s all they need to do. But no, they don’t. It’s a competition and competition is fierce, as I don’t need to tell you. Especially these days.
Well, I’ve enjoyed our conversation, Andy. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?
Yes, I am going to continue with the Foote-Notes podcast because I enjoy it, even though I feel like a little bit of a Johnny come lately because there are so many podcasts out there, but I’m going to continue doing that. I enjoy it very much, meeting and interviewing guests from all kinds of walks of life. I’m also going to continue sharing what I know about LinkedIn. So, I’ll be doing that on my blog, linkedinsights.com, and via LinkedIn, so I can always be found on LinkedIn.
Well, I know people can learn more about you by visiting your blog which you mentioned, linkedinsights.com, as well as connecting with you on LinkedIn, and I hope they’ll mention they heard you on the show and do send a personal invitation. And finally, I know you encourage people to join your Facebook group, LinkedIn Action User Group Heroes.
Well, Andy, given all the great advice you shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how LinkedIn content can help you land your next job?
I think it’s an awesome way, Mac, to differentiate yourself from other job seekers, other folks who are perhaps gunning for the same role. And I think, as I said before, the world is your oyster in terms of content, and if you do it well and you find the right balance between showing off, striking a chord, informing, and engaging, then I think that in itself could open doors for you.
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