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I hear a lot of criticism leveled at LinkedIn from game developers. It’s a business networking tool, and on some level, people find that mildly repugnant. What the hell am I supposed to do with LinkedIn? Why should I care? It’s spammy. I’m not even looking for a job. Should I just delete it?
No, no, no, hell no. You need a LinkedIn, and I’m going to explain exactly why: If you don’t have a LinkedIn, you don’t look professional. Worse, you look like you don’t care enough to spend 15 minutes doing the bare minimum to look professional.
I’m going to show you how to get a basic professional-level LinkedIn profile set up in 15 minutes, and wrap that up with some power-tips on how to use LinkedIn to get a job. This information is from the perspective of 1) a heavy, long-time LinkedIn user, and 2) someone who uses LinkedIn to research people to hire. I will tell you what I look for and why, and what to do and what not to do.
LinkedIn has over 225 million members in over 200 countries. There is no question that it is *the* social network for business networking. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a recruiter or a spammer or a job seeker to use it. If you’re an average developer that isn’t looking for a job, it still has its use. You can get set up in 15 minutes with a basic professional-looking profile, and contact settings that will keep people from bothering you.
Ultimately it doesn’t hurt anything to be on LinkedIn, whereas it limits future opportunities not to. In general, it’s a good life strategy to make sure good things can come to you without expending much effort, and this is a potentially high-yield way to do that. Let’s get into it!
1) Why do I need a LinkedIn profile?
Having a LinkedIn profile is the bare minimum you can do to look professional when people search for you. It’s a respected, credible source of information over which you have ultimate control. Controlling what you put on there controls how you present yourself. LinkedIn is the FIRST place people look if they want to know what you do professionally. If a hiring manager that could give you your dream job is searching for the right candidate, would you rather have your important professional information listed in the first place they will look for it, or not?
That’s one angle not many people consider… passive presence. You don’t have to be on LinkedIn every single day updating and posting and searching. Or even looking for a job. Think of it as your professional storefront. Wash the windows every once in a while, but don’t worry too much about it day-to-day. This is the key point: You want to be discoverable, even without applying consistent effort, even if you don’t need something *right now.*
2) What shouldn’t I put on my LinkedIn?
It pains me that this even needs to be said, but DON’T BREAK YOUR NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS AND TALK ABOUT WHAT SECRET PROJECTS YOU’RE WORKING ON. If you’re not sure, ask your company. When in doubt, don’t say anything. Game news sites regularly look for stories by combing through your LinkedIn profile and connecting the dots. Stalking peoples’ resumes to make the news is a scumbag thing to do, and I hate that it happens. However, it IS public information. There’s a new story every couple of weeks about a developer breaking their NDA on LinkedIn and making headlines. That one guy over at Kotaku has an entire column where he does this. And we give him the material.
Generally speaking, it’s not a good thing if product announcements happen accidentally. Especially not if it makes headlines and they link directly to your personal LinkedIn page. It shows a lack of discretion, and makes you look less hireable. And it’s also completely preventable, which makes you look even worse. You don’t have to be that person!
Here are a few bullet points of what NOT to put on your LinkedIn profile:
- A fake profile. Don’t fill out a personal profile with your company name, then go around adding people. There are Company Pages for a reason, and you look like you don’t understand how to use the system, or just don’t care. Have you ever made the mistake of adding your grandparents on Facebook? Seeing this is similar to grandparent social media cringe.
- Fake names. Use your real name. Don’t be cute. LinkedIn is a place to present yourself professionally, not be funny. I’m talking to you, Sparklesunshine von Ponypants. You were not as advertised.
- Bad spelling. Especially for job titles. I’ve seen my fair share of Arists, Prodcuers, Desingers, Principles, Enviroment Artists, and once a “Certified Scum Master.” I’m also fairly certain you didn’t attend Pubic School. That, or I forgot to reset my search filter settings from last night.
- “Cute” job titles. Having a creative title like “BADASS!” or “Pixel Wizard!” or “I fart polys!” isn’t necessarily bad, but it is *really* dorky. It makes you stand out, and not necessarily in a good way.
- Douchey job titles. I find it hard to take anyone seriously that refers to themselves as a “visionary” or “thought leader” on a resume or LinkedIn. This tells me that person’s idea of a good night is a glass of wine and reading their own blog.
- Party photos. I don’t care how many shot glasses you can fit into your mouth, how many glitter-dusted bar skanks you can hang off each arm, or about how you can turn a pig into a bong without killing it. Unless you’re applying to be on some sort of totally awesome reality show, keep it professional and boring. No one has ever said “Well, Candidate A is more qualified, but Candidate B burned off his eyebrows drinking a flaming Dr. Pepper while standing on his head — and he kept drinking. Our choice is clear.”
- Age. Never tell anyone your age. You could be 10, 50, or 14 million years old. Never indicate your age. It’s not professionally relevant and it’s very easily judgeable. Don’t give them that. I’ve followed this rule since I was 12, because people get weird about people being too young, or too old. It’s ammo, and it can only lead to negative judgments. Don’t give it to them.
- Religious affiliation. No one cares, it’s one additional data point that’s easy to judge people for, no one cares, aaaaand no one cares. I will be blunt: Being really up-front about your religious affiliation on your resume could make people think you’re likely to be enthusiastically obnoxious about it in the workplace. Think day one, enter that person: “HI EVERYBODY I’M REALLY EXCITED TO WORK HERE! I LOVE AND WORSHIP BACCHUS. LET’S STRIP DOWN, DRINK WHISKEY AND ROAST A GOAT!” This isn’t discriminating or stifling religious belief or thought, it’s a very simple and practical consideration: religion is an extremely sensitive subject that people really like starting discrimination lawsuits over. No one wants that drama. Don’t bring it up.
- Twitter. DON’T LINK YOUR TWITTER. DON’T DON’T DON’T. Do. Not. Link. Your. Twitter. No good can come of that. It will confuse the message that you are a professional, because Twitter is the guileless Ritalin-popping chatterbox child of social networks.
3) What should I put on my LinkedIn?
Think searchable, relevant key words. You want to be easily discoverable via simple key words that apply to your skill set. Hiring managers, recruiters, and people like me search for people by job title, software proficiencies, and skills. For example, environment artist with Maya and ZBrush experience that’s worked on the Xbox 360. UI artist that knows Scaleform and has developed for the Wii. Animator with Softimage and Motionbuilder experience and has developed for the Ouya. (just kidding, no one cares about having Ouya platform experience! wah wah.)
Golly, I like bulleted lists. Here’s another one:
- A professional summary. Two to three short paragraphs, depending on how long you’ve been in games. First person or third person never mattered much to me personally, but do it in the first person to be on the safe side.
- Start\end dates for all your jobs, with proper job title. Under each job, describe your duties, what software you used, what titles you worked on (if you can), and one or two specific, interesting aspects of it that stand out. Don’t brag, don’t bitch, don’t gripe, and don’t fluff it out. This is a very important point: These are simplified pieces of data that are the basis for starting a conversation, not the conversation itself.
- Education. I personally don’t care about education or what school you went to, but my purview is primarily art, where education for that matters less in the game industry. Still, include it if you’ve got it. It’s a qualification and another potential point of distinction that tells the story of you.
- List of projects you’ve worked on. Link it to the company and the other people you worked with. Creating a little network like that will show people who you’ve worked with before, and in a job-getting situation, they’ll most likely be asked about you. And if you link to them that may encourage reciprocal linking, which will make it easier for people to find you from other peoples’ LinkedIn pages. Bam, discoverability.
- Skills and expertise. The Endorsements system in LinkedIn is stupid and mostly useless, but it’s still worth it to edit that list to make sure that only skills relevant to you are listed. Keep it serious, and don’t list yourself as a Taco Expert or Beer God. Keeping these up to date and relevant make you easier to find. Keywords, yo!
- Recommendations. The usefulness of written recommendations from people on LinkedIn is a controversial subject. Many people say they ignore them and think they’re worthless, and other people think they’re the greatest thing ever. My opinion is that it’s never a bad thing if you can get people on the record saying they liked working with you. However, if you’re in a layoff and everyone at the company is writing them for everyone else, it’ll be obvious that it’s probably going to be stress-induced fluffery, and more likely to be ignored. You can’t help but reciprocate if someone offers it without looking like a jerk. But if you can get a lead or a colleague you’ve worked with a lot to say a few good words about you, that’s never a bad thing. Just don’t put up 14 million of them, because that does start to look douchey.
- Published works. If you’ve published articles or given talks at a conference, link them to your page. It’s a good thing! It demonstrates professional relevance, and it’s another point of distinction in your favor. Not everybody writes, and you look even smarter about the subject if you take the time to write about it.
4) What else can I use LinkedIn for besides looking for a job?
LinkedIn is a search engine in which people generally want to be found, so they make the relevant information easy to find. Aside from being a place simply to look for jobs, here are a few ideas for how LinkedIn can be useful:
- Instead of applying for a job through the website, try to find their recruiter or HR manager on LinkedIn. Path less traveled!
- Take advantage of LinkedIn Groups. You can meet cool people and learn. Check your friends’ Groups on their profile and join them. You can also request connections with people based on groups you have in common.
- Are you interviewing? Ask for the names of the people you’re interviewing with and look them up. Find out who they know that you know. Ask questions about them. Knowing people in common can’t hurt. Also, make sure you check the gender of the person with which you’re interviewing… this does happen.
- Add your coworkers. Find out where they’ve worked before, and get to know them better through that. “Hey, I saw on LinkedIn that you used to work at X company. Did you know Sparklesunshine von Ponypants? What a complete tool, right?”
- Learn about new companies. See a new one opening in the news? Look it up. Look up the founders. Find out what they’ve done before. It’s a great way to educate yourself, and to find new connections with people you didn’t know you had.
5) General LinkedIn tips
- If you don’t want people to contact you all the time, take the time to set your contact settings under Settings -> Communications. Set email frequency settings as low as you like, set who can send you invitations, and select the type of messages you’re willing to receive. If you want to do a fully fire-and-forget LinkedIn profile, set most of it to ‘off’ and enjoy the silence.
- If you’re prepping to change jobs and want to stay secret, you can turn off LinkedIn’s profile update notifications first… shh. Settings -> Profile -> Turn on/off your activity broadcasts.
- Keep LinkedIn updated quarterly. Set up a calendar event to update it.
- Don’t forget your portfolio website link! Put it in the Summary, too. People forget this a lot.
- If you’re trying to add someone you don’t know on LinkedIn, when it asks you how you know them, don’t select “Friend.” It’s tacky. If you don’t know them, don’t add them. If you’re a member of the same Group where you’re active, that’s cool, use that.
- Here are ten simple but very important security settings to protect yourself on Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc: http://t.co/G3yVvmJJig
- If you’re adding someone, please remind them how they know you or how you met. Again, don’t call them a Friend if you’re not.
- A link to your LinkedIn profile is not a substitute for having a resume on your portfolio.
- After layoffs, I see floods of LinkedIn contact requests from people who never had LinkedIn before. This is one of my most important points: Connect with people before you need it, and before there’s a huge rush! It’s annoying getting hit up only by people who want something from you, right then. It’s worth taking the time to maintain your network and get your friends and coworkers in there.
In conclusion, if you want to look professional, be discoverable, and control the way you appear to potential employers, take the time to set up a basic LinkedIn profile. Even if you’re not looking for a job, you need a periodically-updated LinkedIn profile to ensure discoverability in case something good could come your way, or in case you really need it in the future. There is no downside to being easy to find and appearing professional to people who might give you money.