You’ve probably heard of Linkedin and maybe you are already on it. Great. That’s a good start. As someone who has interviewed over 500 applicants over the years, Linkedin is often the first place I look when I see a resume cross my desk. Currently, I’d say only 50% of the applicants who apply for first-time jobs in travel even have a profile so if you have one, kudos to you. And if you don’t, no worries. It’s easy to set one up.
But there are a few things to keep in mind with using this social media tool seemingly designed for the professional. While there are no right or wrong strategies, there are certain things you can do that will increase your chances of getting noticed in the right way.
Setting up your Profile
This is a big one. Think of the profile section as your storefront…and you are what’s being sold. The top section of LinkedIn, where you post your photo along with a background needs to be catchy, attractive, clean and inviting. You probably have deduced this is not where you post that pic of you from last Friday night with your girls at the bar at 1 AM. There is a significant difference between a solid professional image and one that you take as a selfie looking your finest.
The first tip, if you can afford it, get a professional photo taken. Better yet, scour your bestie group to find someone who knows how to take a good portrait image.
Profile pic mistakes you’ll want to avoid:
- Resist the urge, no matter how hot you look in that group shot with you and your 3 BFFs doing shots at the Senor Frogs in Cancun, to crop them out and post that pic. Even if you don’t have a shot glass in your hand. People can tell it’s a cropped shot and it won’t score you any extra points.
- Because the travel industry is not as suit-and-tie as other industries, I’m okay with using an outdoor image of you in a destination that you love, but I’d caution against images of you wearing either a hat or sunglasses or both. People need to see your eyes and preferably both of them.
- Artsy-fartsy has its place, just not on LinkedIn. I’ve seen some creative Facebook and Instagram profiles featuring a black and white closeup of an ear but unless you are Van Gogh, I’d keep things more traditional. Full frontal is best, (you know what I mean), no side profiles.
The section under your Pic – Your headline
This is where you want to define who you are in a nutshell and a lot of people miss this juicy piece of real estate. You have 120 characters to knock it out of the park by using searchable words that count. Think like a recruiter for a moment. I’d use words like “Travel; Sales; Advisor”
The About Section
This section is the story of who you are. It’s your sales page and details why anyone would want to bother connecting with you in the first place. You don’t want to sound too fancy and use words that would leave Roget scratching his head. Be relatable – professional but relatable. People want to work with people they like and nobody likes a know-it-all. I confess I fell into this trap myself but when you know better, you do better.
Add Media to your profile
If you have been published and/or if you have any video content, link it up. And if you happen to have a website yourself that you use to blog already, be sure to link that under your contact info as well.
Keep the content on your page fresh
It’s definitely important to keep your account up to date. Even when you do land your dream job, don’t make the mistake of allowing your account to remain dormant for too long. You never know when you might need to change directions and the more active you can be on the platform, ultimately the better.
And above all else, be your real self. LinkedIn is not a resume. You can attach a resume but don’t use words that make your sound like every other professional using the site. Keep your content fresh and project the person you are. In travel, where formality is not as important, your tone should be a hair above the conversational style you’d use with your co-workers by the water cooler. Hiring managers are looking to see who you really are. Are you a good fit? Will clients be able to relate to you? Are you somebody they’d want to join for a coffee or are you some stoggy, lacklustre, joy busting automaton? Some people may disagree with me on this point but I stand firm. Do you really want to work for a company that doesn’t value a fun and creative individual in the first place? Simply put, be the person you’d want to hire. Considering the fact that we spend a disproportionate time at work, you want to land a job where you won’t be poking your eyeballs out with knitting needles by the time 5 o’clock rolls around.
Avoid using cliches and overused words like “passionate, unique, motivated, creative, strategic, expert and focused. Replace with examples of what you’d done that can demonstrate those traits. Instead of “I am passionate about travel” write, “ have travelled from Boston to Bucharest and made about 800 stops in between.”
The Art of Networking
While LinkedIn is a place you can go to search jobs through the job posting portal, don’t spend too much time in that area. After all, you are then competing for a job with potentially hundreds of other punters.
Insider advice is to spend 20% of your time in that section and then spend the balance of your time networking. Find the companies you most admire and want to work for, and then reach out to individuals in that company. Send a non-invasive, non-threatening message to seek more intel. Not many people do this so automatically, the person at the receiving end of your message is going to think…huh, isn’t that cool. Not everyone will answer you but most people remember what it was like to be in the job search department. I’d suggest sending a message along these lines…
Hi Melanie, I came across your LinkedIn profile and see that you have been working at Company XYZ for a few years now. I hope you don’t mind me reaching out to you. I’ve travelled quite a lot myself and I know how to sell. Do you happen to know if there are any job openings coming up? Any insight whatsoever you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanking you in advance for not trashing this message right out of the gate.
The truth is, there are a ton of companies out there hiring that just haven’t gotten around to posting yet. To get the jumpstart on a position before it becomes available gives you an advantage. Some companies even offer referral bonuses to existing employees if they recommend qualified candidates.
Insider tip 2, you might even want to message the hiring manager directly. Sounds scary I know but as someone who was looking for people who emoted confidence, I always took the time to interview anyone who had the kahunas to reach out to me directly. I think it shows guts and I like guts. (just not the kind found in fish and served wrapped up in seaweed along with some sticky rice – sorry sushi gross)
The other thing you should keep in mind about networking is that networking should never start the moment you need something. Networking, is by definition, mutually beneficial relationships developed over time. Don’t only think about what a person can do for you but think more, what purpose can I serve them. Sales guru Zig Ziglar is famous for saying, “You can have anything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.” Wiser words could not be spoken. This advice is obviously not specific to LinkedIn but to networking in general.
And she told two friends…and she told two friends
The more you connect, the quicker your web expands exponentially. When you first start out with your handful of friends on LinkedIn, you might think, I’m just not getting the value of this platform but…there is a tipping point. It’s around 250. Until you get to that point, you won’t really see just how powerful Linkedin can be. The truth is…it’s not the people that are in your first tier of connections that will have the greatest impact. After all, if you know them already and they knew you were looking for a job, wouldn’t they have linked you already? No, it’s the access to their connections (now your second tier) that will make the biggest impact on your job search. Sure, you know Katie but once you connect, you now have access to Katie’s 400 connections and of those 400, that’s where you may find the job posting you weren’t expecting and didn’t know about.
The Key to Building Connections
So you don’t have 250 connections to start off with? No problem. It doesn’t really take much to get going. Just start reaching out. I highly recommend taking a bit of extra time and sending a personalized message with your request to connect. Don’t cut corners. You don’t have to write an epistle but you should come up with something that will catch their eye so, at the very least, they’ll be intrigued enough to accept your request. Not sure what to go with…blatant flattering normally opens the door.
Travel Groups you should follow
It’s important to keep your ear to the ground and keep abreast of what’s trending in the industry. One way to do this is to join a few groups and become active in those groups by commenting and sharing the content of others. Which groups to join? Search the groups that thought leaders you admire are following, and join those to start. Many groups are by request but I’ve never been turned down because I’m not a bot and neither are you.
This is where I made my first big mistakes when I was getting started. I didn’t know what to do with this. Linked in served up some skills – I’m assuming based on the profile I’d submitted (which was shoddy at best). They listed a bunch of generic skills that didn’t really reflect who I was, or what I was capable of doing. For example, apparently I am most known in my industry for the skill of, wait for it….” tourism!”
What is that!?! Learn from my mistakes. Be proactive and decide exactly what you want to be known for and add those as your skills. Most contacts will endorse you for whatever skill you have near the top because, after all, we live in a pretty cool world with pretty cool people. So let your Superpower skill be something like “Target Annihilator” but definitely not “Tourism.”
And the best way to get endorsements? Give endorsements. Yep, ask any LinkedIn member.
Scary I know but ideally you need a few. My insider tip here is to make it as easy as possible for people to recommend you. I would say something like:
Charlotte, I know you are super busy at the moment so I took the liberty of writing something to get you started. Feel free to edit as you see fit, add your own flavour or trash completely and create something yourself. I know your time is valuable so I can’t thank you enough for sparing a few moments for me. If there is anything I can offer you in return, I’m at your service.
Position yourself as a thought leader – comment, post and create articles.
I know what you are thinking because I was thinking the same thing when I was starting out…what do I know? What am I going to write? Ugh. If I could only turn back time and tell my younger self to get over it. Everyone knows something. I know you love to travel so write about that. Write about your favourite hidden gems in the city of Budapest. Talk about your favourite travel apps you couldn’t live without. Whatever. Just write. It’s a great way to start to build your network and get noticed. The more you use the platform of LinkedIn, the more you will start to surface in searches. If only I had started doing this years ago, I’d probably have gotten to where I am far quicker.
Final tip: Use a grammar and spell checker
A grammar or spelling mistake can be the kiss of death. Remember, this is your storefront. Often the first impression people will have of you. Offer a good friend, who graduated with a degree in English (first prize) didn’t flunk English in high school (second prize), a fancy dinner out and ask her to proof your content before it goes live. It is so worth the cost of a jumbo Bellini. #worthit.
Why do I have the funny feeling that I’m going to be in debt to my editor for some peaches and prosecco after writing that!
um, sushi and champagne methinks!Editor’s note
If you haven’t watched the video on the 10 insider secrets that only seasoned travel professionals know about this industry, you should definitely check it out. Click on the link below.