September 21, 2015 • Athletic Administration

A.D.ministration: Improving your LinkedIn presence

LinkedInEven though LinkedIn was created with corporate world professionals in mind, athletic administrators are beginning to use the site to network, exchange ideas and promote their programs. As Steffen Parker wrote in an article for the National Federation of State High School Associations, there are several good reasons for creating a profile on LinkedIn.

Athletic administrators should consider the following benefits:

  • Networking is a helpful approach in order to ask questions, seek advice and to have a support system from fellow colleagues.
  • LinkedIn is an online method of maintaining contact with other professionals. While you shouldn’t throw away your stack of business cards, this vehicle provides the advantage that in spite of changing positions or retirement, you will always be able to find contact information for those in your network.
  • It is quick and easy to update your background and achievements as opposed to constantly creating or revising hardcopy documents. This online presentation allows you flexibility with respect to creativity in order to produce an appealing and personalized approach.

Very much like creating a résumé, there are several things you can do to improve your profile and a few things you should avoid. To be taken seriously, you want to present the best possible professional representation of yourself.

Here are six rules to follow when creating or improving your LinkedIn résumé.

1. Use the basic rules of capitalization.

This has to be done with every proper noun, including your name, title and school. It’s almost humorous to see some profiles in which these rules of good writing are ignored, and this especially pertains when an individual works for a school. One should expect that you are educated if you hold an administrative or coaching position. You can’t be careless, casual or indifferent and still present a professional image.

2. Use a professional photo to accompany your name and title.

While photos of family members, vacations or leisure time activities may also show another side of you, it is important to remember that you are trying to create a professional image. Therefore, carefully think through what you are trying to project and use a high-quality headshot. You can still use Facebook and other social networks for family and casual photos.

Also think about using appropriate photos for entries such as the various schools at which you worked or for the institutions where you earned your degrees. In the publishing business, grey pages filled with nothing but text is considered deadly. A photo is worth 1,000 words and it makes the section much more appealing to view. Your connections may actually remember your profile if you dress it up a little.

3. Refrain from writing a novel.

Good, concise writing works best. You can list positions and a few duties or accomplishments, but you don’t need to list every little detail. After all, many of your connections will have the same or similar position. Highlight your experience and achievements, but don’t bore someone to death in an effort to impress. More isn’t necessarily better.

4. Avoid the temptation to use “fluff” in your profile.

Do you really need a three-sentence explanation for each award that you won? If the name of the award isn’t sufficient, only use a brief description. Also, list awards and honors that are pertinent to your position or career path. You probably don’t need to list your eighth grade “homework neatness” commendation.

5. Hierarchy makes a difference.

Always list your highest degree first. Likewise, your current position should always be listed first and the others should follow in reverse order. Please make sure that the dates are accurate and that they don’t overlap. Simple and logical should be the guidelines to follow.

6. Interact with your connections.

Use the prompts that Linkedln periodically provides to congratulate colleagues who move onto another position, win an award or have a birthday. An important principle of networking is to maintain contact and these reminders make it simple and easy. A one- or two-sentence message does the trick.

Other considerations

In addition to recommendations to improve your profile, there are usually a few questions that many individuals discover when they start using Linkedln.

The first is whether to accept or ignore invitations to connect with an individual. If you know the individual — and this is usually the case with most invitations — it is probably a relatively easy decision. With networking, however, there are some other considerations. One additional aspect of this process is to meet someone who may occasionally be able to offer ideas, advice and help.

If this is your objective, and it is perfectly legitimate, mention this fact in your invitation. Instead of the standard, “Joe, please add me to your Linkedln network,” add something to the effect:

  • “Your presentation at the state conference was extremely beneficial. Thanks for your help.”
  • “I enjoyed your article which appeared in … and I was hoping for a little guidance.”
  • “Your profile caught my attention, because …” and finish with “any suggestions that you could offer would really be appreciated.”

Most professionals understand those entering the profession would like to connect with someone with more experience who might be able to help. However, it is important provide a reason to consider adding you to their network.

It’s also valuable to “endorse” your connections. This is a good way to acknowledge an individual’s strengths and show your support and appreciation. You don’t have to go tit for tat, but if you get endorsements from a colleague, you should consider returning the effort.

Don’t simply click any endorsement category. Put some thought into your selection and make it pertinent to what you know about this person. In this manner, your endorsement becomes meaningful.

Should you ever point out a mistake in a colleague’s profile? Sure, if you do in a constructive manner and carefully consider the tone of your suggestion. Most individuals would appreciate your help and would like to present the best possible image.

Your profile is a blank canvas. How do you want to project your image? It is up to you, but Linkedln is certainly a professional networking vehicle you may want to consider.

David Hoch, CMAA, has 16 years of experience as a high school athletic director and served for 12 years as the executive director of the Maryland State Coaches Association. In 2000, he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association. His column, A.D.ministration, focuses on issues in athletic administration and appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine.

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