Leveraging the power of LinkedIn for career success, with Jeremy Schifeling

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On this episode, Sujani sits down with Jeremy Schifeling, a former LinkedIn employee in the Higher Education Team. Jeremy has devoted his career to helping students succeed in theirs. From recruiting top students at Teach For America to leading student marketing for LinkedIn, he’s touched the lives of millions of people just starting their journeys. Along the way, he’s published a top-selling book on job applications, served as the University of Michigan’s tech career coach, and produced the most-viewed video in LinkedIn’s history.

We invited Jeremy to talk about what LinkedIn is, how to get started on the platform, and how public health professionals can leverage it to build their careers and search for jobs.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Jeremy’s journey from a kindergarten teacher to techie; and his journey from working at LinkedIn in the higher education team and then going on to build LinkedIn Guys
  • LinkedIn 101, including what it is and why you creating a LinkedIn profile allows you to take control of your own destiny
  • The importance of building your network before you need it
  • Why building a network on LinkedIn is not only for extroverts, everyone can leverage the tool
  • A walk-through on how to get started with LinkedIn, starting with what you have, including how to use some of the features (an insider perspective):
    • The Headline: how LinkedIn’s algorithm favours this
    • About section: how to best use the 2,000 characters in this section
    • How to build out your experience section if you are an aspiring public health professional just starting out in the field
    • How to test LinkedIn’s algorithm real-time and leverage it to build your own profile
    • Skills and endorsements
    • Recommendations: how it works and how recruiters use it
    • Interests: what recruiters see and how they use this feature to screen candidates
    • Volunteer experience: why this section is important – spoiler alert: a survey conducted by LinkedIn revealed that 80% of recruiters value volunteer experience on par with work experience
  • An understanding of the tool recruiters use (“LinkedIn Recruiter), how they see your profile, and how to use this information to design your Linkedin profile
  • Additional tips for building your LinkedIn profile
  • Leveraging linkedin for your job search – 2 tips
  • Once the profile is built out, how to reach out to LinkedIn connections, including whether you should use the messaging feature or contact them via email
  • Additional resources Jeremy has available for you to build your LinkedIn profile and optimize it
  • New features on Linkedin for interview preparation

Today’s Guest:

Jeremy Schifeling has devoted his career to helping students succeed in theirs. From recruiting top students at Teach For America to leading student marketing for LinkedIn, he’s touched the lives of millions of people just starting their journeys. Along the way, he’s published a top-selling book on job applications, served as the University of Michigan’s tech career coach, and produced the most-viewed video in LinkedIn’s history. He currently leads teacher outreach efforts at Khan Academy and shares his thoughts on Break into Tech, a site for anyone who wants to launch a tech career.

Featured on the Show:

Other Resources:

Episode Transcript

Jeremy 0:00
I think as students and as beginning job seekers, we can often feel really disempowered when we sort of apply for jobs online, never hear back and have no idea what’s happening inside the black box. Well, using LinkedIn basically lets you explore that black box and control your own destiny.

Sujani 0:19
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva from PH SPOT.

Hey, everyone, thank you for joining me today on another episode of PH SPOTlight, a space for you and me and everyone else in public health to share our stories and inspire each other. My name is Sujani Siva, the host of PH SPOTlight, and I’m here to help you build your public health career.

And another welcome to our mini series titled, New Year New You job hunt edition. This is the second episode of this series. And on today’s episode, I’m speaking with Jeremy Schlfeling. Jeremy has devoted his career to helping students succeed in theirs. From recruiting top students Teach of America, to leading student marketing for LinkedIn. He’s touched the lives of millions of people just starting their journeys. And along the way, he’s published a top selling book on job applications, served as the University of Michigan Tech career coach, and produce the most viewed video in LinkedIn history. And he currently leads teacher outreach efforts at Khan Academy, and shares his thoughts on breaking into tech, a site for anyone who wants to launch a tech career. So you might be wondering what business Jeremy has on a public health podcast, I invited Jeremy because of the role that he held at LinkedIn supporting students to get started on the platform. And Jeremy along with Omar, they created a product called LinkedIn Guys to demystify LinkedIn for 10s of millions of college students and staff. And during their time at LinkedIn, they personally influence two times the number of students and recent grads on LinkedIn. Now, it’s the fastest growing audience for LinkedIn. And we want to bring Jeremy on to help our public health community here PH SPOT, understand LinkedIn a lot more how to use it, and then leverage it for a successful career. Jeremy really gets into the nitty gritty on this episode, I even popped open LinkedIn as he was explaining the different features. And he tells us about the ins and outs of the platform and how to really make use of it. So you know, if you’ve got a notebook sitting around, grab that, because there’s a lot of notes that you can take. And if you’re in front of a computer, pop open your LinkedIn account as you’re listening to this, because you’ll want to follow along the different features that he’s pointing us to. And so without further ado, here’s that conversation.

Hey, Jeremy, welcome to the PH SPOT podcast. And I’m super excited to have you join us and to talk about all things LinkedIn.

Jeremy 3:12
Thanks so much for having me, Sujani. I’m so glad to be here.

Sujani 3:15
Yeah. You know, when I was reading a bit about your background, I found it fascinating that you were a kindergarten teacher. And so why don’t you tell us how one goes from being a kindergarten teacher to what you’re doing today?

Jeremy 3:30
Yeah, great question. So hopefully, my journey from kindergarten teacher, all the way to techie, inspires others that anything is possible, career-wise.

Sujani 3:39
Yeah.

Jeremy 3:39
You know, it is sort of the whole point of this podcast. But yeah, basically, you know, had this sort of inspiration back when I was teaching in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, where what I was gravitating to, over and over again, in the classroom was technology, you know, teaching my kids how to record mp3, or even make little PowerPoints. And I realized there had to be some way to harness my passion for education, but also tie it back to technology. And I thought, for a long time, oh, you know, there’s no way I can possibly break into the tech sector, you got to be a software engineer, or designer. But I have discovered is through tools like LinkedIn, almost anything is possible. If you connect with the right people, if you explore the right opportunities, you can bust down pretty much any- any career wall in front of you. So that’s my sort of word words of wisdom for people following my footsteps is, hey, the tools are out there. So go get those opportunities.

Sujani 4:33
I love that. And so you know, the topic today is going to be on LinkedIn. And I’m sure it’s a popular platform. And I’m almost 100% certain that everyone that’s listening knows what LinkedIn is. But just for those, maybe a couple of individuals who are like, what is LinkedIn? Do you think you could do a quick kind of pitch of what LinkedIn is as a platform?

Jeremy 4:52
Yeah, for sure. So having worked at LinkedIn, it was actually my job to explain LinkedIn to millions of students around the world. And the way that I explained it is, you know, LinkedIn is not a social network like a Facebook or an Instagram or Tiktok, we just go to waste time. It’s actually a tool. And it’s a tool that if you use it really effectively, can get you access to the best opportunities all around the globe. And so it’s really important to understand how the tool works. So you can make it work for you.

Sujani 5:21
And I guess it’s kind of like important to mention that it’s a free platform, anyone can create an account, you know, you go on similar to how you would set up a Facebook account or Instagram account, you could set up your LinkedIn profile.

Jeremy 5:33
Exactly. So you know, LinkedIn will say, “Hey, buy LinkedIn premium pay us less money.” But foundationally, there are 700 million plus professionals on LinkedIn, using it for free, because the basic sort of unit of currency on LinkedIn is connections. And you could do that without paying LinkedIn assent.

Sujani 5:51
Amazing. Yeah. And so you know, you spent a few years working at LinkedIn, and then you and your partner, Omar, you both go off to create a company called LinkedIn Guys. How did your experience working on LinkedIn inform the type of offering that you’re providing through LinkedIn Guys? Or maybe a step back is what is LinkedIn Guys? And then how has working on LinkedIn informed this?

Jeremy 6:15
Yeah, good question. So I think for us working on this higher education team at LinkedIn, dedicated to serving students and alumni, we realized that all the existing power brokers in society already knew about LinkedIn, you know, CEOs and VPS. And that kind of person. The problem is, if you’re up and coming, if you’re a student, or a recent grad yourself, you may not know about this tool, and therefore not have access to that power and that opportunity. And so even though LinkedIn no longer has a higher education team, we’ve carried on that mission through LinkedIn Guys, to serve students, to serve recent graduates, so they understand, hey, all this stuff is available. As you said, it’s all free. And you can start using it today to get access to whatever you’re excited about.

Sujani 6:59
Well, it’s interesting that they don’t have that team anymore. Do you have any kind of background insight as to why they no longer have a higher education team?

Jeremy 7:08
Yeah, it’s sort of classic, you know, tech inspiration and idealism, meeting the cold, hard reality of the marketplace. So the team was founded shortly before LinkedIn IPO. And it was based on the idea that LinkedIn wanted to reach out to the next generation. But I think, as LinkedIn became a public company, and then was ultimately swallowed up by Microsoft, there was more and more focus on hey, how do we get more cash out of this business? And honest truth is that students and recent grads probably don’t drive that much business for the organization. So it probably didn’t become as big a priority over time.

Sujani 7:43
Yeah.

Jeremy 7:44
But I think in terms of need and potential, that’s the biggest audience there is. And that’s how we serve them.

Sujani 7:51
I guess that’s a good segue into kind of my next question, or the question that many students may have in their mind is like, “Why do I even need a LinkedIn profile? Like you’re telling me LinkedIn doesn’t want to invest in us? So why should I bother creating one?”

Jeremy 8:04
Yeah, absolutely. So I think the number one reason is that you want to have some control over your career destiny. I think as students, and as beginning job seekers, we can often feel really disempowered, when we sort of apply for jobs online, never hear back and have no idea what’s happening inside the black box. Well, using LinkedIn, basically lets you explore that black box and control your own destiny. And you can do that in two ways. Number one, you can make sure you’re being found by recruiters, and all the organizations you want to work for. And number two, you can go on the offense, and actually reach out and build connections, that gets your foot in the door, that gets you access to the best jobs. So I think if you’ve got a passion to sort of tap into all that opportunity, LinkedIn is the place to be.

Sujani 8:52
And so yeah, you mentioned quite a bit about, you know, finding your your career or building your career. Would you say that students should start building their LinkedIn profile like right from the start, right? When they enter, like, say, undergrad? Or maybe they should they wait till they are entering the job market? And what’s your thought on that?

Jeremy 9:14
Yeah, so I’m a big believer in building a network before you need it. So if you think about something that probably a lot of your listeners have already heard about, which is that a referral can often give you a 10x advantage in getting hired for a given job. Well, to get a referral from someone on the inside, whether it’s an alum or someone that you’ve networked with, if you reach out the day before that job application is due, it may be too late. You know, it’s hard to build a relationship with someone overnight.

Sujani 9:44
Yeah.

Jeremy 9:45
But if you started to build those relationships ahead of time, so you have people inside every public health organization, every department, really excited to hire you, to advocate for you. Now, when that moment of need arises and you’re actually applying for jobs, you’re ready to go. You got that network ready to advocate for you.

Sujani 10:02
And so would you say, you know, beyond the direct messaging and having private conversations with individuals in your industry, do you suggest students also be active more publicly on there? I guess, is it called a feed? Yes, it’s called a feed on LinkedIn as well.

Jeremy 10:19
Yeah. So I do think that this is sort of the social media trap that often presents is, if you come there and think about, “Okay, I’m going to use this the same way that I use Facebook, or the same way that I use Instagram, where I’m just liking and passively sort of commenting on stuff.”, that’s probably not going to drive a lot of success, might make LinkedIn a lot of money, because you’ll drive a lot of data for their advertisers. But it won’t necessarily lead you to the Promised Land. However, if you can post strategically, where you’re sharing expertise that you’re developing, you’re building connections with experts in your space, and they are ultimately building your personal brand. As someone who is going to be a rock star in the public health field, then that can absolutely be helpful to you, when it comes time to apply for jobs. Because again, you’re not that sort of stranger on the outside, you’re already a known entity, and you’re the candidate everyone wants to hire.

Sujani 11:12
I think kind of the strategy that’s worked for me, I’ve- I’m typically a shy person. So I won’t be someone who’s like out there posting on my feed. And I’ll admit that I only started doing that this week. So being in kind of my industry for 10 years, I finally found the courage to do that. But what I typically do is kind of comment under other people’s posts. And that sort of gets me going on with the conversation and build that confidence at a personal level. And then maybe, you know, a few years down the road, students can then start formulating their own thoughts and opinions and sharing that as part of their feed, and then having others jump in on the conversation as well.

Jeremy 11:50
I love that, I actually want to call out that, you know, LinkedIn can feel really intimidating in the same way that networking, this broader concept can feel intimidating. But as an introvert myself, I think LinkedIn is the perfect solution. Because you don’t have to be out there, sort of with a megaphone beating your chest, you can be selectively saying, “Hey, here’s someone who studied something similar to me, who’s gone into a fascinating career in public health. Let me reach out and have a private one on one conversation.”

Sujani 12:20
Yeah.

Jeremy 12:21
And it’s those kinds of really strong ties that you’re building with experts in the space that are going to ultimately accelerate your career, even if you’re an introvert, or even if you’re from a different culture, or maybe networking is not so much part of the business world. So definitely know that LinkedIn is welcoming to all sorts of folks, not just type A extroverts.

Sujani 12:40
Absolutely. And I think you mentioned a few minutes ago about building your network before you need it. And I think that’s so important. I can’t begin to tell you how many, you know, cold connections I will get and the first thing people want is a job. And I think that’s probably not the best way to approach your connections on LinkedIn. And kind of sitting there and thinking, let me create a genuine relationship here and then offer my support or services or some way for me to, you know, contribute to this individual’s life or career. And then when the time presents itself, where you absolutely need their support or help, I think that’s where you should be asking for that sort of, you know, do you have a connection in this company? See that you weren’t there a few years ago?

Jeremy 13:25
Absolutely. You nailed it, Sujani.

Sujani 13:27
Yeah, yeah. Okay, so you know, for a student who has no idea where to start on LinkedIn, they would go and create an account. And then do you think it’d be fun or possible to maybe walk through the steps of how you would recommend someone get their profile started?

Jeremy 13:48
Absolutely. Yeah. So first of all, don’t overthink it, don’t feel like oh, I’ve got to dedicate 10 or 20 hours, like you might have your resume. Instead, just start with the basics. So for example, if you’re a student in public health, and you’re just getting started in your career, just come to your profile, sort of lead with that focus on what you’re interested in. So in your headline, it could say, you know, aspiring public health officer. And then down below, just include all the existing bullets straight out of your resume. You know, students spend all this time thinking, o h, do I have to have a different set of bullets for LinkedIn? Do I have to have all this fancy positioning, no way. Just start with the stuff that you already have. Because think about this, how many times Sujani, is a resume that’s sitting on your hard drive in PDF format ever going to be seen by recruiters?

Sujani 14:38
Yeah.

Jeremy 14:39
Probably very few times, right? Versus just taking those exact same resume bullets and sticking them onto LinkedIn means now you’re being seen and scanned 1000s of times a day, giving us so much more access to opportunity. So bottom line, just start with what you already have. Put it on LinkedIn, and you’re off to the races.

Sujani 14:57
Awesome. What would be your recommendation if someone doesn’t have relevant experience, you know, let’s think about a public health student. They don’t necessarily have any experience working in public health, but maybe they have some retail experience or some volunteer experience, would you recommend that they also throw that onto their LinkedIn profile? Or kind of keep those non relevant experiences off of LinkedIn if their strategy is to, you know, find a recruiter or have someone explore their profile and consider them for a public health role?

Jeremy 15:32
Yeah, great question. So first of all, I’m a big believer that pretty much all experience can be relevant if you work on it. And what I mean by that is, you know, whether you were a retail clerk, or kindergarten teacher, or whatever it was, you probably use all sorts of skills to be successful in that role. And if you were to look at a job description for a public health officer, or even a public health internship, you might discover all sorts of things like analytics, for instance, are you good with data? And maybe as a teacher, as a retail clerk, you had to spend all this time poring over data, analyzing trends, trying to understand what was happening, if you can call that are explicit explicitly, and use the language of the job that you want next, not just the world you’re coming from, you can make a case to people on the inside that, hey, I’m not some naive student, I may be starting my career. But I’ve already built a lot of important skills that lead me to this job. So- So when in doubt, go to those job descriptions, look at the language they’re using, and try to think, “Hey, have I ever done anything like this? If so, how can I be clear about that on my profile?”

Sujani 16:41
And I guess that’s where the headline and that about section comes in handy where your job title, you know, further down might say, kindergarten teacher, or barista or something. But the headline in the about section is going to really tell people who you are and what you’re aspiring towards, do you think we can talk a little bit about the headline and kind of how to formulate that. And it’s important, and then how that’s different from that about section?

Jeremy 17:08
Yeah. So why did you call that out, Sujani? Because the headline, which is basically this little body of text that says right, beneath your name on LinkedIn, often seems like kind of an oversight. Like, why would I worry about this little piece of text when I have all these big sections down below? Well, it turns out that LinkedIn has actually programmed their algorithm to really wait that headline heavily. And the reason for that is that it’s really character limited, just 220 characters shorter even than a tweet.

Sujani 17:37
Yeah.

Jeremy 17:37
And so it ends up becoming a much more authentic signal of who you are and what you can do, versus the thousands and thousands of characters down below that you can easily gain. Yeah, so it’s really critical to your point Sujani, that even if you’ve been a barista in the past, if you don’t want to be a barista forever, don’t lead with that. Instead, as the great one, Wayne Gretzky himself said, don’t just skate where the puck has been skate where it’s headed next. And list right there in your headline, you know, this is what I want to be found for, this is what I’m focused on career wise.

Sujani 18:09
And then the belt section further below kind of just takes that headline and expands it a bit more?

Jeremy 18:16
Absolutely. So the about section, which gives you 2000 characters, so a lot more space to work with, you can really work on both of your key audiences. So you’ve got the recruiter or the hiring manager who’s checking out your profile. And you also have the LinkedIn algorithm that’s scanning your profile lots of times a day. So what I like to do is, because often condensed just to like one or two sentences at the very top, start with something that’s really human readable, you know, passionate about public health, seeking a public health internship for the summer of 2022. You know, just let them know where exactly you fit into their plans. And then down below, you can give all the keywords, all the skills, all the expertise that you’re building up, maybe in your program, to really explain to the algorithm, here’s why you should pick out my profile when you’re searching for folks in this space.

Sujani 19:04
It’s very cool. I hadn’t thought about the algorithm on LinkedIn. Like, I know, it’s a big thing for Facebook and Instagram. But for some reason, I had never thought about it, kind of in the context of LinkedIn. So really cool to hear that.

Jeremy 19:17
Yeah. And I think it’s one of those things where, you know, we hear so much about AI these days. And we start to assume, oh, my goodness, all this stuff is just happening behind the scenes, you know, in that black box we were talking about. But the beautiful thing about Lincoln’s algorithm is you can actually test it out in real time. So for example, if you were to go to LinkedIn, and search for a public health officer, you would discover right away, that they all have that exact sort of phrasing right there in their headline, and so you’re sort of figuring out in real time, uh huh. That must be a key trend that I’ve got a nail on my my profile as well. So even though I’m not a public health officer today, saying, aspiring public health officer or future public health officer, at least puts me in that direction as far as the algorithm is concerned, very cool.

Sujani 20:03
And then I guess, you know, the way I’ve used headlines kind of when I’m on LinkedIn is if I see people commenting or, you know, liking a post, it’ll show up on my feed. And the first thing that you see right below their name is a little piece of that headline. So it really catches my attention if the first five words has the word public health or something related to a role in the field of public health. And I’ll be curious about that individual and click further. So that’s how I’ve used it kind of, not from an AI perspective, but from a human kind of perspective.

Jeremy 20:36
Yeah, ’cause in some ways, we’ve read our own algorithms, right, Sujani?

Sujani 20:39
Yeah.

Jeremy 20:40
Like, we are trained to do pattern detection, almost at a gut instinct level.

Sujani 20:45
Yeah.

Jeremy 20:45
And when you see those keywords right there, you’re like, Uh, huh. Here’s a fellow traveler. Here’s someone who shares my passions. Let me check them out. So it works on both the technological level and the human level.

Sujani 20:55
Absolutely. Okay, so I’m just I’ve got my profile opened up, and I’m going through. So we’ve got the about section in the experience, which you covered already, and pretty self explanatory, as well as the education section. And then there’s a box for skills and endorsements, what would you say about that section? And kind of, how does that play a factor in your profile?

Jeremy 21:19
Yeah, so here’s the good thing. And then I’ll also share the bad thing about endorsements. So the good thing is that skills are a really easy place to get all of your most important keywords onto your profile. So again, spend some time on the job descriptions, you’re really excited about, whether they’re for internship or full time opportunities, figure out a high, here are the things that I need, whether it’s, you know, sequel on the data side, or communications on the outbound side. And then if you’ve got those skills, make sure you list them in the skill section, you can just check them off one after another. So super easy. But here’s the dark side of that. A lot of times people get really excited about endorsements on LinkedIn, because there’s a little bit of a viral edge to them, like, okay, I’m going to endorse Sujani for this, and she’s going to endorse me for that. But the reality is, is because endorsements aren’t always that credible. So for example, my own mother has endorsed me for everything from astronomy. And I don’t know- I know nothing about either. There is basically just this lack of legitimacy in terms of recruiters valuing an endorsement versus say, say something like a recommendation, which has a lot more weight behind it, you know, when a boss or a classmate has really spoken to your, your qualities. And so don’t get caught up in this endorsement fever, trying to be endorsed by everyone. Instead, just nail your most important skills, and then maybe get a recommendation or two, to really vouch for who- for the qualities that you’re claiming.

Sujani 22:52
I guess the take home message is if you’re limited for time, skills, and endorsement, it’s probably not worth kind of pushing up to your priority list when building your profile on LinkedIn.

Jeremy 23:02
That’s exactly right.

Sujani 23:04
Okay, so and then you mentioned recommendations, which was my next question. Yeah. How does that work? And could we talk a little bit about that as well?

Jeremy 23:12
Yeah. So this is interesting, because, again, I think based on where it’s positioned on your profile, the very bottom, we tend to ignore it. Oh, my goodness, no one reads through the bottom of a profile, who cares. But here’s the thing, when recruiters are using LinkedIn to find talent, and again, that could be a recruiter at a governmental agency, or a local Department of Health or university, or consulting firm, anyone that’s hiring public health folks. They’re using a separate tool called LinkedIn recruiter. And this tool is actually not free. This is $10,000 per year per seat. And the reason that every recruiter still pays that ungodly amount is that it gives them access to all the world’s talent. And so if you can understand how this tool is built, and how it works, you can make sure that it’s ultimately working in your interests. And so one of the things to know about LinkedIn recruiter is when recruiter clicks on your profile in that version of LinkedIn, your recommendations actually appear at the top of your profile. That tells you how important they are to recruiters, because they care about that third party validation, you know, on your resume. It’s just your own say-so, your own word. But on LinkedIn, I can actually confirm that you have these qualities because someone is vouching for them.

Sujani 24:27
Very neat. Look at that we get some insider information.

Jeremy 24:31
That’s great.

Sujani 24:32
Okay, and then I see two or three additional sections. And I will admit that I haven’t really spent too much time in those sections, but there’s the accomplishment section, interests, and then causes Sujani cares about, is there anything that you would want to kind of highlight for any of those sections?

Jeremy 24:52
Yeah, so I do want to call out two things. First of all, on the interest side, this is basically where you’re listing here, the companies that I follow over here, the topics that I follow, while again, going back to this LinkedIn recruiter screen that I was alluding to. One thing that recruiters can do to really filter out sort of uninterested candidates who are not worthy of, you know, being reached out to for an interview, is they can say, show me all of the candidates who are following my company, or my organization, or my agency. And so what I would highly recommend is, if you have a list of 50, or even 100 different organizations, you might want to work for some day, make sure you follow them on LinkedIn, not only will all their content come to your feed, which will keep you in the loop of their activities, but it’ll also make sure that you’re being filtered in if the recruiters run that filter. So that’s the interest piece. And then in terms of accomplishments, or causes other things, I would just encourage folks who’ve been volunteering a little bit, maybe during the pandemic helping out in their communities, just know that that matters as well. We did a survey when I was at LinkedIn, and 40% of all recruiters said that we value volunteer experience on par with paid work. And so again, if you’re thinking, oh, I’m just a volunteer has not worth including, lose that mentality at all matters. The keywords matter, the results matter, the lives touched matter. So please, please, please include that on your profile.

Sujani 26:21
Would you recommend that they like bundle that up within the experience section? Or would you kind of have that separately under volunteer? I know for myself, I have a separate section that says volunteer experience. And that’s how I’ve kind of tackled it. But for students who are kind of starting out in their careers, what’s your recommendation there?

Jeremy 26:39
Yeah, that’s a really savvy point there, Sujani. Because I think when you’re pretty far along in your career, you start to have this problem of work experience below, where you’ve had so many jobs, and so many bullet points, that as LinkedIn starts to compress your work experience as a result. And so at that point, it makes sense to move into a different section to so you can make sure it gets seen. However, if you’re a student, you actually have the opposite problem. Your work experience can be so meager at this stage, that it may not come across as whoa, this person is really strong candidate. So absolutely, if you’re just starting your career, don’t just put stuff down into a volunteer section, put it right there and experience because again, all experience matters. And if you’re proud of what you did, if you accomplished great things, lead with that.

Sujani 27:26
Amazing. Thanks so much for doing that, Jeremy. And I guess, you know, kind of just on the topic of looking at our LinkedIn profiles, what would be kind of a summary or some tips that you would really send to either new grads or early career individuals or even students when setting up their LinkedIn profile and making sure that it’s effective and compelling?

Jeremy 27:47
Yeah, so I’ll give two tips here. The first is, know that your LinkedIn profile is always a work in progress. It’s a living document. So don’t sort of build it out and say, Okay, I have to make it perfect for all time. Because guess what your interests and your skills, and you as a person are going to develop over time.

Sujani 28:05
Yeah.

Jeremy 28:05
So spend 30 minutes or an hour getting it started, and then come back to it in a few months. And if you’ve learned more from reaching out to alumni or exploring your space, you’re going to have a slightly different focus, update it in real time. And then number two, will probably speak about this a little bit. You know, as you’re building these relationships with experts in your space, don’t hesitate to ask them, hey, when you look at my profile, what is it telling you? This seemed like someone you’d want to hire as an intern on your team, or someone who’s totally outside this space? Because ultimately, the whole point of LinkedIn is to really make an impact in the eye of the beholder, the person who’s going to potentially hire you for that dream job. And so if you can get feedback directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, that’s even more powerful.

Sujani 28:53
It’s an amazing tip. That is, yeah, that’s, that’s something that you could always lead with tour. Right, you know, if you don’t really have a direct ask from the individual that you’re connecting with that, I think is a great conversation starter as well.

Jeremy 29:07
Absolutely.

Sujani 29:08
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, going into more on the networking side of LinkedIn, and maybe how individuals could leverage that for a job search. And I think, you know, it’s worth mentioning, again, that don’t add someone just to ask them for a job the next minute, but go in with the objective of building a very strong relationship over time, maybe it’s over a year or more. But, you know, what are the main ways that people can leverage LinkedIn for a job search, you know, often, individuals are a bit desperate, they just graduated and I’m really looking for a job and I can’t seem to find it the traditional way, which is just applying to the posted opportunities. How do you do the job search on LinkedIn without coming off as I don’t know, not- not coming off as is ingenuine but yeah, how can we make LinkedIn work for us if we are kind of in a position where we’re desperate for a job just because we’ve graduated? Few months ago, for example?

Jeremy 30:13
Sure, yeah. So I’ll speak to the immediate tactical things you can do, as well as how you can get an advantage above and beyond others. So the first thing is, doesn’t have to be LinkedIn. But LinkedIn has a perfectly good job board. I think a lot of times students kind of wear themselves out in the job search process, by going back to the job board every day, and refreshing, refreshing, refreshing. First thing is start a search on LinkedIn, you know, public health, internship, public health officer, whatever the kind of job is, and then set up an automatic alert, they’ll notify you in your inbox or even on your phone if you want on a regular basis as great jobs come in. And that way you let technology do what it does best, which is sort of run behind the scenes, always looking for you, always advocating for you. So now you have this steady stream of jobs coming in, you’re getting ready to apply. The first thing I can tell you is that just like LinkedIn is algorithm itself. When you apply with a resume or with your LinkedIn profile, for that matter. It’s all about keywords that the first cut. So if there’s a job like public health intern, I expect that you have a focus on that, you know, in the summary section of your resume, if I have all the skills that I’m seeking, I want to see those skills listed on your resume, in your experience or in your skill section. And that way, our my applicant tracking system will find a really strong percentage of match between what I want and a candidate, and what you’re giving me on your resume. And that’ll maybe get you through the first cut. But here’s sort of the sort of mega workaround is just leaving your entire career up to chance where maybe an algorithm likes you or maybe it doesn’t, I feel is really depressing. So let’s bring the human aspect in, which is imagine behind the scenes, you are applying for a really hot internship. And there are 500 candidates. It feels like a total crapshoot just probabilistically.

Sujani 32:10
Yeah.

Jeremy 32:11
But then all of a sudden, there is someone on the inside, who says, hey, I just chatted with Sujani yesterday, and I love talking with her. She seems like a real rising star in this space. I absolutely recommend her for this role. Sujani, if you were the recruiter or the hiring manager at that organization, would you give that candidate a shot?

Sujani 32:32
Obviously, yeah.

Jeremy 32:33
Absolutely.

Sujani 32:33
Yeah, I think like not even consciously, unconsciously, you wouldn’t even you know, think about that person and their name might keep popping up every time you look through the resumes, right?

Jeremy 32:43
Right. Because as much as we’ve talked about technology, at the end of the day, it’s all about relationships, right? People trust the people they know. And so even if you’re in a pinch, even if you haven’t built your network ahead of time, no worries, it’s never too late. You can go on LinkedIn, and we can talk all about this, if you’re interested. You can find alumni at any organization in the world, you can reach out, you can have a quick chat with them, and ask for that referral. Ask for that sort of recommendation on the inside, that massively increases your chances of being pulled out of that applicant pool.

Sujani 33:18
Awesome. And I think, you know, for individuals who are, you mentioned this in the beginning, who are a bit introverted and don’t really want to reach out to people even on LinkedIn, what are some tips and advice you would give them? I mean, you yourself being an introvert as well.

Jeremy 33:37
Yeah. So then the number one thing is you have to think about sort of the cost benefit of it. You know, all things being equal, I would love to curl up under a blanket and never haven’t thought anyway, especially after this past year and a half.

Sujani 35:29
Yeah.

Jeremy 33:50
But when I think about oh, my goodness, like, if I can just reach out, have a really natural conversation based on curiosity, not based on some kind of slimy, you know, quote, unquote, business style networking, then that could actually give me access to a job that I can love for years to come put my career on a trajectory that’s far above and beyond what I had imagined for previously. From my perspective, that’s a really nice trade off for yeah, it’s a little bit of cleanup front. But it’s so worth it for months and years to come. So I think that’s the first thing you got to get that mentality of, do I care enough about this to invest even a little bit of effort, even if it’s not natural? And then let me be really specific about what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about, you know, going to a networking event where there’s 1000 strangers in a room. Now, that would be advisable during the pandemic, or having business cards made or, you know, giving handshakes left and right. What I’m saying is go to your school’s page on LinkedIn. So you could type in the University of Toronto for instance, you will see on the University of Toronto page this little tab called alumni under that alumni tab, you can see every single University of Toronto grad who studied public health, or went into the public health field. And you could break it down by nonprofits and government, people who are in Toronto and Vancouver and the states. And you can find that exact right kindred spirit. So when you do reach out, it doesn’t feel awkward, like you’re reaching out to some sort of fancy person on a pedestal, where you’re reaching out to someone who was in your shoes just a couple of years ago. And I think that’s the best place to begin, when you want to build these relationships that give you this big advantage.

Sujani 35:34
And I think it’s worth mentioning that the search function on LinkedIn is so powerful. I mean, just going back to that initial search, we talked about if you type in, say, epidemiologist, which is a role within the public health industry that most people would be interested in.

Jeremy 35:48
Yeah.

Sujani 35:49
Then you could add filters, similar to what you were talking about, you know, let me filter out people in Canada, let me filter out people who went to a certain university, who live in a certain city. And in that way, you are already connecting with this individual, because they have a few things in common with you and probably more likely to respond to you than someone who’s in maybe a different country or went to a different university. You just don’t have that connection right off the bat.

Jeremy 36:15
Absolutely. And I think that same exact approach extends to the conversation you’re going to have.

Sujani 36:20
Yeah.

Jeremy 36:20
So- So let’s say you reach out and say, “Hey, I know you’re incredibly busy. But if I could have just 10 minutes of your time for a quick zoom chat, it will make a huge difference to my career.” I think to a lot of alumni, that’s catnip. You know, they, they’ve been there in those shoes before they know how it feels. They want to pay it forward to the next generation.

Sujani 36:37
Yeah, definitely pulls on the heartstrings.

Jeremy 36:39
Yeah, even when you’re in these conversations, we’re not talking about elevator pitches and selling yourself. We’re saying, let’s just ask really good curious questions. How did you get your start? What took you from Toronto? To this federal agency? What got you excited about epidemiology? What do you love about the job? What do you hate about the job? And then after they’ve shared their story, after they’ve really opened up to you, that’s when it’s totally appropriate to say, “Hey, you know, I loved everything you shared with me today. If you were in my shoes just starting out again today, what would you do to get the best shot at getting an interview at your organization?” And a lot of times, they’ll be honest with you, they’ll say, “You know, what, I got hired here through a referral from a fellow UT grad. My whole team got hired through referrals. That’s the most powerful way.” And once they broach that conversation, then it’s totally natural and acceptable to say, “You know what? I know that I’m just reaching out out of the blue, I noticed that the first time we’ve chatted, but is there any possibility that you might be willing to refer me? I know, it’s asking a lot, but it will make a huge difference.” I find that almost 90% of alumni are happy to do that. Because they get a sense of, hey, this person is just like I was, they need that lucky break that I got. I’m the one who can do it.

Sujani 36:39
Yeah.

Jeremy 37:00
So that’s how you sort of open it up, even if you’re an introvert.

Sujani 38:00
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s worth kind of just briefly even chatting about the tactical side of how to reach out to a connection on LinkedIn. Because, you know, some people I’ve noticed, you can send them a note without adding them as a connection to you. Some people, you can’t do that. And there’s also the option of adding a note before you connect with someone. So could we talk about those nuances. And you know, what’s the most effective way of going about sending a note to someone?

Jeremy 38:29
Yeah, I’m so glad you brought that up Sujani, because that is definitely an area that trips a lot of folks up. So first of all, do not under any circumstances, pay LinkedIn, $100 a month, just to buy LinkedIn premium and send an InMail basically a message to a fellow alum. Because even with all that money spent, there is no guarantee that message will actually go through. Now there are lots of people who don’t use LinkedIn that actively or their LinkedIn messages go to spam and their Gmail account. And so they may never see your message. That being said, you can definitely send a connection request, although it has the same problems we just talked about, what I find is even more effective is if you can find their actual work email address, because you know, they’re checking that 20 times a day, even if they’re never checking LinkedIn. And so you can use a tool called hunter.io. And there are similar tools like it, that will basically for free, help you figure out the email address of any organization in the world. And that way, if you want to reach out directly and guarantee that you get through, now you have a surefire way.

Sujani 39:32
And so, do you then recommend that people don’t use a messaging feature on LinkedIn? Or is this kind of, you know, try out both options and see which one works the best for that individual?

Jeremy 39:44
Great question. So I do think it depends on your timeframe, right? You know, again, if you’re building a network, well in advance of actually needing to activate it in any kind of serious way, then you can definitely take your time sending connection requests because it’s very low friction, very easy to do. Just make sure it’s personalized and, you know, stresses all the things you have in common.

Sujani 40:04
Yeah.

Jeremy 40:04
But if you know that graduation is a week away, you’ve got to get that job ASAP. I think again, it all comes back to that cost benefit trade off of, whoa, I’ve got a really tight timeframe, I can’t afford for this person not to see my message. So I’ve got a sentence of their work email. So I know for sure they’re gonna see it.

Sujani 40:25
Okay, that makes sense, yeah. Okay. And, you know, I know you’ve been sharing a ton of great information right now. And we I could probably keep you on for a few more hours and ask you a bunch more questions about LinkedIn. But I also know that you have a lot of this valuable information on your website. And there are some great, kind of like cheat sheets and checklists that you and Omar have pulled together. Could we talk about some of those and what they are?

Jeremy 40:53
Yeah, sure. So, you know, again, LinkedIn doesn’t have to be rocket science, you don’t have to feel intimidating. We have a couple of things on our website, which is LinkedInGuys.com, which will basically guide you to build out your profile, and specifically to grade your profile and say, “Hey, don’t spend 1000 hours on this thing, just focus on this couple of things that really matter to recruiters that matters to the algorithm.” And so if you invest a couple of minutes in that grading process, which is all free, you’ll instantly know, here are the ways I should focus my profile. And then I can get back to my life and get on with my career.

Sujani 41:29
Perfect. And so that’s the I think there was one called the recruiter cheat sheets, and then the LinkedIn profile checklist, are those the two that you’re talking about?

Jeremy 41:38
That’s right. And we also have a new thing, which is a profile grader. Okay, cool. Specifically spit out like, “Sujani, here’s how you can optimize your headline or here’s what you should include in your work experience section.”

Sujani 41:49
Perfect. And then there’s also the, I guess, the full package of a masterclass where you take people through kind of how to land your perfect job with LinkedIn as well.

Jeremy 41:59
That’s right. And, again, I would say, just start with what you need, start with that free profile greater or the checklist, you know, get that profile going working for you, and then worry about the other stuff.

Sujani 42:10
Perfect. Okay. And then maybe we can wrap things up with this final question. You know, let’s assume someone has a great profile, all the different sections that we talked about is all filled in. They don’t think they can add any more to it. What are their next steps for making the most use out of LinkedIn? You know, there’s a group feature there’s, we talked about the jobs already, we talked about kind of engaging in, you know, your own thoughts and opinions and posting that as, I guess, a post. And there’s also the article feature, I’ve recently come across the Creator mode that you can turn on and highlight sort of content on your profile. Do you have any advice, kind of just talking about those different features that takes you know, your LinkedIn game to the next level? If you will?

Jeremy 43:00
Yeah. So you can definitely get lost in the LinkedIn wilderness. There’s lots of nooks and crannies in there. But again, to keep our eyes on the prize of like, how do you get that dream job, I would actually recommend a really new feature, which I love on LinkedIn. Like most of the best stuff on LinkedIn, it’s kind of hidden away.

Sujani 43:17
Yeah.

Jeremy 43:18
But if you go to the job section, there’s this interview prep tool. And what that will do is it’ll actually, again, for free, give you a chance to prepare for your video interviews. So a lot of times, you know, people who are just interviewing for the first time in this new video format, can feel a little freaked out, it’s a little bit artificial. But if you want to make sure that you feel really comfortable in that environment, LinkedIn will actually give you sample interview questions. It’ll let you record yourself on delivering the answer. And it will actually use its AI to give you automatic feedback on how quickly are you speaking? Are you varying the tone and pitch of your voice? Are using any filler words or verbal crutches? And you can even share that answer with someone who’s experts on the inside the people that you’re networking with, to get their insider opinion on whether you’re ready for primetime. So, you know, LinkedIn will help you not only get to the interview phase, but actually crush your interviews as well.

Sujani 44:14
Wow, I’m just- I just pulled that out. That’s fascinating. And is this a free feature?

Jeremy 44:19
It is. So yeah, everything I’ve discussed today 100%, free on LinkedIn.

Sujani 44:24
Okay. Oh, and then I see that they have kind of like premium feedback. So you could unlock sample answers with expert feedback using LinkedIn premium. So it’s kind of a freemium model.

Jeremy 44:36
That’s right. But again, like the core of LinkedIn, is, can I be discovered by recruiters?

Sujani 44:40
Yeah.

Jeremy 44:40
That’s free. Can I connect with amazing folks on the inside? That’s free. Can I get ready for an interview in primetime, that’s free as well. The insights are nice, but I would say that if you’re just focused on the most important things, that’s always going to be free of charge.

Sujani 44:56
Perfect. This has been amazingly useful at least for me, and I’m sure a lot of our listeners are going to, you know, listen and re-listen to this episode, Jeremy. So, you know, just words of wisdom for us in public health and how we can best use LinkedIn. Would you have anything more to add?

Jeremy 45:17
Yeah. So just the final sort of final thoughts are that right now, we’re in the midst of this really sort of unprecedented upheaval. You know, there’s this idea of, this has been the year of the great resignation, people quitting their jobs, trying to find more meaning out of work. And I totally get it after everything we’ve lived through the past 18 months. Just know if you’re a student, or a brand new grad, or someone is changing careers, as people walk off the job. As they leave, those doors are opening up for you. And so you now have the tools, you have the opportunity, you have the timing, there’s never been a better opportunity to go out there and find something you love. So please, please, please take advantage of all of these resources, and make sure you land a job that gets you really excited every day.

Sujani 46:05
I hope you enjoyed that episode with Jeremy and are feeling pumped about using LinkedIn in your career. I really encourage you to check out all of the different features discussed in today’s episode. And also head over to Jeremy’s website. And we’ll link that up in the show notes page to download the free tools that he mentioned. Our show notes page, as usual can be accessed at pHspot.org/podcast. And if you’re looking for more guidance in starting your public health career, we at PH SPOT can help you through that through our six week hands on intensive training program that empowers early professionals, recent grads and students with the mindset skills and tools required to land a public health job advancing your career and become future public health leaders. So if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about building your dream public health career then I really invite you to check out phspot.org/program. You can now join the waitlist and we’ll notify you when the next cohort opens up.

And that’s a wrap for our second episode of The New Year New You job hunt mini series. And until next time, thank you so much for tuning in, and for the invaluable work that you do for this world.

Transcribed by https://otter.a

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About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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