In this episode, I’ll share best practices about using LinkedIn! LinkedIn is a social networking tool used by professionals all over the world, and acts like a digital resume. Many teachers are headed to the platform for the first time ever! Read on or listen to the episode for tips on setting up your profile, networking, and finding the best experts to help you on your journey.
Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
Best Practices: Getting Started with LinkedIn
Welcome to the Teacher Career Coach Podcast. I’m your host, Daphne Gomez. I know that I have said this before, but one of the most important parts of your job search is going to be your networking. And I know that you don’t want to hear this. Trust me, I get it. I have mentioned this on Instagram and gotten a lot of comments from teachers who are really nervous. And when I was leaving teaching, I had a picture of what networking looks like. This might be something similar to what you’re thinking right now.
So in my head, there was like this room of account executives, finance directors, wealthy investment banking executives. I mean, think of a crowd that looks like all of the actors from the movie American Psycho. And then I had to walk up to them. I stick out like a sore thumb. I look like a fifth grade teacher. I’m wearing a dress, a cardigan, and I just nervously say, “Hey guys, I’m looking for a role as an instructional designer. Would you like to be my friend and connect on LinkedIn?”
Networking is NOT as Scary as You Think
But truthfully, that’s not really what networking is. It’s not as scary as you think it is. A you’re not going to be thrown into this really foreign environment that is cold and not welcoming. Yes, it’s going to be a little bit uncomfortable, it’s going to be outside of your comfort zone. But you do get used to it. You will be able to find people you connect with and others that feel like people you’ve known and worked with in the past.
The very best place for you to actually leverage your network is on LinkedIn. So in this episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast, I’m going to share all about best practices on using LinkedIn as a platform.
Why You Should get on LinkedIn
So first, let’s talk all about the whys, why you should get on LinkedIn. So first, let’s talk about the why, why you should get on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a social networking tool. It’s used by professionals all over the world, and it acts like a digital résumé.
The way that LinkedIn really outshines Instagram and Facebook as making connections is, you’re able to find people who work at certain companies and evaluate your already-existing network and seeing if they actually have ins at companies or industries that you’re interested in.
In the way that if you are sitting at a party and there’s 20 people at this party, it’s common for you to go throughout the entire night without realizing that someone at the very end of the table actually works in an industry that you’re excited about pursuing because maybe all night, you’re just talking about your favorite movies.
On Facebook, many people don’t actually say the names of the companies that they work for. Or you’re only seeing a small snippet of their entire reality. LinkedIn is where people actually put the roles that they’ve held, the people that they know, and the companies that they’ve worked for.
So you may be surprised to know that you already have contacts who are working at specific companies that you may be interested in learning more about.
Best Practices for Creating a Network on LinkedIn
The first thing I recommend is creating a LinkedIn, adding all of the contacts that you know. This could be people that you know from past work, colleagues of yours that actually left teaching, and people that you know in your personal life as well. And then you can start to update your profile as you go.
Another reason why you need to have a LinkedIn is this is where hiring managers actually look to make sure that you are giving an accurate representation of your career. It’s a lot harder to bluff having a public-facing LinkedIn profile. So they know that this is a credible place where you’re actually sharing your work experience.
Who should you first start connecting with?
Who do I recommend you connect with? That’s going to be friends, past colleagues, and these are all called your warm network. They’re the best people that would actually give you potentially a referral to a job interview because they can vouch for you in whether or not you would be a good culture fit. We’ll start to talk a little bit more about cold networking, which is when you start to actually reach out to strangers, later on in this episode.
LinkedIn Profile Best Practices
So what should your profile look like on LinkedIn? Well, first, let’s talk about profile picture. If you’re currently using a picture of yourself as a classroom teacher, I would change it and try and use something that’s more of just a classic headshot with a blank background but not clearly identifying yourself as a teacher.
Most of my suggestions throughout this episode are really going to reiterate the same focus. You want a hiring manager to look at you as a natural fit for a project manager role or a customer success manager role. Not necessarily a teacher who is transitioning into that role. That is truly who you are. You are a teacher who’s transitioning.
If you can have someone look at you and just automatically imagine you in that role, it can help remove some of the stigma of someone who’s in the middle of a career pivot.
Best Practices for Your LinkedIn Job Title
During this entire LinkedIn episode, I’m going to talk about ways to do this honestly. And your job title is one of the most important parts. Your job title should say educator or teacher, if that’s the role you truly held. Do not fib on your job titles or say that you were an instructional designer if you never held a professional role as an instructional designer. But there are ways to actually authentically and honestly work around this.
For example, I held a role as a Microsoft Learning Consultant, but I could easily change that title to say corporate trainer, because that’s truly what the job duties were. And it would make sense for me to do so if I was applying to corporate training positions and I wanted to make sure that they saw the four-plus years I held that role for as transferable experience.
So when I say your job title, I mean, where it’s next to the school district that you work at. But up at the top, where you kind of give that title, short little snippet, that’s where you can say where you truly want to go. Mine says CEO of Teacher Career Coach and Qualified Team Solutions, but that’s actually where you could put project manager or curriculum writer or whatever path you’re pursuing. I wouldn’t use this valuable space to say seeking new opportunities because it’s wasting keyword space. People are actually searching for connections that they know with titles like project manager. And so, you’ll want to pop up in their feed as they’re searching those types of titles.
Identifying the job you want & the direction you’re going…
This can be a part where teachers get really overwhelmed. Because they don’t know should they write that they’re a project manager or a curriculum writer. My best piece of advice is: take some time and space and sit down for the next few weeks to try to get very clear focus on your direction. If you’re marketing yourself as a project manager and a user experience designer and a curriculum writer, hiring managers are going to be a little bit confused on what your area of expertise is.
There’s this lesson that I’ve said before that I’ve learned when I was learning different marketing approaches. If you’re trying to market yourself to everyone, you’re truly marketing yourself to no one. So you’ll want to pick a very clear path. Then the rest of your LinkedIn profile is going to start to show your strengths in that particular job field.
Now, don’t forget to add job titles for volunteering or freelancing that you’ve done. So if you truly have freelanced as an instructional designer, make sure to put it on like credible job experience that it is.
Best Practices for Identifying Your Objectives on LinkedIn
If you have been lurking and looking at my LinkedIn, I want to show one clear distinction. That is, at one point, I stopped seeking employment. I am in a place of privilege. And so, the objective of me to use my own personal LinkedIn is for networking with CEOs and hiring managers and to help other teachers find my resources. But if you’re looking at other teachers’ LinkedIns, also know that some of them have different objectives than you. They may have been written for jobs that you’re not potentially pursuing, which means that some of their bullet points may not align with best showcasing your unique skills.
And a lot of how you present yourself on LinkedIn is going to overlap with best practices on writing your résumé and translating your unique skills to show how you’re the right person for the specific jobs you’re pinpointing. I would listen to episode 29 of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast for all the best practices on translating your skills and résumé writing if you are stuck at this phase.
Best Practices for Creating & Sharing Content on LinkedIn
If you are totally new to LinkedIn, one of the biggest questions you may have is, what should you be sharing as far as posts and articles go? If your objective is to simply help other teachers, that’s great. I know your heart is huge.
But just know that this is not necessarily what companies are looking for on a LinkedIn page. Hiring managers may actually have a bias against seeing your page filled with teacher transitioning resources. And it may be keeping you stuck because it’s hard for them to actually envision you in your new role.
The posts that I see on my feed that truly stand out from a hiring perspective are not the ones that are focused on teachers transitioning. They are the teachers who have already marketed themselves for the new roles they’re looking for. They’re hyper-focused on writing content about project management, or writing content directly associated with the edtech companies that they’re pursuing.
So before you write a post or an article about teachers transitioning, I want you to evaluate what is its intended purpose. Many teachers are using it for experience or networking. While any writing is great for actual experience, you’re going to have a much better return on your time investment if it’s focused on showcasing you in that new field or branching out of the teachers-looking-for-new-jobs bubble that LinkedIn has become.
Focus on where you want to go!
If the objective is for you to create experience and clear direction, my suggestion is: Focus on where you want to go. If you’re looking to attract edtech companies, one example I’ve given before is to showcase your skills on projects that would potentially attract them and not written for career changers.
So this is something that I told someone before, to create an article that evaluates different edtech tools and showcases which tools are better for different parts of a specific project-based learning activity you’ve created, and do so in a way that doesn’t put down any other edtech tools.
If you are focused on gaining more marketing skills or writing articles that would attract a specific industry, you may also want to go back and check out my episode entirely focused on copywriting with a former teacher who has made that her new career.
Demonstrating Professionalism: Best Practices for LinkedIn
I have to address the many threads of not-so-professional behaviors that come from this community looking for new job opportunities – I say this from a place of love. I am empathetic because I know from personal experience what many of you are going through. But LinkedIn is not the platform for venting.
Your activity on LinkedIn is your opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and ability to adapt to new environments. And remember that hiring managers and companies are watching.
Posting Negative Comments
Here are just a couple of examples of comments I have seen on threads of LinkedIn. Things like, “I hate teaching,” or “I can’t figure out how to get out of teaching,” or “The kids are entirely out of control.”
If you don’t feel like you would use these phrases in an interview, or they would be the best way to showcase your strengths in a new industry, I don’t recommend that they would be the comments that are posted last on your LinkedIn profile.
And you are always entitled to free speech. Gosh, I hope you know how strongly all of you know I feel about free speech. But you’re going to have to weigh the pros and cons yourself. If what you are typing is worth potentially missing a job opportunity over. And that is something that I do not want for any of you.
Just know that you may be blocking yourself from opportunities if you’re posting comments or negative things about the profession you’re planning on leaving, past or current employers or how burnt out you are. Because even if a hiring manager has the biggest heart in the world, if you’re showing clear signs of burnout and negativity in an interview or on LinkedIn, they most likely have to move on to the next candidate who does not.
Standing out as a Positive, Professional Employee
There’s a level of risk associated with hiring someone who’s vocally negative. Especially on professional platforms. That they’re just not going to fit the culture of a workspace, and they may potentially become a toxic employee.
I have built all of my resources working with hiring managers and CEOs to talk about best practice. On how to best professionally navigate the job hunt when you’re burned out or suffering from work stress or trauma. Because I personally know what a challenge this can be – on LinkedIn and beyond.
And if there’s a chance that you have not seen or read those specific materials, just know that this is something I have addressed many times. It’s a huge challenge I faced as well, so I promise, I totally get it. But you want to just showcase yourself as enthusiastic about your next move.
I am vocal and honest with my struggles with education, and especially on this podcast. But I come from a place of privilege where I am not actively seeking job opportunities. And I still maintain a level of professionalism on LinkedIn.
Being Vocal about Leaving the Classroom
Truthfully, I was not vocal about leaving the classroom until far after I left. When I knew everyone needed to see and hear my true story. But that was coming from a place of privilege of knowing I was out. And also understanding my limitations of what would be a clear conflict of interest as being public-facing in my education positions in the past.
So if you see threads of others being very vocal in ways that I’ve just described, first, evaluate their objectives and where they are. If they’re using keywords like “teachers transitioning” over and over again, they’re either a teacher who who’s thinking of leaving the classroom or they’re someone who’s outside the classroom and marketing to this audience trying to help this community find them. And I definitely fall into this category.
If they are teachers who are looking for support, they may be modeling the behavior that they’ve seen on LinkedIn. But truly don’t realize that it may be leaving them looking just like a teacher who’s in the middle of a career hunt and not specifically someone who is an expert in their new subject matter.
My suggestion would be, help steer them on track or direct them to this podcast episode if you feel like you have the bandwidth to do so.
Best Practices for Sharing content on LinkedIn: Frequency
So what should you be sharing as far as posts and articles go? I gave a couple suggestions a little bit earlier, but I’m going to be honest and blunt here. If you do not have the time to create a post or an article on LinkedIn, you’ll still potentially be fine in your job hunt, I promise.
Look at what other people are doing that you’ve connected with that are not teachers who are transitioning. Are they posting weekly or daily for the algorithm? No. So don’t feel pressured to do that specific part. The likeliness that a hiring manager is going to find you from one post or article is actually very slim. It can give you a competitive edge, especially if you’re going for content writing roles. But this is not going to be the deal-breaker. So I don’t want you to feel bogged down by this task.
Best Practices for Expanding Your Network on LinkedIn
So I recently received a question in the private Teacher Career Coach community, that was great, about adding… I think the number was 500 people on LinkedIn. My true belief is that it’s best to have quality connections over quantity on LinkedIn. You want to create a community of those that you have had honest conversations with. Those that you’ll be able to remember why you connected with them. Or what your objective of connecting with them is. And also those who are working towards similar goals so that you can learn from one another and grow.
But you don’t want to just keep yourself in a teachers-transitioning bubble and only be in that space.
I know I’ve touched on this on other episodes. Your community is so important. But you do not only want to be networking with those in the same position as you. Episode 60 of this podcast, I interviewed Danielle Blake. She shared a great example of how she used networking strategically with strangers to land her new job. True networking on LinkedIn, that’s learning and meeting those in your desired field. And the longer they have been in the industry, the better.
Reaching Out to Second Connections
If you can find someone with a second connection… Meaning that your friend, Bob, is able to introduce you to them. That helps, because you’re able to say, “Hey Bob, can you introduce me to so and so? I see she works in the learning and development team. And I’d love to just ask her a couple quick questions.” And that’s where LinkedIn truly shines.
If you’ve connected with 500 strangers, they don’t necessarily help you find a second connection because they don’t really truly know you.
So when you are reaching out to strangers, my best piece of advice is: Try to ensure whatever you’re asking of them is an easy yes. You should never be asking for jobs or job references, especially from a stranger. The inference is there that if they know of any job opportunities, they would give it to you. But someone giving a referral to a stranger is risky. It’s putting their own personal credibility on the line. And they’re vouching for someone that they would be a long-term good fit at this company. Which is difficult for someone to do.
Asking Strategic Questions
What is an easy, yes? Is to ask them one or two very strategic questions. Like, What do you think would make me stand out as a more valuable candidate for this type of position? Or, What course would you recommend I take to upskill towards this goal?
And then ask them if they have one other contact who may be willing to give you feedback as well. In a couple of months, you’ll want to follow up with them. Maybe you’ve created a portfolio or a learning sample. Ask them if they have 15 minutes to glance it over and give you structured feedback.
And I know I’m oversimplifying these steps. I walk through them step by step in the Teacher Career Coach course. If you’re struggling and need more guidance on cold networking or networking in general, I recommend checking it out.
Finding Expert Advice on LinkedIn
It is also time to address the LinkedIn elephant in the room. Not everyone who looks like an expert on LinkedIn is truly an expert.
I’m saying this from a place of love. Many are trying to be helpful. There are so many great resources out there on LinkedIn. But with so many great resources, some of them can also be people like you. People who are in the beginning phases of learning about new careers. And that can easily become a game of telephone of misinformation about best practices, especially on LinkedIn.
There was a time I was getting tagged in almost every post for my opinion on adult learning theories or résumé writing or interviews. I just had to set this firm boundary. I am not correcting others on threads on LinkedIn, just because their advice doesn’t align with mine.
Even politely correcting people can hurt feelings, and especially those who are not asking for that feedback. I know that my time is best spent creating the best resources that serve this huge audience. Not answering one or two-off threads on LinkedIn or getting into a debate.
Tips for who to Follow on LinkedIn
I just cannot be the LinkedIn police. But I wanted to give best tips for who to follow to help you with skill-building and upskilling for a specific career path. Look for those with three-plus years of credible experience in a career that you’re interested in learning more about. This does not have to be a former teacher or someone who posts nonstop about that industry. Just find someone who’s working in customer success or technology sales or whatever positions you’re interested in.
Learning about New Roles
If it is someone who has only been in the role for a short period of time but is open to sharing their knowledge, that’s great. Just remember though, is it’s like talking to a first-year or second-year teacher. They’re going to be so great for a lot of knowledge. But they are also still learning and growing in their field. And sometimes they are still figuring it out themselves. That’s why I always suggest those with that three-plus years as a sweet spot.
As you connect with them, ask if you can learn a little bit more about their role. One easy yes is always asking for courses they’d suggest, blogs or podcasts or books to listen to. Ask them what you can do to stand out more competitive in the field. But don’t expect them to walk you through step by step how to actually do all of it. That takes a lot of time and energy. And you may end up losing the connection altogether if you are asking for too much.
Vetting Career Coaches
Now, here are some best practices on how to vet those who are offering career coaching on LinkedIn. This is not just exclusively those who label themselves as “career coaches.”
But when you are starting to network, you may realize that people are open to giving résumé and interview advice.
Many former teachers have also started offering free support on LinkedIn for others. Which shows how huge their hearts are, but it also comes with a lot of unpredictability, and sometimes misinformation. I’ve used this analogy before.
Just because somebody did their taxes correctly, it doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily qualified to do everyone else’s taxes. In the same way, just because they were able to land a job with their own résumé, doesn’t mean they necessarily understand how everybody should write their résumé for a variety of positions or what hiring managers are truly looking for.
Former Teachers Offering Advice
I know I have to repeat this about being the LinkedIn police, but I just simply cannot correct every post. So if you see someone telling you to use Canva as a template for a colorful résumé, please don’t. Or if someone’s giving you bullet points for a résumé that you don’t know would necessarily resonate with a hiring manager. Or if they’re spreading interview resources and they have clear red flags in them, like the word micromanage. Please take their advice, if they do not have clear experience in hiring or recruiting, with a grain of salt.
If a former teacher is helping others, I know their heart is in the right place. But it doesn’t mean that they necessarily have the experience necessary to be coaching everyone.
Paid Career Coaches
For those who are offering paid services. Unfortunately this is something that many people may not realize, but career coaching is not a regulated field. Anybody can change their title to be a career coach, but not truly have experience or give solid, credible advice.
And the truth is, in my own experience, as I’ve been burned by résumé writers in my own career hunt. Also while I was evaluating someone to hire for this team. I sought a lot of people who identified themselves as résumé writers. One in particular, I was charged $350 for. Then I was offered something I was not able to use whatsoever, and it was non-refundable.
Those with true experience show a clear connection with either human resources or hiring or recruiting as their industry experience. I recognized my own limitations when I started Teacher Career Coach. Just because I held an impressive title at a Fortune 500 company, it did not make me qualify to coach others when I started this back in 2018. It’s why I partnered with our team member, Alli Arney. She’s been in recruiting, HR, and résumé writing for over a decade. And there are many career coaches out there who are fantastic and highly qualified.
I would say Ashley Stahl and Madeline Mann are a few of the amazing ones I have seen. That I am a huge fangirl of, and I cannot speak highly enough about. After working with Alli Arney for years and researching and working directly in recruiting, I am now proud to say that I’ve been recognized as a thought leader for the Forbes Coaches Council for the year of 2022.
Best Practices for Evaluating the Credibility of Career Coaches on LinkedIn
The questions that you should use to evaluate the credibility of those career coaches that you are listening to are: How long have they been in coaching others? And in this specific capacity, what have they done that makes them qualified to do so? Do they have clear experience in HR or recruiting?
If they have just been customer success managers but never sat on a hiring team, especially not over the course of years, they’re not going to be the best person to give you interview advice.
If they have not been sourcing candidates and rapidly reading résumés to help match the best candidates with specific positions, they may not understand how résumés are supposed to be structured in order to stand out.
How many success stories are you able to find directly associated with this specific person? If you’ve been on the Teacher Career Coach Instagram, you know that for the last three years, we are constantly sharing real stories from real teachers who have used our program to actually get into something new.
So do they have a website that reflects they’ve been doing so with success for years? And yes, everyone has to start somewhere. It is great to give people a chance. I have seen a lot of people breaking into this that are doing so with integrity. And who are truly qualified to do so. But if you are in a position of crisis, you need to figure out if you want to be the guinea pig of someone who might potentially still be figuring it out on their own.
Vetting New Connections on LinkedIn
So I want you to start clicking the companies and their bio. If they claim to have been CEOs or founders, check the companies they founded and view the website. Does it have a lot of pages or blogs? Or is it a broken link and it looks like the company may have never even existed?
If it feels like some of their marketing may be deceptive, for example. They’re fibbing about how long they’ve been around. Or they don’t have any success stories or any free resources that indicate that they’ve been as established for as long as they’ve said. Or if just something about it doesn’t pass the smell test to you and you’re still on the fence. Make sure they have a very clear refund policy in place before you commit. And always take it with a grain of salt if you don’t know if they are credible.
I know that this comes with a feeling of overwhelm. And I know that this also comes with potential pushback from those that I may be talking about right now. My biggest concern is how many teachers have reached out and said that they felt scammed before. That they have gone into something that is not the right fit for them. And I want you to be able to evaluate this confidently and know what you’re looking for for credible experience.
Best Practices for LinkedIn: Working Toward Your Goals
Lastly, I wanted to share some tips to help you use LinkedIn if you’re struggling with productivity and working towards your goals. There are so many people that I’ve talked to who have given up social media altogether. And then LinkedIn sucked them in to become a non-productive distraction. That they started to use just like all other social media platforms.
If you find yourself engaging in things that aren’t helping you move directly towards your goals, like polls about why you’re leaving teaching, just know you do not need to get on LinkedIn every day.
You want to follow the companies, the thought leaders, and others, only if you feel it’s not too distracting for you. And you are the one who knows yourself best here.
If you find yourself being distracted from your goals, set time limits on when you get on and the clear agenda of what you plan to do during that time. Maybe it’s one hour per week that’s dedicated to LinkedIn. But some tough love here, talking about teaching or why you’re leaving teaching is not necessarily going to count towards these goals.
Best Practices for Using Your LinkedIn Time Productively
Ten minutes of it is going to be making sure you haven’t received any new DMs from recruiters or networking contacts, 30 minutes would be looking for new job postings, 10 minutes would be reaching out to two or three cold or second contacts that have been in your desired job for three-plus years, and then 10 minutes going into forums or groups to gain feedback from experts in your desired field.
Do you have to follow this formula to a tee? No. But sometimes, we overthink before moving forward, and I just want you to use this if it helps you not to think or worry about it.
So don’t feel the pressure to add 500 people, to comment on every single post for the algorithm, or to spend time endorsing everyone you ever have met, if it becomes a flashy social media distraction. And if I’ve said anything that you have found yourself personally guilty of, please do not beat yourself up over it.
Moving the Needle Forward
This is a learning process, and I’m so proud of you for even getting on a strange, scary new platform and putting yourself out there. Just spend the rest of your limited time doing the things that truly move the needle forward for you, and that would be building new skills in your desired industry and building authentic connections.
And just like I will not be the LinkedIn police, I don’t want you to feel the burden of being so either. We all have limited time, and we have to focus our efforts on what truly moves the needle forward for our big goals.
Your heart is so big, and the guilt of not helping everyone is constantly a struggle. Believe me, I get it. But you will do a much better job when you are comfortable in your new role outside of the classroom than worrying about coaching others right now. Continue to push them towards free resources and say that they can do a deep dive there, but you do not need to police or constantly be in those debates or threads online.
Now, I cannot wait to see where you go and what you do. I get so excited to see all the LinkedIn job updates. So make sure you continue to tag me so that I’m able to see all of your new paths. And I will see you on the next episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast. Thank you so much for listening.
Mentioned in this podcast:
- Teacher Career Coach on LinkedIn
- 29 – Writing A Transferable Teacher Skills Resume
- 35 – Sarah Mill: From Teacher to Freelance Copywriter
- 60 – Networking Career Change Advice from Danielle Blake
Related Blog: LinkedIn Profile Tips for Teachers
Find out about The Teacher Career Coach Course
If you’re thinking of leaving teaching…
If you’re just beginning to think about leaving teaching, brainstorming other options is a great place to start. But if you’re like many others, teaching was your only plan – there never was a Plan B. You might feel at a loss when it comes to figuring out what alternatives are out there.
Start with our free quiz, below, to get alternative job options for careers that really do hire teachers!