Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
December 5, 2011

Can Writers Rock LinkedIn?

by Jenny Hansen

As a software trainer, I come in contact with a wide variety of people and use a broad range of software applications. It's what I do. I think software is fun.

This techie zeal of mine makes some of my writing pals want to shoot me at times but it ends up helping all of you get posts about programs you might not have had time to explore yet.

In response to my title question of whether ANY writer can rock LinkedIn, the answer is: "You betcha!"

Getting started on LinkedIn

  1. Go to http://www.linkedin.com/
  2. Choose your LinkedIn account type

Note: Anyone can sign up for a free Basic LinkedIn account. Free accounts allow you to invite available connections, manage your own profile, join Groups and sign up for LinkedIn events. Free accounts do not allow you to send InMails (which let you send mail to anyone whether you are connected or not), see all LinkedIn contacts or organize your contacts beyond a basic name listing.

3. Add connections

You can allow LinkedIn to check your existing address books for your current email addresses or enter your contacts manually. It is easiest to allow LinkedIn to comb through your current address books for your various email applications. You will get a list of the people you know who are already using LinkedIn and can invite them to connect with you.

Note: If you don’t want to do this when you begin, you can return here later. This is the Import Contacts option that is located inside the People You May Know in the upper right corner of your LinkedIn home page.

What do you do once you’re connected?

  • Listen
    Listening in LinkedIn means watching the Status Updates that show on your home page each day and commenting on them. Particularly if you are in the market for an editor, agent, or new job, these updates are a treasure trove of conversation openers.
  • Read
    In LinkedIn, there is an application to discuss and recommend what you are reading. When you use this application, it will update your home page. People will comment, and you can do the same on the books they recommend. Books are easy to bond over, as evidenced by Fae Rowen's post last week.
  • Browse
    Be sure to look around in LinkedIn. You’ll come across the greatest stuff just poking around. Explore the LinkedIn toolbar at the top of the page to see your Connections, Update your profile, or look for Jobs. Incidentally, all the recruiters I know say they find the best talent through LinkedIn. This is where I found my current job too.
  • Find Groups that have other people with the same interests as you.
    Some people take an opposite track and join Groups with members that have knowledge they WANT. On the right hand side of the LinkedIn toolbar, there is a search that defaults to “People.” Hit the drop-down and choose Groups. Type in your interest, whether it is writing, parenting or gardening. Trust me, you will find cool groups.

Other helpful tips:

  • All the usual rules of social media apply – excessive marketing, stalking and lying are not appropriate. (Yes, I know it’s your resume – you STILL have to be honest.)
  • You do not have to be introduced to anyone you are in a Group with.
    That means that you can request connection with anyone in any group you belong to. Groups offer the perfect chance to go where your target audience is and rub elbows with them. I’ve met amazing people this way.
  • Browse the People You May Know section on the right side of your screen every few weeks. New people show up in there based on things like who has joined LinkedIn or which searches you’ve run. I nearly always find someone I’d been wishing to have as a connection.

Although I've done posts on LinkedIn, I didn't really get the insider track on what was on the minds of many writers until I did a LinkedIn for Writers webinar. These writers had a TON of questions I might not hear from someone in the traditional job market - here's the four that really stood out to me:

  1. I’m not in the professional world right now because I took time off to pursue writing. How can I have a good LinkedIn profile if I’m not working?
  2. How do I add writing to my profile? It’s not my day job, it’s more like my secret life.
  3. I’ve been a stay-at-home parent for the last (fill in the blank) years. What do I put on my bio if I’m not in the workforce?
  4. I’m not published. How do you make a writer career profile if you’re not published?

On a training level, these questions made me happy because there are really wonderful answers to each one. On a writing level, these questions made me a little bit sad because the one word they have in common is “not.”

Not working, not my day job, not in the workforce, not published…

Ladies and gentleman, let me offer my humble opinion here. [TANGENT ALERT]

Not in the workforce? Are you kidding me?? Pursuing a career in writing is a HELL of a lot of work.

And don’t even get me started on the amount of daily energy required to stay home with your kids. I can’t decide whether to build a shrine to those of you who do it every day or call you all lunatics.

As a part-time stay-at-home parent, I’ve become convinced that I’d rather strap myself to a hill of fire ants than do it full time. The amount of work, patience and mental fortitude required is mind-boggling.

It takes some special mojo to do the stay-at-home thing with grace and good humor. As much as I love my daughter, it is EASIER (for me) to go work at a day job 2-3 days a week than to have responsibility 24 hours a day for helping her grow from a baby into a full-fledged little person.

OK, the rant is over. *Deep breath* Back to the fantastic questions.

1. How can I have a good LinkedIn profile if I’m not working?

  • The simple answer is – you are working. You’re just not taking credit for it or, potentially, receiving a paycheck for it.
  • I can guarantee that everyone reads this post does something that's either (a) related to writing or (b) something they could be paid for in a perfect world or a better economy.
  • I’m not telling you to lie but if you are the go-to person at your church for resume writing, you are running a volunteer resume-writing business. Your skills are there and they should be reported on your LinkedIn profile. Those 100 people at church wouldn’t have been coming to you if you sucked at it.
  • Plus, everyone who’s looking for a job knows that job-hunting is a full-time process in itself. Change your profile experience to “HR Professional” or “Writing Professional” (like everyone else looking for a job) and list the things you are doing in the meantime.

2. How do I add writing to my profile if I work a different day job?

  • Join writing groups on LinkedIn that appeal to you and participate in them.
  • Start a blog and list your blog in your professional experience. If nothing else, this will build traffic to your blog from the people you know who want to see what their business associate is up to. I warn you, it hits most people's fear buttons to mix their "day job" life with their writing life. Kristen Lamb’s take on this made me stop and think.

Note: If you want to, you can create a separate LinkedIn identity – I’ve been wrestling with this for a long time myself because my professional experience on LinkedIn is under my married name and has been years in the making.

It is a personal choice how you do this, but don’t HIDE your writing. Celebrate it. Since I started mentioning my writing, it has been amazing to me how much I get called on to do it at work. (Hint: this means I now get PAID to write…just sayin’.)

3. What do I put on my bio if I’m not in the traditional workforce (i.e. staying home w/kids)?

  • If you are a stay-at-home parent, I know you are volunteering somewhere. Usually, this isn’t even because you asked to. Many (misguided) people assume you have TONS of time on your hands because you *finger quotes* don’t work. They try to talk you into doing things for them. D.A. Watt did a great blog on this a while back. List your volunteer experience proudly on your LinkedIn profile.
  • As with the example I mentioned above about the church resume-writer, you are fantastic at something (like writing!) and you need to spend some paid time doing that thing. Trust me, even if you are typing college papers or editing business brochures, you will take yourself more seriously if you charge for it. Others will too.

4. How do you make a writer career profile if you’re not published?

  • As I said above, list your blog.
  • List any contests you’ve won in your Honors and Awards
  • List any writing chapters you belong to.
  • Put Freelance Writer on your experience profile and list your freelance credits.
  • Volunteer somewhere related to writing (with a cool title, of course) and list that too. Yes, you’re using them for the cool title, but the organization is getting work out of you while you fill that hole in your resume.

All of you who are striving toward a goal, remember the journey deserves to be commemorated too. To paraphrase another post by Kristen Lamb:

During the long trip across the desert, you don’t need to look further ahead than the next landmark. Then the next, then the next. Eventually, you will be on the other side of that desert.

Must-read Mash-up of LinkedIn Tips:

Does this give you any new ideas about how to use LinkedIn? For those of you pursuing this crazy writing dream, what are your biggest fears? Did anything we discussed here help alleviate those fears?

Note: For more on "fear," click here to go to our "Fear Series."

Thanks for stopping by...Happy Monday!

About Jenny Hansen
Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.
When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and here at Writers In The Storm. Every Saturday, she writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.

0 comments on “Can Writers Rock LinkedIn?”

  1. SO much information that I can use to expand my LinkedIn connections. Thanks, Jenny. This blog moves to my keepers file so I can reference it when I'm ready to tackle LinkedIn.

    I'm on a Social Media journey and realize I can't effectively tackle all of them at the same time, but I can make progress one media at a time. I'm on LinkedIn--registered six months ago--but, so far I've only used it to reconnect with people I knew "back-in-the-day" when I worked full time. All good stuff, fun people, connections I want to keep.

    But, the twinkling lights are popping over how I can use LinkedIn to promote my NEW career. Thanks. You rock!

    1. Thanks, Gloria. It's fine to set your profile up and forget about it for a little while in LinkedIn - many do. You'll be shocked at how much you learn and grow though, if you just join a few groups and browse through the "People You May Know" section.

      LinkedIn should be called "Where the editors are..."

  2. Thanks for this. I have a profile on LinkedIn but don't do much because I really wasn't sure what I could get out of it or how I could use it. Gloria has a good point - we just can't do all platforms at one time, but it's a good idea to have some presence on them.

    And thank you for what you said about stay at home moms. I'm one, and I often feel like I'm just sitting at home and no one would want to hire me because of that. I do child care, but people still think you have a lot of time and are blowing off a career.

    1. There's nothing wrong with taking things slow, Stacy. Do be sure to try to spend 15 mins a week browsing and connecting with the people you know. As Kristen Lamb says, these are the people who will be buying your books. 🙂

      And you are most welcome on the rant. I feel very strongly that SAHM have the hardest, and often most thankless, job there is. I think if I was a 24/7 mom, I'd go bald or yank out all my eyelashes from the stress. I have a really nice baby and it's still HARD.

  3. Jenny, when my head stops spinning and I am certain my brain will not implode, I am going to copy and paste this entire post and save it to my "social networking" document. My recently formed "business" plan includes several weeks of learning about the networking that I am clueless about. I love the blog because I have a natural journalistic mind. I have expaned on Facebook and have found wonderful writers and resources I can "friend." Twitter is a brain freeze and this LinkedIn is a all out insanity. But then creating a business plan as a still unpublished writer is also a bit insane. I will keep this and when I begin to unravel, I might need to yell for Help!! Thanks 🙂

    1. Florence, you always make me smile. I think it's wonderful that you're creating a business plan so early on. It means you understand where you'd like to go on this wild writing journey. 🙂

      I'm glad the post helped.

  4. When I stop shaking from tech overload, I'll have to reread this and try to apply it. Another social media site? Another one!?!? I think I have a LinkedIn account ~ they keep sending me messages saying I need to update. I just thought they were stalkers, but maybe not.

    1. You're so funny, Tameri! The nice part about LinkedIn is that you can do most of your work via email. I only log into the program maybe once a week.

  5. Jenny,

    Like everyone else who has replied, I say THANKS--even tho' I feel dizzy from trying to take in all your hints. I've joined several groups but have yet to comment. Guess that's a goal for this week.

    1. That's a great goal, Barbara. I promise you it's not hard. 🙂 Brigette Booth is on LinkedIn and she found several groups she really liked. Go find her and tell her I sent you.

  6. Thanks for this awesome post! LinkedIn is a community that offers many possibilities and opportunities if used strategically and properly,. 🙂

  7. Yes, I'm one of those lunatics who stay at home with their kids and write. I often joke with my husband that I'll gladly switch roles and he can be the stay at home dad and I'll go back to work. But, the truth is, I AM working! And I'm happy doing it. This was a wonderful article! I have a linkedin account that I check in with every so often.

  8. I'm on quite a few social media sites, including LinkedIn, although I don't spend a lot of time on any of them except Twitter and Facebook. To be honest I've been always a bit intimidated by LinkedIn but after reading your post I have a clear understanding of how I should approach my presence there. Thank you, Jenny for pointing me in a right direction!

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