When it comes to professional networking, we all know that LinkedIn is the place to be. But do you feel lost when it comes to presenting yourself online? Are you missing out on job opportunities or business deals because you just don’t know what to post? Or how to network online? Our guest today is Jennifer Corcoran, founder of My Super Connector and she is on a mission to help professionals and entrepreneurs stand out on LinkedIn, Jennifer proves that you don’t need to be the loudest person in the room to get noticed.

As a self-proclaimed introvert, she is an award-winning social media influencer and she knows a thing or two about leaving her comfort zone behind. She is using her experience and expertise to help others overcome confidence gaps and achieve sustained visibility and success.

In this episode, Jennifer gives expert tips on the best way to network on LinkedIn. She shares dos and don’ts so you know how to stand out professionally. You’ll learn how to setup your professional profile, highlight your unique skills and competencies, and get noticed by your target audience. Visit www.iambeyondbarriers.com where you’ll find show notes and links to all the resources in this episode, including the best way to get in touch with Jennifer. (Listen to the podcast below.)

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Nikki Barua: Hi, Jennifer, welcome to the show. I’m so excited to have you.

Jennifer Corcoran: Thank you so much for having me today. It’s great to be here.

Nikki Barua: Excellent. Well, let’s jump right in and tell our audience more about yourself and what your superpower is.

Jennifer Corcoran: So, I am a LinkedIn nerd. So basically, I’m a LinkedIn trainer and consultant, and I love helping ambitious business owners and ambitious professionals polish up their LinkedIn profiles and connect with finesse, so that they can achieve both career and business success. So, I do this with one-to-one training and online program and group workshops. And I specialize in the free version of LinkedIn.

Nikki Barua: Wow. Now how did you get into this career yourself?

Jennifer Corcoran: Yeah, it’s been a bit of a journey if I’m honest. I moved over from Ireland to the UK about 18 years ago, and I started doing a lot of face to face networking. And I was new to London, so I had to really get the lay of the land pretty soon. And about a year or two later, LinkedIn came into, was basically developed. And I started to use it in my job at that time, I was an executive PA. So, I used it to connect with my peers, my colleagues, suppliers, so hotels, restaurants, influencers, trainers, you name it, anybody I thought was interesting, I started to connect with them. And I used it for a long time throughout my career and really built up a good solid network. And it really helped me in my last role, and then fast forward quite a few years, 15 years, my back went, so I had back surgery a few years ago, and I was forced to take six months off work. So, I spent literally 30 days on the floor after my operation, I had to lie down a lot and started thinking about my life. What am I doing? Where am I going? And I realized that my last job didn’t really spark any joy for me anymore. And I had actually started studying social media as a hobby while I was employed, and I started to use it in a voluntary role. And I just realized, you know, I’m pretty good at this. By that stage, I’d won regional, national and global awards as a PA, but for me, it was still a hobby, something I loved. But when I was off on sick leave, I thought, you know what, I actually love this. I think I can help people. And I started to realize not everybody was as confident or as comfortable with LinkedIn and putting themselves out there. And I realized I did have a bit of a superpower doing it. I took it for granted and I just really wanted to help other people get confident on the platform.

Nikki Barua: Wow, that’s incredible. So, in, in helping yourself, trying to recover from an unfortunate situation and discovering what sparked joy for you, you were now positioned in a career where you’re helping so many people worldwide.

Jennifer Corcoran: It’s really interesting, because I suppose ultimately, in my last role as a PA, I was always helping my boss or my team to shine from the sidelines. So, I’m still doing the exact same thing, really, I’m helping other people to shine. And it’s great that it does allow me to work now with people from all around the world, I could do it by Skype or Zoom. I get to meet so many different interesting people. But to be honest, I find that people, when they come to LinkedIn, a lot of them have the exact same mindset, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the UK or the US. My clients all have the same kind of, you know, mindset blocks.

Nikki Barua: Which is what, tell us more about that. What patterns do you see that hold people back?

Jennifer Corcoran: I think just lack of confidence, and they’re afraid of what to post. I think a lot of people think that LinkedIn is only the home feed so they kind of obsess about what content to push out there. They forget that, you know, you can also network within LinkedIn messenger, which is completely behind the scenes. So, nobody else sees that but the other person, or if you’re in a group message, and again, you can also tap into LinkedIn groups. So, I think it’s all about finding out what works for you and your personality. I don’t believe in a one size fits all approach to LinkedIn. So, I’m not going to tell an introvert, you know, go out and make videos, I want to see a video from you every Monday because it’s not going to work. So, it’s about finding out what is your superpower? What is your personality and then figuring out what’s the best approach for you on LinkedIn?

Nikki Barua: That’s, that’s such great advice because I think what you tapped into in terms of people’s lack of confidence when it comes to LinkedIn, or worrying about judgment in some way of what do I post, what will people think if I post this, or am I doing things that are not really authentic to my personal style, prevents them from really tapping into the power of the network.

Jennifer Corcoran: Definitely. I think too many people, they compare themselves to others, they get a bit of imposter syndrome. And I think when you just start to be you and you are authentic, then it is actually easy. I would just advise everyone, don’t look at anyone else, just be you. And you know, speak in your own voice when you’re typing, make it just sound the same as you because otherwise there’s nothing, it’s, I always think of it as a bit like online dating. You need to be the same person online as you are offline. Because there’s nothing , for example, if you are online dating someone and they come across as you know, really outgoing, great fun, and then you meet them in real life, and they’re very formal and stiff. It’s never going to work. So, you’re not going to develop any of the know, like, and trust factor. So, you really just have to be you online. And I think a lot of people think they’re not good enough. So, they want to copy other people or so you know, so and so has put out that blog or this video and I have to do it, but you don’t. So, I think it’s just about tapping into what kind of personality do you have? And what do you do best?

Nikki Barua: And speaking of that, who should be on LinkedIn? It’s one of the fastest growing social media platforms and obviously very critical when it comes to professional networking. Who is it, who do you recommend be on LinkedIn?

Jennifer Corcoran: I would recommend absolutely everybody be on LinkedIn. I think a lot of people think it’s just for men and gray suits, and it’s only corporate, but it’s for everyone. Whether you’re in corporate, whether you’re a B2B, B2C, I just think there are so many great opportunities on there. There are so many great people on there, you’ve got all the high-level execs, you’ve got the CEOs, COOs. If you’re looking for a job, you’ve got the HR managers, you know, the learning and development managers. So you’ve got this massive social professional network, and I think even If your direct customer isn’t on there, so for example, if you are B2C, maybe you’re a yoga teacher or pilates teacher, even if your direct client isn’t on there, maybe you could connect with an event manager or someone who’s putting on a well-being festival. So, I think no matter what you do, you can tap into it, whether it’s research, getting your brand out there, keeping up to date really on what’s going on you in your industry. And I use it mainly for networking. So, if I’m going to a face to face event or a conference, if I can find people in advance, I will connect with them. And it’s so powerful because when I go into any event, doesn’t matter what event, there’s at least always one person who recognizes me, so I’m always approached. So even though I’m chatty, I am an introvert and I am a bit shy, so that kind of takes away that icky, awkward feeling for me. So yeah, I love it just for networking.

Nikki Barua: Well, I’m an introvert as well and I was just about to ask you that, what’s the best way to network on LinkedIn? I mean, is it, you know, meant for people that are schmooze and just extroverted and very comfortable putting their opinions and their point of view out there, or how does someone who’s shy and introverted, how do they network? What are the best ways?

Jennifer Corcoran: I say if you’re an introvert, the best way is to just like, fully optimize your profile. So, get a good profile with the right keywords. And then you’ll start to attract the right people to reach out to you. But the main way I’ve built my network has been through LinkedIn groups. So, I always, I would always advise everyone to join like a local group, it doesn’t matter where you’re based and connect with your local peers. Then if you belong to some kind of association or organization, join that group and then look at the members in the group and start to reach out to them. Because by definition, you know, especially if you belong to the same organization, you are like minded so why not connect with these people you’ve got, you know, they are peers. And so that’s how I first started to build my network was through groups. And I think you can find some amazing people in groups. And when you’re reaching out, it doesn’t have to be a big long message. It doesn’t have to be war and peace. It can just be something simple like Hi, Nikki, we both belong to the Dallas group for x y, zed, I’d love to connect with you. And that’s, you know, the first message. And otherwise, if you are reaching out to people like prospective leads or prospects, I think, look at people’s profiles, read their summaries, see what groups they’re in, look at what they’re doing. And then when you reach out to them just even a line or two to say, Oh, hi, you know, I saw in your profile, we both went to the same university or we’re both involved in this project. I would love to connect with you. People will connect with you straightaway, because you’ve taken the time to personalize and you’ve actually showed that you read up a little bit about them. And people will appreciate that because not many people do that on LinkedIn.

Nikki Barua: That’s so true. I often get spammed with all these copy/paste introductory requests from people on LinkedIn. And there’s not even a recognition of my profile or what I do, you know, they’re sending the same exact message to 200 other people and there’s nothing more off putting than that, because we would never do that in the real world. What’s the difference between the free version of LinkedIn and premium?

Jennifer Corcoran: Okay, so the free version obviously is free, and under premium, I’m not sure how much it is in dollars, I know, I think it’s 5399 Sterling at the moment or month, so probably about $50-$60 a month. So, you’re looking at $500-$600 a year. And in the free version, you can see the last five people who have looked at your profile. With premium, you can go back 90 days and see all the people who’ve looked at you. In my experience, the best people who benefit from premium are salespeople, recruiters, or if you’re really looking for a job and you want to do loads of searches, I definitely think it’s worth upgrading now and again, or even doing a free trial now and again for 30 days. But I say in general to people, if you’re on the free version, and you’re not tapping into all of the functionality of the free version, you don’t need to go to premium. And I know a lot of LinkedIn trainers who are not on premium at all. But some of the things, another thing that you can get to premium is inmail, so you get access to 15 inmail a month. And these are messages that you can send to anyone, you don’t have to be a first- degree connection. So, you basically craft a message, send it and it ends up in somebody’s inbox. And I don’t know, I’m not a massive fan of them. I still feel they are a bit spammy. Just because you send someone an inmail, it does not mean they’re going to respond to you. So, with the free version, my hacky way of getting around that is if you belong to the same group as somebody, you can actually send 15 free messages a month to people within your groups. So that’s how I kind of get around that. And I always, if I try to connect with someone, and if they don’t connect with me, for some reason, I will look at their groups. And I will see if we have a shared group. And if we don’t, I will join one of their groups, and I go in that way to talk to them. It is a bit hacky, but I just think that’s just as beneficial as the inmail. And at least that way, you’re actually starting a conversation, whereas the inmail always feels a bit like you’ve hijacked their inbox, you’ve thrown a message in that. What else? What else is the difference? And premium, I think a lot of people just think by the name, it’s going to give them a greater boost in the algorithm and that their profile is going to be elevated and it’s not really true at all, it’s not going to make any difference. It’s just great if you want to save down more searches. So, like I said, if you are a salesperson or recruiter, it’s fantastic. But I find most, you know, employees or businesses who are just starting off using LinkedIn, I just say save the 600 pounds or $600, spend it on a good headshot, get a nice graphic for your cover banner, go and get some training and I just think I personally think only if you’re really like milking the free version, you don’t need to go to premium.

Nikki Barua: Got it. So, speaking of profiles, let’s talk about what makes for a great profile. Let’s say it’s someone looking for a career change, or they’re preparing for interviews and such. What are some things that are an absolute must these days on LinkedIn?

Jennifer Corcoran: I think if you’re looking for a new job, it’s, I think it’s very important to have a really good headshot. A professional headshot, that puts you, you know, in a really good light, that looks like you. And I think, as well, I would focus on your recommendations section. So, I would try to get as many recommendations as possible from previous colleagues, bosses, peers, because it’s a bit like TripAdvisor or anything these days, if we want to book a restaurant or a hotel, we always look up reviews. And LinkedIn is the same. If there’s two candidates who have, you know, both optimized their profiles, they’ve got the right keywords. But then you go down and one has 10 recommendations and the other has zero, the one with the recommendations is going to stand out because you’ve got that know, like, and trust and kind of credibility factor. I would say if you were looking for a job, get the job spec off and look through it and copy and paste some of those keywords into your profile. So basically, you know, be aware of what the keywords are for the role or the industry, if there’s some sentences and just literally go to the whole job spec and take out all of those skills and flesh them out throughout your headline, your summary, and your endorsement section, you can actually type in the individuals skills. So, I would just say flesh out your profile as much as possible and get as many recommendations as possible.

Nikki Barua: Got it? What about the header image? I’ve noticed a lot of differences and styles that people have, and a lot of people don’t have any image at all. What’s your guidance around that?

Jennifer Corcoran: I think yeah, it depends whether you’re a professional or a business owner, but I think it is definitely worthwhile creating a graphic or getting a graphic designer or a virtual assistant to create something for you. When I was an employee, I, like it’s going to sound very basic, but the generic background is blue. And I actually worked for a bank who was very green and I’d had a headshot taken and I was wearing green, and I’m Irish, so it’s all about the green. So, I literally just created a green banner. And it made me stand out amongst the kind of sea of blue. So, I didn’t have anything written on it, it was just the color and I just, you know, made my kind of my dress in my photo path, and it just made me stand out. So sometimes it doesn’t have to be this big, complicated banner with loads of photos and imagery. I think if you’re a business owner, definitely have your company name or your logo, incorporate your brand colors into it and put a few words down so that people know at a glance what you do, because I like to think of it as your I’d say West End billboard, your Broadway billboard, behind your head. It’s like a warm introduction to who you are. So, if you were looking for a job, you could put in a few key words behind you. So, for example, I said I used to be a personal assistant, you could have Personal Assistant/, you know, Project Management/Event Management, something like that. Or you could put a quote that resonates with you, and a nice brown color. If you’re into public speaking, or you do a lot of speaking, you could have images of you actually speaking, but I will always have some kind of text with the graphics and the imagery so that people know exactly what you do.

Nikki Barua: Right? I mean, it’s a lost opportunity if you don’t take advantage of that space. It’s something that’s visible to everyone that’s looking at your profile? So, whether you’re a public speaker that wants to show yourself on stage or you’re a business owner that wants to highlight some capabilities of quotes from your business, or even if you’re an early stage, career professional, who just picks a different color to stand out?

Jennifer Corcoran: I think that’s all it did help me stand out as ridiculous as it sounds, because all of the rest had just got the generic default. Also, when I was reaching out to people, yeah, just definitely made me stand out. So, it doesn’t have to be very elaborate. And but yeah, it’s a missed opportunity because especially on the app, you know, when people are on the LinkedIn app on their phone, they’re going to judge you on the cover banner, your headshot and the headline, and they’re going to decide if they’re bothered to read on about you. And I think if you don’t grab them within those few seconds and make a bit of an impact, they’re not going to read on. So, I definitely think the brand, a branded cover banner is definitely worth investing in.

Nikki Barua: Right. What about things like headlines? Now I’ve seen a variety of different ones where some people simply put the latest title of their job title on their headline, others describe their service or their expertise. The way I think about it is if it’s a way of saying hello to somebody, what way would you say hello? And I’m curious what your research and expertise has revealed in this arena?

Jennifer Corcoran: Yeah, no, that’s great what you said, it is like an introduction to people. And I think a lot of people confuse headline with title. And it’s a lot more than your title. So, it’s basically what you do, who you help and how you can help them. So, if you were just to put down coach or marketing consultant, you’re not going to stand out because you have to think people are going to be using the search box to find you. So, you need to cram as many keywords as you can into that headline. So, I think it’s a great idea. If you are based, if you only want to work in a specific location, whether it’s Atlanta or London, wherever. That’s one of your keywords. Because if somebody is going to be looking for a coach in Atlanta, they’re going to type in Atlanta and coach and then you’ve got a good chance of coming up. Otherwise, if you just put in your title, thousands of people are going to come up, if not millions, and you’re not going to stand out. So, it’s really yeah, who you are, who you help. Maybe you only work with, you know, small and medium companies, maybe you only work in the construction industry. I think if you can be as niche as possible, that’s great. If you’re an employee who specializes in project management or event management, definitely stick that in your headline, because they are the things that will help you stand out. And they are there another way of kind of cramming keywords into your profile and helping you come up in search.

Nikki Barua: Right. I think your point is ultimately about find your niche and make sure that that’s expressed through the headline. So, it’s not something generic, like saying,  you know, your headline simply says, project manager, which really doesn’t make you stand out. But if you said you’re, you know, a highly experienced technical project manager with 15 years of experience, in the retail industry in the United States, I mean, that’s very specific and allows someone to immediately know exactly what you stand for.

Jennifer Corcoran: Definitely. And a little hacky tip is, you can always cram in more characters on the LinkedIn app on your phone. I don’t know why, it just the desktop is limited to 120 characters, but on the app on the phone, you can cram in a lot more. So yeah, go on your app for that and try and fit in as much as you can.

Nikki Barua: That’s a great tip. And what are some ways for people to highlight their competency on their profile? I mean, one is obviously you know, imagery and the headlines, but in terms of overall looking at the overall profile and immediately knowing this is the superpower of this individual. What are some things that are necessary to do or on the flip side, if you’ve seen some bad examples that people should avoid?

Jennifer Corcoran: To be honest, I haven’t really seen that many like bad or terrible examples. I think a good way is obviously to get the recommendations, then put in the words, the skills into the endorsements section. And I think as well in your summary, you could have one whole paragraph and you could write something like specialties or competencies and literally write it in key words. So it could be, you know, competencies, project management/ event management/, you know, admin, so you could literally cram in maybe 10 or 15 different keywords in a paragraph so that when they’re reading your summary, they go okay, this is what this person is, specializes, you know, specializes in. You could also put a testimonial in the summary section even though you have the separate recommendation section, because that’s a great way to stand out and if you’ve got a really impactful testimonial from someone, which highlights your main competencies that will help you stand out when people are reading through your summary. You could also design graphics if you wanted to, you know, on something like Canva and type up your previous testimonials or recommendations and attach it to your summary section or get somebody to make you a video testimonial. And again, you could attach it to your summary.

Nikki Barua: Right. That’s a great way of adding it to even the media section and showing more content there. Yeah, that’s definitely one of the areas I see underutilized. I mean, there’s so much opportunity for sharing your story. And maybe it’s a presentation you’ve created. Maybe it’s a speech you gave or just, you know, great accolade that you received at work. You know, it’s a great place to highlight all of those things.

Jennifer Corcoran: Yeah, definitely. And it doesn’t even, you know, you can just even attach a graphic, it doesn’t have to be a big document. Maybe you were shortlisted for an award or you won an award, maybe you’re a member of an association that’s, you know, connected to what you do. And so, you could attach the logo of that membership, anything like that would help you stand out.

Nikki Barua: So, let’s talk about posting on LinkedIn. Now, you mentioned earlier on that a lot of people are nervous a little bit, about, you know, the best way to show up in the newsfeed of LinkedIn and it can be intimidating with those thousands of people that potentially are looking at what you post. And first of all, help us understand the difference between just a regular post versus let’s say an article. What’s, you know, when is there a recommended approach for when you use one versus the other?

Jennifer Corcoran: In my experience over the last year or so, articles are not as popular as they used to be, so articles are like long form content, and they’re attached to your profile. So, once you’ve shared one or published one, it’s actually attached to your profile. They are great for thought leadership and establishing yourself as an expert. But I find people are a little bit lazy these days, they don’t want to actually read too long an article. So, posts seem to be more popular because they’re kind of short and snappy and more digestible. So, they seem to be really popular at the moment. That being said, I would always advise everyone to at least do one article and attach it to your profile and make it about what you do, whether it’s your profession, your business, because people are curious, nosy, call it what you will. And if I connect with someone, I probably would, if they’ve got one article, I’ll probably have a read of that. And it will establish you as an expert and a thought leader in what you do, but I would probably focus on posts for the most part, and they are a lot easier to do. And as for, it’s hard to determine, you know, what is the best time to post because I think it’s all to do with who your target audience are and when they’re actually on LinkedIn. So, it’s a bit of trial and error. Like two years ago, I would have said to you just do it Monday to Friday, you know, nine to five, to kind of mimic work time, but I do see you know, it’s getting more popular posting at the weekend and in the evenings. So, I personally do switch off myself at the weekends because I want a life. I probably maybe the weekend if I’m scrolling, I might add a few comments on other people’s and like their posts, but I won’t push out any content on the weekend. I’ll reserve it from Monday to Friday. And I’ve noticed just personally, my audience, they don’t really engage that much with content on a Friday because they’re in the weekend mode and I find out what I would always get more traction on like a Monday or Tuesday. But I do think it’s trial and error and testing different days testing different times to find out when you’re your preferred target audience or online.

Nikki Barua: Got it.  And what about commenting on other people’s posts and, you know, ways to engage? Is it just about creating your own posts that you put out there? Or is it also really engaging with your audience or your community online?

Jennifer Corcoran: Definitely both. And I think I would even focus on 80% your audience 20% you. And when you do that, it actually makes LinkedIn a lot easier. You don’t have to stress so much over content. So, if you wanted to put out something you could put out something once a week, and then the other days, just scrolled through and like and comment on your network. And I like to call it a bit of LinkedIn love. So even if you only do 10 minutes of LinkedIn love back to your network, it will come back to you and invoke the Law of Reciprocity because by the time you start to do a post, because you’ve actually already given back to your network, they’ll start to engage on your content. Otherwise, if you’re always posting about you, it gets a bit boring. It’s like meeting a person in real life and their me me me me me, you do switch off. So, I definitely think it’s a really easy thing to do just scrolling, commenting, you know, liking and it’s, it’s networking, and it’s perfect for the current coronavirus environment, you can still network without leaving the house. It’s a nice way to engage with people.

Nikki Barua: Right, exactly. I mean, they are indicative of the times we’re living in and what networking might look like in the digital age. And speaking of which, what from your perspective is the most important skill that everyone, but especially women should develop in order to thrive and dominate in the digital age?

Jennifer Corcoran: And did I think Yeah, just probably three things you need to do online. So, the first is be social. So, it’s not called social media for no reason. I think a lot of people set up profiles, and then they get terrified and they’re never social. So, by being social, you will, actually it’s a bit ironic, you will actually stand out by being social. So, the second is being consistent. So, whether you decide to go on once a day, once a week, once a month, similar to face to face kind of networking, when you are consistent, people will start to trust you, you get the know, like and trust factor. And then the third thing, make it more about the community than you, so I would adopt the 80/20 rule. So, 80% of the time, it’s when you are posting, it’s all about inspiring, educating, motivating, giving value, really. And then the 20% is about you. So, I think when you make it about other people and giving back to your network and relationship building, it makes it easier as well because you don’t have to stress over content creation all the time. And yeah, I just find it. It’s like any kind of face to face networking, online networking, it’s all about the giving and giving back to your network. Because if you make it all about you, you’re never really going to succeed online because people will just switch off.

Nikki Barua: Those  are really wise words. Thank you for that. Well, Jennifer, this has been absolutely terrific. I mean, you’ve given us so many great tips and insights and actionable strategies for our audience to dominate on LinkedIn. I’m so grateful for your generosity. I mean, this was, you know, truly an amazing, amazing lesson for LinkedIn. And I know this is just the tip of the iceberg because with your expertise, I know folks that choose to sign up for your training or work with you to upgrade their LinkedIn presence and learn even more advanced strategies, they’re going to gain so much more. So, thank you for being on our show. I want to encourage our audience to go to the podcast episode page and to get access to your free webinar and also to connect with you directly to access your training services. So. thank you again, Jennifer.

Jennifer Corcoran: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been fun. And like I said, I am a LinkedIn nerd. So, I’m always happy to talk about LinkedIn. You have to kind of stop me after a while.

Nikki Barua: Well, great to have you on the show. Thanks so much.

Jennifer Corcoran: Thanks so much. Thank you.