Today, it might feel like transition has slowed down. You may have approached your separation with excitement and enthusiasm, but suddenly find that the civilian sector stopped abruptly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interviews aren’t scheduled as quickly, offers aren’t made as quickly, and you have time on your hands. Now is a great time to write LinkedIn recommendations for people in your network, and to ask for some from your close contacts.
Recommendations on LinkedIn carry weight and influence. They are written by someone with a LinkedIn profile (so the viewer can check out the author’s credentials) and, if done correctly, recommendations can speak to your value, skills and experience in ways you can’t.
When you write your LinkedIn profile, you know you must promote your accomplishments. This is not the time to be obscure and subtle when highlighting your value. If you’ve done great things and are capable of creating tremendous value for your employer, you can share that on LinkedIn. You’ll list your job experiences, point to the results of your actions, and share the many ways you serve your communities through volunteerism.
But how do you say what a great person you are? How do you let potential employers know that you’re someone who’s overcome obstacles in life? Either would be difficult to say about yourself. This is where recommendations come in. A focused and well-crafted recommendation can say things about you that would be awkward to say about yourself.
How to Write a Recommendation
When writing a recommendation for someone else, start by asking whether there are any topics, qualities or skills they would like you to highlight. Hopefully, they have a personal brand strategy with specific keywords they are promoting on their profile. Use those.
Make sure you speak only about what you know. Don’t feel you have to stretch beyond your knowledge and comfort. For instance, if you’re asked to write a recommendation that points to skills you haven’t witnessed or claims to have experienced their character in ways you haven’t, you open yourself up to risk that could harm your credibility. When in doubt, leave it out.
Note the value of your recommendation to them and their future success. For instance, I am in the branding and marketing business. If I write a recommendation for a graphic designer, it would carry a lot of weight, since I’m an expert in the field. That carries a lot of responsibility for me to be sure I’m careful about who I recommend publicly.
Similarly, say you were to write a recommendation for a soldier you served with, one who is transitioning to a career in graphic arts. You know them to be resilient, focused and patient because of the context from the Army. Are you qualified to speak about their creativity, imagination and computer skills unless you have experienced those as well?
How to Ask for a Recommendation
Asking for a recommendation on LinkedIn can feel like asking someone to tell others that you’re nice/cool/fun/worthy. But LinkedIn recommendations are not popularity gestures, they are strategic brand builders.
Ask for a recommendation from someone you trust, who’s seen your work or experienced your value. Then, offer to assist them in crafting the recommendation. You might suggest the keywords they could include that are most meaningful to you or the area of focus you are striving for.
Do you want the recommendation to speak to your past (what you did in the military) or what they believe you’ll contribute in the future? Do you seek a recommendation that speaks to your character and integrity or one that highlights your unique skills and talents? When you drive the formation of the recommendation, you are controlling the narrative around how you’ll be presented.
When time permits, LinkedIn recommendations are great to give and get. Be sure to periodically reorder them on your profile so the most relevant ones are on top, not just the most recent. This means you are being strategic about how your LinkedIn profile communicates your value.