Your career path might or might not focus on gaining a senior management/executive position. If it does, you need to resolve the question of whether you use a resume or a LinkedIn profile to advance your career. Even if you don’t aspire to the most senior-level ranks in your profession, you still need to answer this question. There’s no escaping it.
However, it’s actually a trick question! The fact is, a resume and a LinkedIn profile should both play a prominent role in your ongoing career management if you want to maximize your odds for success.
I have three key questions for you to consider:
- Why do I need both a resume and a LinkedIn profile?
- What can a resume do for me that a LinkedIn profile can’t do (or do as well)?
- What can and should a LinkedIn profile do for me that a resume can’t?
Why do I need both a resume and a LinkedIn profile?
When you want to build a piece of furniture, you’ll probably need multiple tools: a saw, a hammer, a screwdriver, and maybe other items. You don’t try to achieve the finished product with only one tool.
The same holds true for your job search and career management plans. One “tool” is almost certainly going to be inadequate to give your efforts the maximum boost and long-term effectiveness. You’ll use a resume for some tasks and the LinkedIn profile for others. Yes, there might occasionally be some overlap, but both items have some distinct advantages.
What can a resume do for me that a LinkedIn profile can’t do (or do as well)?
You most likely wouldn’t submit a copy of your LinkedIn profile with your cover letter to apply for a targeted position. That’s one role your resume can and should fill better.
Another example: You might decide to attend a live networking event—either one specifically designed for networking or simply one where networking is a possibility—and a copy of your resume should accompany you in most cases. It might be an abbreviated (i.e., one-page) version of your full resume, otherwise known as a networking resume, but it serves as reinforcement when used appropriately. (Of course, you don’t just go around the room handing out your resume indiscriminately!)
In fact, any time you want to provide someone with brief information about your professional background, a resume is in most cases the primary tool—often given along with your business card.
What can and should a LinkedIn profile do for me that a resume can’t?
For starters, your LinkedIn profile can work for you 24×7. It never sleeps! If an employer three hours ahead of you sees your profile on a computer, he/she can follow up on that and reach out to you at an appropriate time.
The profile also allows more room to communicate valuable information, because it’s not as constrained by space considerations as a resume is. Usually, you’ll try to limit your resume to two pages, and the opening profile needs to be fairly concise. On the other hand, your LinkedIn profile Summary (a critical section, by the way) allows up to 2,000 characters and spaces, which is a lot!
Your profile can also provide the kind of information that makes you “come alive” on the screen as a real person, with enthusiasm, dedication, unique abilities and interests. That’s tough to do in a resume.
So clearly you need both a resume and a LinkedIn profile—and they need to work well together to position you for ongoing career success.
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