Like Formula One, LinkedIn levels the field ... up to a point

The quality of information on the business networking site varies from person to person, as do their chances of being headhunted

Lewis Hamilton has triumphed in Shanghai, and we are now in the middle of a three-week hiatus before the Formula One family regroups in Barcelona to see if he can pull it off again.

F1, as you all know, is the highest class of single seater car racing and the “formula”refers to a set of rules with which all participants’ cars must comply.

The idea is that by getting everyone to stick to a formula, you create a level playing field – more or less – and so driver skill decides who wins.

In the same way, what I like about LinkedIn is that it has created a level and wide open playing field for anyone who, for whatever reason, wants to let others know of their skills and work experience.

Like Formula One, there is a ‘formula’ – everyone joining LinkedIn is presented with the same list of fields to fill in, meaning the look of the page will be broadly the same that created by others.

I have long believed that everyone committed to their career should spend 5 per cent of their time on their own PR. Women especially often don’t like the thought of pushing themselves forward – after all, who ever heard of the adjective “strident” being used to describe a man?

But now here comes LinkedIn where, seemingly, we are all equal. Putting yourself on it is not seen as pushy. In fact, people are puzzled if you aren’t there advertising yourself.

If you want to know why you should bother with keeping your profile updated on LinkedIn, look no further than the company’s latest financial results.

The largest share of LinkedIn’s 2013 revenues came from its talent solutions division, which is also its biggest and fastest-growing part. It is the bit that helps employers and recruiters reach so-called “passive candidates” – people who are not looking for a job, but if the right one came their way might be inclined to pay attention.

That probably describes most of us, so it helps if we all put sufficient detail on LinkedIn just in case.

This is where it becomes clear that in fact – rather like Formula One – the playing field might not be so level after all. The quality of the racing teams is heavily affected by how much money they have and how good the car is.

Similarly, the quality of the information on LinkedIn varies wildly from person to person, and therefore so do their chances of being tapped for that all important career opportunity.

So, speaking as someone whose day job involves signing off many premium subscriptions to LinkedIn, and who knows that every headhunter in town is using it, I thought I would share some insights into what you can do to give yourself the best chance of being approached for that dream job you never knew you wanted.

There are lots of articles on the internet, and LinkedIn provides many suggestions. But you can find my personal take on what works at www.ft.com/recruit and #MrsMList on Twitter. Tweet me yours.

Meanwhile, do send your career questions to mrsmoneypenny@ft.com Although I cannot answer all of them, we will publish responses to many of them online at www.ft.com/women

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