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By Basia Hellwig
New features on LinkedIn help build your visibility—and opportunities.
As the more business-y social media platform, LinkedIn has flown under the radar for many dancers. But the career-oriented service has a lot to offer performing artists, especially now that it lets members include images and link to video. “Whether you’re a dancer or a choreographer, promoting yourself on multiple platforms is important,” says career coach and LinkedIn expert Donna Sweidan. “Your network is your career insurance.”
Visibility is one reason dancer Taylor Gordon, currently performing in Angelina Ballerina: The Musical, has kept an up-to-date LinkedIn profile since 2010. As a freelancer, Gordon likes that the profile template leaves plenty of space for details about her various jobs. “When you hand in a printed resumé at an audition, it often feels like that’s not enough to share with the person behind the table,” she says. “If they can find you on LinkedIn, then they have a frame of reference.”
With LinkedIn, think career rather than gig. “Other sites are far better for audition listings,” says Gordon, “but LinkedIn is a good place to get your name out.” She has connected with people who may not have a specific opportunity for her now, but want to keep in touch for future possibilities. “I recently had a modeling agency in L.A. message me on LinkedIn after seeing my new profile photo,” she says.
Initial setup of your profile will take just a couple of hours. To make the most of the service, try these tips.
1. Really fill out your profile.
“The more complete it is, the more likely other LinkedIn members will find you, and the more visible you’ll be,” says Crystal Braswell, corporate communications manager at LinkedIn. For instance, adding a photo makes your profile 11 times more likely to be viewed by others.
The headline (title under your name) should be clear and concise. Include keywords to improve your chances of coming up in a search—choreographer, tap, contemporary ballet, for instance. The summary then gives you up to 2,000 characters to tell your professional story. As a dancer, you’ll want to add images and video links (see sidebar). “This is your brand: who you are, your achievements, where you want to go, who you aspire to be,” says Braswell. “Take the time to tell a compelling story.” Again, make sure to include keywords.
(Note: Before you start tinkering, go into the privacy settings and uncheck “activity broadcasts” so that your connections won’t get a stream of notifications as you update your profile. Once you’re done, turn “broadcast” on so that future updates—like a juicy new role you’ve nabbed—go out to your network.)
Don’t settle for the default settings LinkedIn offers. For instance, create a custom URL for your LinkedIn profile (look just under your photo in “edit” mode). “It becomes a personal branding tool you can use on a cover letter, e‑mail signature or business card,” says Sweidan. When you invite someone to connect, change the canned “I’d like to add you to my professional network” to a more memorable message, so it sounds like a human being reaching out to them personally, rather than an automated networking robot.
LinkedIn gives you access to the larger dance community. Join groups where you can share your know-how. “Converse and contribute,” says Sweidan. Dance Industry Professionals Worldwide, for instance, has about 18,000 members in its LinkedIn group, with 67 discussions in just one month, according to Braswell. Make sure you join your college dance program or conservatory alumni groups.
And don’t forget to share your own news from time to time in your status update (see sidebar). It’s a great way to stay on people’s radar, and be an active voice in your dance community.
Last May, LinkedIn added features that allow dancers to transform an online resumé into a portfolio and showcase for their work. In the Summary, Education and Experience sections, you now can upload images, adding titles and descriptive captions, to bring your dance credits alive. You can add video, but only as links. (Videos must be hosted on another site, such as YouTube, or your own website.) “I’m putting together an audition reel and as soon as it’s done, I’ll definitely be linking it to my page,” says freelance dancer Taylor Gordon.
With the right focus, status updates can build your professional image and keep your name out there so you stay on people’s radar. You might share news of an exciting project a choreographer friend just got, or a link to a useful health article for your fellow dancers. “It shouldn’t be me, me, me,” emphasizes Donna Sweidan, but by all means, share your own good news and career moves. “When I sign a new contract, I update my profile, which goes out to my network,” says Taylor Gordon, “and if I have a particularly good performance, I’ll do a status update.” It’s possible to sync Twitter and LinkedIn, but Gordon cautions: “That’s fine if you’re tweeting about dance. But LinkedIn connections don’t necessarily need to know your #throwbackthursday stuff.”
All photos Thinkstock