Editor’s note: David Ballman shares how to use LinkedIn as a job seeker or professional who is blind or low vision. The following has been updated as of June 2023.
Getting LinkedIn as a Person Who Is Blind or Low Vision
In today’s environment, searching for and applying for a job are typically accomplished online. Although individuals who are blind or have low vision are still too often faced with website or application inaccessibility issues, the electronic world makes more information available. The electronic world also makes our information more available to employers! It’s important to remember that employers do a web search to check out the online footprint of potential employees. Therefore, you likely won’t want to put information on the internet that can harm your career, and you likely will want to create a positive professional image. One way to create such an image is by setting up a LinkedIn account, creating a profile, and becoming an active LinkedIn user.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a professional networking tool claiming to be the largest professional network in the world, over 830 million strong. It comprises a website and several iOS, Android, and Windows apps. I have used the website and the iOS LinkedIn. For the several years I have been using LinkedIn, change has been minimal. Accessibility is fairly good, except for some of the more advanced features. There is a premium version of LinkedIn which you pay for, although I’ve always used the free version. You can do a lot with the free version; fortunately, it remains fairly free of advertisements. However, LinkedIn users promote their businesses, which I believe is a legitimate use.
Creating a Profile
Setting up a LinkedIn account is fairly straightforward. It involves typing general information such as name and email address and creating a password. Once you have created your account, you can develop your profile. You can upload a photo, which I would recommend; display one where you are dressed professionally. LinkedIn is like an online version of your current resume, although it is much more interactive. You can type your information into edit boxes or upload a resume.
If uploading your resume, it is important to check for formatting errors that may have occurred during the uploading process. This may include spacing, font, and punctuation errors. You want to ensure the uploaded version visually appeals to someone viewing your resume on a computer screen. I recommend rechecking spelling and grammar. I see countless misspellings that JAWS often picks up by mispronunciation, even in people’s job titles. If you are the editor of a publication and have a misspelling in your title, it doesn’t send a very good message about your editing ability. This is a true example that I have seen. There is a way for others viewing your profile to suggest changes.
Like with any resume, you want to be descriptive yet concise. There is a section titled Headline, where you sum up your goals or accomplishments. If you are a recent high school graduate looking for work, you could say something like, “Recently graduated from high school with honors, eager to contribute my hard work to a job in the computer programming field.” For those with work history, list your past and/or current employers, job titles, and job duties or responsibilities. There are also sections highlighting Courses, Test Scores, Publications, Projects, Volunteer Experiences, Certifications, and Honors and Awards. The more detail you add, the better the tool will reveal your strengths, abilities, and accomplishments to a potential employer.
This is the section where you link to others. As with Facebook “friends,” once you connect to a person with LinkedIn, you will then be each other’s contacts, and you will receive their updates, and they will receive your updates. My recommendations for contacts include classmates, as well as past and present coworkers and other professionals whom you would like to follow. Generally, I only accept requests to connect with people whom I’ve met or at least who I know of. An exception would be somebody that I know by name. Often when I attend a professional conference, I will connect with a presenter I heard and like to stay connected with professionally. You can also follow specific businesses or organizations, groups, or individuals sharing things like blogs or conference updates. LinkedIn will generally notify you when one of your contacts changes jobs, receives a promotion, or has a work anniversary or birthday. Your contacts can also endorse you for various skills or accomplishments, showing others that the person who endorsed you feels competent in a certain area. For example, if you are very talented at developing brochures, and you have that listed as one of your skills, others who know of your quality work can choose to endorse you, affirming your skills. Others can also make recommendations for you.
Joining a group is a way to follow the special interests of like-minded professionals. I follow Campaigns for Disability Employment, Disability Student Service Professionals, Special Education Law, Job Opportunities for Individuals and Veterans with Disabilities, Blind and Visually Impaired Professionals, and Running Lovers. You can follow groups that correlate to your job field: Digital Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Tax Planning Professionals, Personal Trainers Network, etc. Once you join a group, you can choose how you would like to receive updates from that group, including daily or weekly by email or not receiving any notifications at all.
What LinkedIn Is Not
LinkedIn is not a forum where you post things such as “I ate too much for lunch, and now it’s nap time” or “I can’t wait for Friday to go to happy hour with the fellas.” On a side note, I recommend never posting anything negative about your job on social media. You never know who such posts may be shared with or who your next employer will be.
People post very infrequently on LinkedIn; posts are more like a notification of an upcoming conference that your organization is sponsoring or sharing an article of interest to someone in your field or employment. Posts should always be relevant to your career or career interests. Remember, the purpose is to connect with potential employers or like-minded colleagues.
LinkedIn does not eliminate the need for networking in person. Your best chance of getting hired is still through somebody who knows you and believes in your abilities. Networking virtually through LinkedIn may increase your ability to personally network at conferences and professional gatherings.
In summary, LinkedIn is a great tool to help you get hired, develop your professional network, and stay updated on current happenings in your career. It can help you keep track of your colleague’s job changes and promotions and learn about workforce trends and legislation changes. Get LinkedIn to see what’s happening in the amazing world of work!
Want to learn more about how to get the best out of LinkedIn?
Below is a webinar with NRTC and NSITE discussing how people with vision loss can increase employment opportunities by linking up with LinkedIn.
Click here for a PDF step-by-step.
Click here for a video presentation on how to make the most out of LinkedIn.