If you haven’t made a LinkedIn account then it’s time to update and join the professional networking scene…and now would be a good time. It’s free to join and easy to set up your professional profile, which will generate your own unique web address for sharing purposes. You don’t need to lose your Facebook or Twitter accounts, as those applications are great for keeping in touch with your social network but do not provide the best format for building a professional network. Honestly, most of your colleagues or future employers do not care about your petty drama (e.g., the fight you had with your significant other last night over the TV remote) or personal life (e.g., your kid is learning how to get potty trained). What they do want to see are your qualifications, skill sets, work experience, and your ability to professionally network in your chosen field, which can be effectively displayed with a well-designed LinkedIn profile.
How to effectively use LinkedIn?
Of course, if you already have a LinkedIn account then you are staring at this post and mumbling, “stop wasting my time.” From pure observation, I have noticed that many people are not using LinkedIn to their full advantage. Here are some tips that have been useful for me:
1. Display your full resume/curriculum vitae.
I have noticed that many people list a couple of job titles and an educational degree but that’s it for detail. Instead, I would suggest using your LinkedIn account as an online resume/curriculum vitae (CV). When editing your profile, take advantage of the recommendations provided by LinkedIn to “Improve your profile” and “Add sections”. As I make edits to my paper CV, I leave the file open and paste updated information into the appropriate sections of my LinkedIn profile. (On a side note, some people suggest turning off your “activity broadcast” if you don’t want others knowing that you are making changes to your CV and maybe looking for a job.)
2. Advertise your LinkedIn web address.
I use my LinkedIn profile as an online CV so I have set my settings to a public profile. (To change, go to “Settings” > “Edit my public profile” > “Make my public profile visible to everyone”) Instead of carrying around bulky copies of my CV, I have created a business card that includes my LinkedIn URL. I also include the URL in my email signature and at the top of my paper CV. In addition, you can “create a profile badge” from the “Edit my public profile” screen.
3. Join LinkedIn groups such as professional organizations.
LinkedIn is a perfect opportunity to meet people that you normally would not encounter on a daily basis. If you belong to any professional organizations then join the LinkedIn group and participate in discussions. You can also join alumni groups and “follow” companies in which you are interested.
4. Connect, connect, and connect.
Professional networking is all about making connections. You can start by sending connect requests to your co-workers and then view their connections to find more people you know. As you meet people through other means (i.e. informational interviews, conferences, etc.) then add them to your professional network. Also, most people that you meet or with whom you participate in group discussions will likely want to “connect” but consider adding an explanation of why you want to connect instead of just sending a blank connect request.
5. See how you are connected to others.
One of the best features of LinkedIn is being able to see how your connections are connected to people with whom you want to speak. For example, if I wanted to connect with someone at a specific company then I can do an “advanced people search” with inputs of the company name and check “2nd connections” under “relationship” field. Next, I could find a common connection and ask that person if they can introduce me to the new person.
This job search engine has a great application built-in, whereas you can access your LinkedIn account to see how you may be connected to potential employers.
7. Recommend and endorse.
Two features allow you to dress up the profile of your connections by writing a short letter of recommendation or endorsing the skills listed on their profile. Many people suggest being proactive and recommending/endorsing your connections first, and in turn, they might return the favor. However, I would be sure to be conservative with this feature and only promote others for which you can truly vouch for their skills!
Note: LinkedIn is the current fad in professional networking, which may not hold true for all fields and geographical areas so make sure to stay on top of the latest trends and adopt new technology as it becomes available.