Q: I finally gave in and joined LinkedIn. What should I do with it, and more importantly, why?
Although some social networking websites are currently battling for your attention, such as Google+ and Facebook, it’s hard to deny that LinkedIn’s professional emphasis and career-boosting capabilities give it a unique role in the social media market.
LinkedIn can bring some amazing benefits, some of which you might have never guessed. There are many stories of people forming strategic business relationships, getting new clients or even landing a full-time job through their LinkedIn profile.
Most people have realized that it’s a good idea to join LinkedIn, but since they’ve already filled out so many social media profiles before, it’s tempting to just enter the basic information and then wait to see if anything useful comes of it. LinkedIn, however, will only provide value if you take the time to do more than just add your name, email address and current job.
This article outlines a few tips to get the most out of this professional networking website.
1. Actually Complete Your Profile
and 2. Show People Who You Really Are as a Professional
First, fill out enough of your profile so it’s clear you’ve put time and thought into it and haven’t just started one simply because some colleague told you to do so.
Adding a photo is crucial for making connections on any social site, and you also want to make sure to include your current job (if you’re employed) and selected experience, alongside your specialized skills and a brief summary.
This is where it gets a little tricky. Some people, recognizing the potential for career networking, actually go too far with the descriptions of their jobs and their LinkedIn profile ends up as nothing more than a huge laundry list of random job duties.
You want to add profile information that shows LinkedIn users who you really are, while still maintaining a professional tone. Your profile isn’t the spot for rants or wild weekend pics, but it is a place where you should share your own passions and goals.
Make your headline section something compelling that will make people want to learn more, not just a string of overused buzzwords. Instead of spouting off a list of stuffy corporate accomplishments in your summary section, write a few sentences that give visitors a picture of what makes you unique as a professional. Never forget to list your work experience, but recruiters will be looking for much more than just a list of clichés.
3. Get Recommendations from people you’ve worked with
and 4. Offer to give them one first!
In line with the points above, asking for recommendations from people who’ve worked with is a great way to complement the information you post yourself. Your real-life connections can demonstrate your enthusiasm, motivation and problem-solving on the job much better than a list of bullet points could ever hope to.
Remember that these testimonials aren’t limited to co-workers at a 9-5 job, either. Depending on your field, you might request a recommendation from freelance clients, partners on a website or blog project, professors, or co-workers from a volunteer position.
In some cases, you may want to break the ice by offering to write the connection a recommendation first, and then ask if they would return the favor. Many times, your connections will never have thought about trading recommendations and your suggestion will show them you are very social media aware and interested in building real relationships on LinkedIn.
5. Join relevant groups and become active
With a static resume, you can’t do much more than tell people what you know, but with a professional networking platform such as LinkedIn, you can actually show them!
There are a variety of ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field on LinkedIn, the most useful of them being Groups.
LinkedIn describes Groups as a place to “discover, share and participate in … professional conversations happening in (your) industry and areas of interest,” and you can build valuable relationships by answering questions, sharing knowledge and even soliciting advice when appropriate.
Some are invite-only groups, where you’ll need approval from a manager, and others have public discussions. All of them, however, provide a great opportunity to form connections with others in your field as well as make your own profile more visible. You can even sign up for email updates and receive a daily or weekly digest of group discussions so you don’t have to keep manually logging in and checking.