I have talked at length about how important face-to-face networking is (here and here), but I haven’t talked too much about LinkedIn. This is not because I don’t find value in LinkedIn, I just happen to think face-to-face networking is more valuable in most cases. However, LinkedIn does serve a purpose, and if it is used correctly it can be one of the secrets to success. One advantage to optimizing your LinkedIn profile is LinkedIn’s new “Profile Strength”. If you reach the highest level “All-Star” (which I have achieved in case you’re wondering) you will be able to easily share your profile on social media. Here are some of the things I have learned about using LinkedIn effectively.
Linked in is a social networking site, so get networking! The biggest secret to success for using LinkedIn is to get as many connections as possible. The power of one connection in LinkedIn is exponential. Adding one connection can literally connect you to thousands of people. For reference, I currently have 85 connections which connect me to 2,053,681 people. That is a serious network for only 85 connections! Building up connections when you are a recent graduate is not always easy. We do not have the benefit of working multiple jobs to build up connections with coworkers, but it is important to build your number of connections as high as possible. When I had just recently graduated I focused on adding any fellow student that I knew, all of my professors, all of my new coworkers, and anyone I went to high school with.
There are a couple of benefits to having a lot of connections in LinkedIn. As I mentioned above, having a lot of connections will connect you to an exponential number of people (your connection’s connections). This is important because if any of those people are looking for a job candidate, you will now show up in their search. This is pretty much the essence of LinkedIn and how it is set up as a social media network. The other benefit is a lot more tangible. When you have a lot of connections you can do some actual networking with them. Whenever I apply for a job I like to search my LinkedIn connections to see if I have any who work or have worked for the company for which I am applying. I have used this method in the past to gain information about the company I am applying for, learn about an interviewer, get my connection to email a recommendation to the recruiter, and get “insider” tips about the interview process. Furthermore, some of these benefits have come from people I haven’t talked to in 10 years, so it is really important to make a connection with everyone you have had contact with in the past!
Show Some Love
Now that you have connections, another secret to success is to help your connections out. You can’t expect anyone to help you out if you are unwilling to do the same. There are a lot of ways that you can help your connections out. You can endorse them for skills, write recommendations, contact them about job opportunities, and answer any questions they may have for you. The more willing helpful you are, the more likely you will be helped in the future.
Skills to Pay the Bills
I can’t stress the importance of adding skills to your profile enough. Skills act as keywords on your profile and will allow recruiters to find you more easily. If you have marketable skills that are not on your profile you are missing out on opportunities. Sure, some skills are more beneficial than others, but the more the merrier. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for some endorsements on your skills if you aren’t getting any. If you have been showing some love to your connections they will be glad to help you out when asked.
Join Some Groups
One great tool that LinkedIn offers is the ability to join different groups. These can be alumni groups, industry groups, or special interest groups. In LinkedIn, groups function as a kind of connection. If you are connected to someone through a group, you will show up through that person in search. Groups are a great way to connect with people that you don’t already know and allow you to build your network with like-minded individuals. Additionally, groups offer a great way to engage in conversation and can keep you up to date with all of the latest happenings in your industry.
Use the News
Perhaps the most underutilized function of LinkedIn is the news feed. A lot of what you see in the news feed is garbage, but occasionally people will actually share useful articles. Commenting on articles or sharing your own will get your name out in front of more people. If you happen to be connected to any hiring managers or recruiters you definitely want to get your name out there! Also, sharing articles relevant to your industry will show recruiters that you are passionate about your field, and that you are actively engaged in learning and staying involved in the industry.
Keep Your Profile Updated
Since you are constantly growing as a person, your LinkedIn profile should be in constant motion. I recommend viewing your profile at least weekly and making changes as needed. Some of the common housekeeping items are adding new skills, seeking out new connections, keeping your job history current, and of course sharing articles on your news feed.
Add a Picture
This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are a lot of people out there with no picture. Having a nice, professional looking picture on your profile is a must in my opinion. Not only does it make your profile look more professional, I have heard many recruiters say that they won’t take the time to review a profile if the person did not take the time to provide a picture.
Follow Some Companies
Another neat feature of LinkedIn is that it allows businesses to create profiles which allow people to follow them. If there are companies you are interested in working for, give them a follow. You can learn a lot about a company from following their various social media pages. Following a company is a great way to learn about any job opportunities that they may have as well.
LinkedIn is a surprisingly robust platform. When I first started using it I definitely didn’t take advantage of all of the features. Even today I’m not sure I understand all of its intricacies. The above topics are things that I have actually implemented on my LinkedIn profile to great success.
What have you done on your LinkedIn profile to make it stand out? Have I missed any useful LinkedIn features? Let me know in the comments below.Photo Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/4everyoung/256180335/