Somewhere along the line, whether from a friend or coworker you have probably heard of or received an “invite” to a website called LinkedIn. Maybe you have even created an account because it seemed like a good idea. However, beyond the idea that it “helps with networking”, very few people understand how to or use LinkedIn to the full potential that it was intended. So whether you are a current or future user, in this article I hope to present some guidelines and recommendations on how to use LinkedIn professionally and effectively.
First and foremost, LinkedIn is designed to be a professional networking tool. The key word here is professional. This means that LinkedIn should not be a repeat of everyone you know on Facebook, but rather a collection of peers and organizations in your profession. Your LinkedIn network may contain some repeats from your other social networks or very close relationships, but overall you want to add people who are professionals working in your career field or a closely related one. Creating a professional network like this allows you to develop relationships with individuals at other organizations in your field, it can increase your awareness of other organizations or individuals in your field, and sometimes good networking on LinkedIn can even result in job offers.
As a final note, if you request to add someone to your network you don’t already know, be sure to write a personalized invite.
When it comes to building your profile on LinkedIn, you are essentially building an online resume. So make sure to include pertinent work history, volunteer experience, and of course your skills. This is where some of the cool benefits of LinkedIn come into play over a traditional resume.
First, you get to choose a profile picture; choose something that leaves a good first impression. Another cool feature is that you can link your current and past employers to their organization page, which lets others learn about the organizations without taking up space on your profile.
Another cool feature, under the skills section, is that people can “endorse” your skills and write positive testimonials about your ability. One of the biggest benefits of LinkedIn working as your resume, is that it is a living document. Anytime you want to improve a description or update a section, the changes are instantaneous. So even if you built your profile hastily in the past, you can always update it and anytime someone else views it, they will see the most recent version.
A final thing a user might notice about LinkedIn is that there is an option for a free or paid profile. For 99% of people, I would recommend sticking with the free account. The premium account has some additional job searching features, but it is largely unnecessary.