“LinkedIn? Oh, yeah. I have an account. Um, I *think* I remember my password.”
Let’s be real. This is the response many of us have given after being asked whether we’re on LinkedIn. While we may be on Facebook all day and checking Twitter like our pulses depends on it, many people under 30 aren’t using LinkedIn often, if at all.
But we should be.
Why? To start, it’s not just for those looking for a job. Anyone who is starting their own venture, beginning to brand themselves or looking for someone to collaborate with can benefit from having a presence on the world’s largest professional network.
According to the Pew Research Center, LinkedIn is where the well-educated, well-paid and well-connected professionals hang out. Networking with these pros, even if it’s just electronically, can foster leads you may not otherwise have access to.
But making those connections requires more than just signing up for an account and posting your resume. Check out these tips for getting the most out of LinkedIn:
PUT THE “PRO” IN PROFILE
Use a professional-looking image. The profile pic you use on Facebook might not be the same one you should use on LinkedIn. If you only have casual photographs with friends, you can easily make a professional-looking headshot on your smartphone.
Write a catchy headline: You have 120 characters to play with when creating a headline (which will appear on your profile right below your name). Don’t just stick your job title in there– use keywords that are relevant to your career field. Can’t think of any? Go to the websites of some of the leading companies in your industry and see what words consistently pop up. Think: What search words would you use if you were looking to hire? Then make your headline more dynamic by including those keywords.
DECK OUT YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION
If you’re a “sales manager”, don’t assume everyone knows the entire skill set your position requires. You’ve got up to 1,000 characters to tell people what your job demands, how you excel in your position and whether you’ve worked on any special projects–so make the most of it.
Further, you can upload and link to documents, videos, photos or illustrations and PDF files. Uploading these features helps break up paragraphs of text and adds eye-drawing visuals to your profile.
FOLLOW THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF CONNECTING WITH OTHERS
Just like every real-life situation or social media platform has its own etiquette, so does LinkedIn. Here are a few key do’s and don’ts to help you better connect with people on the platform:
DON’T send an invite to everyone in your contact list. Before sending invites to connect, check out the LinkedIn profiles of every person you’re thinking of connecting with. That way, you can ensure that everyone in your network is presenting themselves as professionally as you do. It doesn’t look good when a professional connection sees that you’re buddies with a user who’s profile pic is a bong, so screen accordingly.
DO personalize each connection request. LinkedIn generates the automatic invite message “Hi X, I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn” but use it at your peril. Nothing says “I want to connect with you but I really don’t care enough to take 5 seconds to write something” like sending a generic message. Keep your message short but friendly: “Hi, We worked together at X in 2009. I’d love to keep in touch and see what you’re up to these days” is sufficient.
DON’T send invites out to a bunch of people you don’t know. There are ways to get in touch with people outside your network, but if you frequently ask to connect with strangers, you could get reported and flagged by LinkedIn. (Plus, reaching out to loads of random strangers can come off as a pretty creepy move.)
DO check out your connections’ connections. Once you’ve got some people that have accepted your invite, scan the list of all the people they have in their network. There’s a good chance that they’ll have someone on their list that you know but forgot about, and want to connect with again.
DON’T JUST SIT THERE: ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE
Just like silently sitting in the corner of the room won’t help you meet people at a party, only watching other people’s activity on LinkedIn isn’t going to reap big rewards.
Check your feed every day to keep updated on your connections’ activity. Did someone get a promotion? Shoot them a quick “congratulations!” But don’t just be reactive – be proactive! Talk about more than just your recent achievements. Regularly posting things such as an article relevant to your industry or thoughts about a recent seminar you attended will keep you in your connections’ news feeds and on their minds.
Join LinkedIn Groups to find professionals with similar interests and ambitions, and contribute to the discussion. Feel free to stalk that big-wig you want to introduce yourself to, and suss out which groups he or she belongs to. Join those groups as well and voila– you’re now on their radar!
Ultimately, joining yet another site that requires post updates and creating interesting content can feel like a chore. But at this point, maintaining a LinkedIn profile is more of a necessity than a luxury in the professional world. Get on board or get left behind.
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