Making LinkedIn Work for You

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

With over 300 million users (100 million in the United States) and an average of 190 connections per user, LinkedIn is easily the most powerful networking tool around today. 

As we mentioned in our first post about LinkedIn, the network can tell you who you know who “knows someone.” There aren't many better tools for networking, keeping up-to-date with your industry, and following business thought leaders. If you aren’t already on LinkedIn, you should absolutely create a profile and start using it.

Whether you've been on LinkedIn for years, or just for a few weeks, here are some tips for getting the most out of the network:

Complete your profile: Incomplete profiles show a lack of effort, a lack of commitment, and a lack of follow-through, or some combination of the three. That's not how you want a potential employer/client or a business colleague to think of you. Note that completing your profile includes adding a professional quality photo.

Spend time on your headline: Your headline, a 120 character description that can stand in for your default job title and company, provides you with the opportunity to sell your personal brand in an easy-to-view location. You have to compress your personal brand to let viewers know what to expect from interacting with you. It's hard to cut your story down to its essence, but the hard work will pay off. 

Be personable without being personal: Your tone should allow people to get to know you–the “professional you.” When you have a professional lunch with someone you've just met, you probably don't spout canned cliches and business jargon. Revisit your summary and skill sets. Make sure that it sounds like there's a real person under there, one that someone might like to actually meet.

Join groups: Groups let you have the chance to connect with professionals in your field you might not meet otherwise. And, they let you demonstrate your knowledge and areas of expertise while helping out your peers. 

Use the professional gallery: Your work isn't just who you are; it's also what you do. LinkedIn offers you tools to let you show your professional skills. If you're in marketing, upload images, scripts, or drafts of projects. If you're in sales, put together sample pitches you've given. Almost anyone can take advantage of the gallery. Remember, though: don't share confidential client or corporate information. It's acceptable to simply post samples or reports with redacted information. 

Actively manage your profile: Spend at least 15 minutes per week re-reading and brushing up your profile. You'll find ways to continually improve. Your actual skills and experience are constantly growing, and so should your profile. With that, don't be afraid to trim older, irrelevant experiences as well. 

Be a good networker: Remember, networking isn't just about what others can do for you. When you get a LinkedIn invitation, respond. If it's not someone you're comfortable connecting with, let them know and explain why. If someone you know well asks for a recommendation, write at least a few lines. LinkedIn also lets you endorse people's skills just by clicking a button. When you have that chance, do it. The best way to get recommended is being willing to provide recommendations for others. 

A network has to be cultivated like a garden if you want it to produce results. LinkedIn makes it easier than ever to connect, but it's also raised expectations.

The tips listed above will help you raise your game, but it's up to you to keep working. Keeping your profile clean and updated, responding to your network, and participating in communities can help job-seekers find great new positions, MBA-seekers and students read up on valuable resources and career advice, and professionals make connections and build a network with the potential for tangible business value. It is work, but it's worth it in the long run.  

Looking for a place to start? Follow the Midland MBA program on LinkedIn for relevant news, blogs, and other useful business-related information.

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photo credit: nan palmero via photopin cc

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