Two members join LinkedIn each second. Are you next?
LinkedIn, the largest professional networking website, has a couple of reasons for celebration. In May it will commemorate its 10th anniversary and just recently it reached a milestone of 200 million users worldwide. Two new members join every second. Still, some are not convinced it's right for them. "I'm working, why bother?" they say. LinkedIn provides job leads but it's also a great platform to gain exposure for your business, a useful tool for career development, marketing, sharing of ideas and polling. Have a question? Ask. An industry leader can help. Follow top thinkers in prominent fields; advertise or start a discussion. Let's face it; staying connected to business associates is sensible regardless of your current status. A recent survey by salary.com claims 77 percent of employed individuals are job searching. More often recruiters are using LinkedIn as a screening tool. Don't be left behind. Consider these few fundamentals to get on board.
Headline and profile picture
Your headline is the professional title under which you will be identified. For example: John Smith: Accountant or Bob Benson: Construction Manager. Make sure it is aligned with your goals and experience. As for your profile picture, remember that LinkedIn is not FaceBook, it's a different venue; think professional presence. A stodgy or stiff photo is not necessary and yes, you can be creative but know what's appropriate for your industry. Some are reluctant to post a photo. A profile with no photo is less successful with contacts and recruiters.
Provide a brief summation of your focus, goals and accomplishments. Avoid being too wordy but do give the reader a sense of who you are. What makes you unique? The "voice" in your summary should be a sincere representation of your professional style. List your work experience as it relates to your headline beginning with your most recent job. A complete resume can be downloaded so there's no need for duplication. List your education as you would on your resume. You can include courses, specialized classes, certificates, projects and publications. No need to worry about formatting. LinkedIn does it for you.
Establishing connections is the cornerstone of LinkedIn. Be patient, it may take time. LinkedIn will provide suggestions under the "people you may know" section or you can use the search feature. Connecting with people in your particular field keeps your network targeted to your goals. Send an invitation when you want to connect, a personal note is preferred over the system-generated one. Once connections begin you are exposed to their connections, which grows your network exponentially.
Groups are a great way to meet and interact with people with similar backgrounds and interests. Some of them may become new contacts. LinkedIn will suggest them for you by using information you've provided. Do become an active participant once you've joined. Are you interested in a particular company? Follow it. You can search for companies and click "follow company" to receive company news, job postings and updates related to the company of interest.
Recommending or endorsing those who have provided a valued service or displayed skills and work ethic is a great way to say thanks. Endorsements credit one for having specific skills and require only a simple click on the endorsee's profile page. A recommendation is a short statement about the person's work, as you know it. The recommendations and endorsements you receive from others will enhance your profile page since they provide a testimony of your work. It's okay to ask for a recommendation if you feel comfortable doing so. If you give a recommendation, you may get one in return. I would not suggest however, doing so for that purpose. Always be sincere.
If you want to meet someone, a hiring manager for example, you can ask to be introduced through a first line connection. LinkedIn's basic membership is at no cost but you can upgrade to a premium account for a monthly fee. Premium accounts provide advanced features including emails, referred to by LinkedIn as InMails. InMails allow you to contact others through the LinkedIn network even though you're not connected to them.
It's important to review your privacy settings. Control access to your public online profile by tailoring your personal preference.
Take some time to get to know the website. If you are not comfortable setting up your profile in one sitting click on "finish later" feature and return when it's convenient.
- Gloria Sinibaldi is a career professional who has worked in the employment field for more than 20 years. She is a trainer coach and job developer. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.