Dear Life Matters,
I am new to LinkedIn and trying to figure out an effective way to use the site. I have started by completing my online profile and have added a number of connections to begin expanding my network. I am constantly hearing about how LinkedIn can be an effective business networking tool, yet I am unsure what I should do to really maximize my use of the site. Are there some basic tips that you can provide to get me started on this?
LinkedIn can be an amazing business tool when properly leveraged. While I too am constantly learning about new features and ways to use the system, I am happy to share a few tricks to get you started. With over 200 million members worldwide, LinkedIn provides access to those you might not otherwise know are within your network. As you might know, LinkedIn can be used for a variety of things including: establishing and maintaining your professional profile online, staying in touch with colleagues and friends, finding experts and ideas related to your industry or business and to explore new business ventures or career opportunities.
• Control and present your professional brand: When considering your online presence, you must think carefully about the message that you want to share with the world. Take time to consider what you want to highlight, the angle you want to take in selling your experiences, and the keywords that will truly showcase your talents. One of the best techniques to develop a really strong online profile is to review the profiles of other professionals within your field. Spend time looking at others within your current organization, competitor firms and those in positions of power. While you do not want to copy or duplicate another member’s profile, take notes about things that stand out to you and find ways to develop your own language to sell your skills and expertise. LinkedIn is one of the best no-cost ways to enhance your online image, as your LinkedIn profile generally appears as one of the first five results in a Google search of your name. (Go on, try it).
• Stay connected to your current network: LinkedIn can be a great tool for re-connecting with former colleagues, classmates and other business professionals. When you find someone you’d like to connect with click the “Connect” button and write a personal invitation. While LinkedIn provides you with default text to get started, take a few moments to make your invitation personal by including something specific about your interest in connecting. Just like any other form of relationship building, it is important that you maintain your network by staying in touch and recognizing that networking truly is a two-way street. Consider connecting your contacts with one another when there is a natural link. When you read an article that you think might be of interest to a contact, send a note through LinkedIn referring them to the article. Finding natural ways to stay in touch can be an easy way to maintain what you’ve taken time to build.
• Uncover information on companies: LinkedIn also features a “Company” tab which can be useful to gather information about organizations you might consider working with or working for. Consider reviewing recent updates for ideas on where the company is heading and hot topics for the industry. Reviewing a list of current employees can be a great way to find out more about the types of positions the company recruits for and the types of advancement opportunities that may exist within the firm. Taking a look at the profile and background of current employees might also give you information about the types of skills, experience and education the firm looks for in new recruits. New job notifications on a specific member’s profile might indicate that a new opening is coming within the firm.
• Keep on top of professional and industry trends: LinkedIn groups are informal communities formed around industries, professions, themes and specific topics. By joining groups you can work to enhance your personal and professional brand while increasing communication with industry professionals. Perhaps one of the best ways to leverage the groups on LinkedIn is to use this as a platform to find answers to questions and share resources with colleagues. What’s great about LinkedIn is that any user can create a group; so if you do not find a group that specifically targets your industry, region or area of interest, you can easily create one!
KATRINA DAVY, M.A., Ed.M. is a Santa Monica-based professional career counselor who holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities. Visit her online at www.kdcareer.com. Send your questions to email@example.com. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!