There are lots social networks out there, some of which are worth your time and some of which probably aren’t. There are social networks mostly dedicated to friends/entertainment, and then there is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a social network which puts the emphasis on making and maintaining professional connections as opposed to social friends.
I’ve neglected my LinkedIn profile since I joined and have just been using it as a glorified RSS in that time, so I went ahead recently and added and updated some information.
Whether you are in the same boat as I was or even if you’re still not on LinkedIn yet, consider this post on how to use LinkedIn to get started and how to use LinkedIn effectively.
Before we go any further let’s address the obvious question of why should you care about LinkedIn? At this point in time, there are over 100 million registered users on LinkedIn and it continues to grow at a rate of roughly 1 new sign up every SECOND. According to Alexa, LinkedIn is also currently the #13 ranked website IN THE WORLD.
When you create your profile, you’re essentially creating your online resume which more and more professionals are using every day to learn things about you. It’s a great way to build connections, grow your brand which can be your company if you have on, your website if you have one, or even you yourself. You can use it to find clients or potential employees if you’re a business owner, or conversely it’s a great way to find a job if you’re a job seeker.
Unlike Career Builder or similar job search sites, you can establish your own space on LinkedIn, make professional connections with other users, join groups which may or may not be related to your career aspirations, and much more.
If for nothing else, you should use LinkedIn because you can use it to control what information comes up when someone searches for you in the major search engines as search engines continue to turn to LinkedIn for this information at an increased rate.
How To Use LinkedIn
First off, sign up and start filling out your profile in full.
Your goal should be to get your profile up to 100% completion which isn’t nearly as involved or taxing as that sounds. The reason you want this full completion is because profiles which are 100% complete will appear in the search engines above those which are not. Work to getting your profile up to 100% complete. 7 things to do:
- Current position listed on profile
- Have 2 past positions listed
- Education listed
- Something written in summary
- Have a photo
- Add specialties
- Display 3 recommendations.
I have everything but the recommendations and because I don’t have any connections (the LinkedIn equivalent to friends on Facebook) it’s difficult to get recommendations. SO, how do we get connections?
First you might think about importing your contacts. You can enter your email address (assuming it’s with one of the major providers) and password and LinkedIn can see if any of your contacts are currently members, as well, which makes for a fast connection.
A better way to get more targeted and relevant connections to your industry is to join some groups. Go to the groups tab and search based on keywords which are relevant to your industry, find a group which looks interesting, join it, engage in a bit of conversation and make a name for yourself (just like EVERYWHERE else online). Before long people will recognize you as a regular and you can make connections with them.
It’s also worth it to fill out your profile in full which includes your work history because you can easily search for employees from your current or previous companies which you work(ed) for who are on LinkedIn and they make for great connections.
You can do the same thing with former classmates of your Alma mater. Once you find someone know, send them an invitation and from there you can forge a first degree connection on LinkedIn. There are first degree, second degree, and third degree connections. First degree means that you’ve sent an invitation to that person or they’ve sent one to you and accepted. Second degree are connections of your first degree connections, and third degree goes one level further than that.
The level of connection appears in search results so it’s a neat way of seeing who knows who and specifically who knows who whom you know, so it’s an easier way to make that a first degree connection via invite.
Once you’ve made some connections, you can ask them to write recommendations for you for your profile. After they write it and submit it to you, it’s up to you as to whether or not you want to both accept it and or put it on your profile.
Not only do you want at least 3 recommendations to get your profile to 100%, but they help you build your brand, your network, and get hired. Just like a recommendation letter would do, this is someone vouching for your experience or reputation, and they should ideally come from someone in your field. Former employers, business partners, former coworkers are all people to get recommendations from.
You can blast out messages to your entire or part of your connections list asking for a recommendation, though I recommend that you go on a one by one basis so that you can tailor each message to that person.
Just like Twitter where if you follow someone first they’ll follow you back, submitting recommendations for other people increases the chances that they’ll write one for you.
Both having recommendations and including past positions significantly increases the chances a job recruiter will look at your profile and contact you. For example, people with recommendations are THREE times more likely to be contacted.
Make sure you spend a lot of time creating the perfect headline for your profile, as well, as this appears alongside your picture and name in the search results and can very easily make or break the chances of someone clicking through to check out your profile.
You can choose whether or not you want a public profile to display when people search for you in search engines. You can specifically pick and choose the information which you want to show in public search such as your picture, headline, etc., so it’s up to you as to what people know about you when they search for you.
You can also choose which groups which you are a part of are displayed on your profile, so if you are part of a group but maybe don’t want it seen by everyone, you can choose that.
You can also choose your contact preferences, meaning which opportunities should people contact you about. The choices are careers, consulting offers, new ventures, job inquires, expertise requests, business deals, personal reference requests, requests to reconnect.
You can also give advice to users considering contacting you in terms of how they should do it or what they should keep in mind.
Turn on/off activity broadcasts is just that: If you don’t want people to see changes you make in your LinkedIn status, this is what you toggle. In the same vein you can select who can see your activity feed.
LinkedIn Pro Versus Free Version
LinkedIn is completely free though they do have a pro version which gives you a lot more features such as the pro account shows what keywords bring up your profile, what industry these people are in when they viewed your profile, and where they are located geographically. You can also see everyone who has ever checked out your profile whereas the free version just shows you the 5 most recent. Generally if you’re just starting out, the free version is all you need.
Introductions Vs. Inmails Vs. Invitations
What’s the difference between introductions and inmails and invitations you ask?
Introduction – Introductions are for users are who second or third degree connections. You don’t know them personally like a first degree connection, but you want to make them a first degree connection. You can use an introduction (which is free to all users) to request your first degree connection whom you have in common to introduce and connect the two of you.
Inmail – These are both for reaching out to people whom you don’t know, marketing your company/brand/name. You get 5 as a basic member and more as a premium member. This is like cold calling someone but through LinkedIn as the message goes directly to them.
Invitations – Invitations can be sent to people in your networks whether that be work colleagues, former classmates, or if you know their email address.
Check out this video for more information on how to use LinkedIn: