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How to use LinkedIn for Career Development

By Miriam Salpeter

Job seekers and professionals who care about their career trajectories should create and maintain a presence on LinkedIn. Why? It’s a valuable, professional network for job seekers. In fact, a recent Jobvite survey shows LinkedIn is involved in 73% of all hires influenced by social media. However, LinkedIn isn’t only a place for job seekers to maintain a presence. The network also provides tools to help anyone who wants to meet new people and expand her professional network, demonstrate expertise, and be found—all useful aspects of social media for all careerists.

Best Practices for Job Seekers

Your profile. It is much more likely for someone to find you via LinkedIn when you completely fill out your profile. Include a detailed summary. You have two choices when creating a summary: write it in the first person (using “I, me, and my”) or describe yourself as if a third party wrote it (using your name and “he” or “she” to describe yourself.) While I have a preference for the first person, the most important thing in your summary is to tell a story; don’t just list your qualifications; use LinkedIn to display a little personality and to inspire the reader to want to learn more about you. While you are at it, include a professional photo showing your face only.

Fill in all of your job titles and descriptions. Include words other people will use when they want to find someone like you. Use descriptive titles for your job descriptions. For example, if your title was “vice president,” add in a more descriptive detail in the title headline, such as, “Vice President, Sales and Marketing/Pharmaceuticals.”

If you are a student, incorporate LinkedIn’s sections targeted specifically for you: Projects, Honors & Awards, Organizations, Test Scores, and Courses. Go to your LinkedIn profile page in edit mode, and click the blue “Add sections” bar under your profile summary to add these sections. Explore “Applications” when you are editing your profile. You may wish to add Slideshare, your blog feed, your reading list, or Events to your profile.

Your URL. This is important for everyone, but for job seekers who may wish to share their LinkedIn URLs via resumes or business cards, it is even more pressing. If you do not customize your URL, it has a bunch of random numbers after your name. It’s very easy to update this URL to a “vanity” link. Simply click on “Edit” at the end of the line showing your Public Profile.

Ask for recommendations. You need at least three recommendations for a complete LinkedIn profile. It is not necessary to have 35 references; some people think it is suspicious to have so many. Consider having a few references for each of your jobs, and maybe an extra one or two for your more recent positions. Be sure to give your endorsers some guidance and suggestions of topics to cover when you request recommendations.

Follow companies. When you follow companies (from the Companies tab), LinkedIn can be a great resource for learning when the company is hiring, and when people change jobs. LinkedIn actually suggests company profiles that may interest you; in essence, it does some of your research for you! When you follow a company, you alert the organization of your interest, which could be very useful when there is an opening at the organization.

Best Practices for Everyone

Keep in touch. Use LinkedIn to connect with people you meet casually or in formal networking events. It’s a good way to keep track of people, especially when colleagues move positions and companies so often. If you connect via LinkedIn, you won’t lose track of people you meet.

Join groups and expand your network. LinkedIn has groups for just about every profession, and even many hobbies. Search Groups to identify some active local and topical groups. Join and elect to receive updates. Contribute to conversations and respond to other people’s comments. When you encounter people you’d like to know better, ask them to connect with you on LinkedIn, and don’t hesitate to follow up by asking for a phone appointment or an in-person meeting.

Use “Answers” to demonstrate your expertise. LinkedIn’s Answers section is under the “Other” tab on the toolbar. Spend time exploring the questions and answer whenever you have something to say. Often, people use this section to identify and connect with experts to hire.

Take advantage of LinkedIn’s functionality, whether or not you are in an active job search. Using it well makes it more likely for someone to find you if they need to hire someone with your qualifications. Remember, it’s not just a medium for active job seekers; using LinkedIn’s tools help you showcase what you know and grows your network.

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