If you’re one of the few dozen people out there who hasn’t signed up for LinkedIn, it’s time to get on board. It’s super-simple to set up an account, post your expertise and work experience, and upload a little photo. But then what? Here are nine great ways that you can take advantage of all that LinkedIn offers.
Find former colleagues, keep up with current ones, or stay in touch after you leave a job. It can be hard to keep connected to that boss who loved you since you changed jobs twice and she moved three time zones away. LinkedIn keeps you connected with former colleagues no matter where your career path takes you. People you know are often the best way to hear about openings in your industry, conferences you should attend, or trends to watch.
Discover New Jobs
This may be the most obvious function of the site, but LinkedIn is a great way to find openings. Like other job sites, you can define your search by geographic area, experience level, and date listed. But you can also refine your search within specific companies, industries, and job functions. Plus, take a peek at the “Jobs you may be interested in” box when you log in. LinkedIn suggests positions related to your experience and may surprise you with listings you’d never seek out on your own.
Highlight Your Skills and Strengths
The recommendations that colleagues can write for you are an incredibly valuable feature. Ask people who know you well to write short, strong, positive references that sing your praises. Use these as glowing references on future interviews. Future employers can check out your specs before they even speak to you on the phone.
Leverage Your Experience
Signing up for your school’s alumni organization and joining professional societies are great ways to meet others in your industry. No matter what you do, there’s probably a group for it on LinkedIn. A recent search for “accounting” returned over 2,500 groups. You can further refine the search results by language and group focus (such as networking, non-profit, etc.). The site also has a “Groups You May Like” tab that suggests groups related to your skills and talents. Don’t see the exact sort of group you’re looking for? Start your own and invite all of your talented friends.
Network in Specific Channels
You know how folks say the best part of job sharing is working in your PJ’s? Now you can network in your sweats from the couch . . . and you don't even have to make small talk over watered-down cocktails! Connect with others in your field, join discussion boards, and sign up for the groups mentioned above. You can find out about face-to-face networking events in your area as well.
Get a Personal Introduction
It’s a no-brainer that a “please check this guy out” email from a current employee will get your résumé looked at long before the hundreds of others that poured in to HR. Work through your connections to find friends-of-friends who can give you a personal one-up on everyone else. Introductions are also a great way to find reliable collaborators and freelancers if you’re in need.
Feel Out a Company Before You Apply
Check out the profiles of employees to see where they worked before and went afterward. Learn what schools they graduated from and how long they’ve stayed at the company. Does it seem like a place that would make you happy? If a close connection is currently employed there, reach out and ask, what’s the work environment like? are the benefits any good? how long do you plan on staying with the department? Knowing the culture of an office not only helps you know if you’re a good fit, but can also help you tailor your own interview responses.
Promote Yourself and Your Accomplishments
Even if you’re not in the market for a new job, let everyone know what you’ve accomplished. Update your profile when you get a promotion, settle a big case, launch a new website, or open a satellite store. Colleagues will keep you in mind if they’re reminded of your successes.
Find Answers to Thousands of Questions
Use the “Answers” option in the search box or go directly to the Answers page. Ask anything from advice on the best software for a task, opinions on social networking strategies, business travel tips, and even help on more ways to use LinkedIn. Browsing the most recent post in the Answers section can be a fascinating look at the current state of the job market and the business world. And posting intelligent answers can be the perfect introduction to you future boss. Or your future employee.
There’s been lots said in the press lately about privacy on social networking sites. Like Facebook, LinkedIn allows users to choose what they share with their connections and what the general public sees. You can customize your account under the “Settings” tab at the top right. If you’re hesitant to put yourself out there for everyone to see, consider limiting your profile. But if you’re in the market to make connections, take full advantage of all that LinkedIn offers. And the same rule stands here as with other sites: if you wouldn’t put it on a billboard in Times Square, don’t post it online.