If you want to find a new job or get some new business leads, then you need to be on LinkedIn.
The site is now the largest professional network in the world, and it’s still growing.
As a matter of fact, when I was considering writing this post, the latest issue of Fortune Magazine arrived at my doorstep, and LinkedIn happens to be the main cover story.
LinkedIn currently has over 225 Million professionals and nearly every major employer now relies on it to post jobs and find new hires.
In short, if you’re not on LinkedIn, you should be.
And if you already have a profile on there but you haven’t kept it up to date, then you’re in the right place.
Here’s what you should know about how to use LinkedIn effectively.
1) Create a COMPLETE Profile
Most people create a half-baked profile that barely lists their experiences and education. Having an incomplete profile is probably the same thing as not having one in the first place.
The more complete your profile is, the higher you will appear in searches by prospective employers, and the better chances of you getting hired.
LinkedIn has a great tool called “Profile Strength” that guides you through how robust your profile is and what you need to fill in, so you can rely on that (I’m considered an “All Star” because I have mine 100% complete).
Here are 3 things you should know to have a complete profile:
- Update your headline: Your headline is the first thing that people see. It’s the 2 second overview that states who you are and what you do. You can add any certifications after your name (I have my PMP certification listed) and you can also include your title, the company you work for, and any other highlights about what you do.
- Fill in the Summary Section: The summary section gives a more detailed synopsis about what your current responsibilities are, as well as what you’ve done in the past. This is your elevator speech – your 60 second ad about who you are. After the headline, the summary is the second-most viewed part of your profile, so make sure you invest some time in creating a compelling overview.
- Use Keywords: Whether you’re filling in the headline, summary, skills, experiences or education sections, make sure you sprinkle words that you think recruiters will be searching for to find you. Those keywords are important because the more they appear in your profile, the higher the chances of you being found by a prospective employer. For example, if you’re a project manager, you might want to include keywords such as risk management, cost management, time management, resource management, etc.
2) Upload a Professional Photo
Make sure you upload a professional picture of yourself. Wear business attire and have your head shot taken at a photo studio if possible. Remember that first impressions count, and whether you like it or not, people are going to be judging how you present yourself. So dress up and smile as you would in a real job interview. And avoid having any other family members in the photo – this isn’t Facebook!
Also, whatever you do, do not leave your photo empty. This is a classic mistake that a lot of individuals make. A friend of mine who works in a major recruiting firm told me once that she immediately skips over anyone who doesn’t have a picture showing up because she feels a sense of disconnect with a blank profile picture.
3) Make as many Connections as you can
Invite as many colleagues, friends and people you have a working relationship with to your professional network. You want to have as many connections as you possibly can, because a high number of contacts will help you find a job in a couple of ways:
- First, the more connections you have, the higher the chance of you being connected to someone who knows someone who has a job for you. That’s the real value of LinkedIn. Those degrees of separation are even listed on everyone’s profile (as 2nd or 3rd degree connections).
- Second, given that number of people you’re connected to shows up on your public profile (side note: anything above 500 connections is not tracked, and simply shows up as 500+), a really low number might give a recruiter a sign that you’re not really “plugged in” to LinkedIn. So the higher the number of connections, the better.
You can add contacts using several ways:
- By importing your contacts from your email list
- By searching for someone specifically in the search box
- By using the “People You May Know” feature on LinkedIn
One question that gets asked a lot is: do I add anyone, or only people I may know?
There is no right answer here, but my personal approach is something in between. I’m pretty open about accepting anyone’s request to connect, but only if they seem like they’re a legitimate person. In other words, if I get a request from someone I don’t know, who doesn’t have a picture, has very few connections, and an incomplete profile, then I just ignore them.
Otherwise, I just add everyone else, because I think that’s how I get the most value out of LinkedIn.
On that note, if you’re reading this, then make sure you add me on LinkedIn by clicking here so we can connect
4) Join Interest Groups
LinkedIn groups are discussion forums where people with similar interests can share articles, ask questions, make contacts and find jobs. By answering questions that are listed in a specific group, you can establish yourself as a leading expert in that domain. For example, if you join a group about Accounting and share your expertise about best practices and common tools to help other accountants, you’ll be perceived as an authority figure in that area.
There are thousands of groups you can join, and you can find something you like by searching for one in the search bar. LinkedIn also recommends certain groups to join based on your experience.
When you join a group, you can choose to have the group logo visible or invisible on your profile page. I suggest you list it as visible because that increases the chances of you meeting other professionals who are interested in what you’re interested in.
Here’ are some of the groups I’ve joined
I actually created two groups on LinkedIn (they show up on the last line above): one is about virtual project management, and the other is about part-time webpreneurship. So if you’re interested in either, feel free to join and connect with other like-minded individuals. Here are the links:
5) Become a part of the Conversation
In addition to being active on specific groups, you can also increase your visibility by becoming part of the social conversation.
You can utilize the “Share an update” feature on LinkedIn if you have any interesting links or intriguing articles you’d like to share with your connections.
You can also follow companies and influencers your interested in, and “like” & comment on their updates.
Make sure you keep your updates and comments professional – and avoid controversial topics such as religion and politics. Remember that your profile and activity are analogous to a resume and an interview, so whatever rules apply to the latter also apply to the former.
6) Get Recommendations and Endorsements
Recommendations are comments (1 to 2 paragraphs) written by one of your LinkedIn connections about your performance and show up on your profile page.
Endorsements are votes by your connections that you have a specific skill.
The more recommendations and endorsements you have, the more the “social proof” that you are good at what you do, and the more favorably you appear to a prospective recruiter.
It’s easier to get an endorsement than it is to get a recommendation because an endorsement requires only one click by your connection, whereas a recommendation needs a bit more effort to put together.
As such, a recommendation is viewed more favorably by someone who visits your page, so make sure you get a few of those.
In either case, both of them are quite important to give your profile a boost.
Here are a few things you should know:
- You have control over whether you want your recommendations or your endorsements to show up on your profile
- You can ask someone to give you a recommendation by using the built-in LinkedIn recommendation feature
- The best and fastest way to get recommendations and endorsements, is to give them out first
- Don’t ask for recommendations from folks who you currently work with or report to because that might put them in a weird spot. Focus on those you’ve worked with in the past
A Few Other Tips
Here are a few other tips that will help you out:
- Create a clean public URL: When you first create a profile, LinkedIn assigns a long public link which is made up of random letters and numbers. This looks a bit messy, especially if you’re going to include the link in your email signature, so you might want a link which is a little bit shorter and “cleaner.” Here’s how mine appears: http://www.linkedin.com/in/hassano
You can choose your own URL link by customizing it yourself.
- Upgrade to Premium: If you’re serious about finding a job, then you might want to upgrade to a paid premium LinkedIn account. Although it might be a bit pricey, you get a ton of additional advantages over the default free account, including sending InMail messages, seeing who viewed your profile, and better search results.
- Download the mobile app: If you’d like to use LinkedIn on the go, then make sure you download the mobile app. I have it on my iPhone, but it’s also available for Android, Windows, Blackberry and the iPad.
Hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have any questions or any other tips in the comments section below.