Disclaimer: I am not being paid for nor compensated in any way by LinkedIn for this blog. In fact, I’ve probably been one of the most vocal champions of LinkedIn since I joined on the site back in 2004 (I got an email recently congratulating me as one of their “first million” users—now how’s that for feeling special?) Moreover, I recently approached a milestone myself: having over 1,000 connections on LinkedIn.
Do I know all of them well? Hardly. Am I glad I have them all? Absolutely. But some regular, smart people don’t seem to understand the underlying, subtle and not-so-subtle value of LinkedIn, the largest business networking site on earth and can’t be bothered with it. If I had a dime for every time someone challenged me with: “Well, did you ever get a job from LinkedIn?” I could have a meal at Gary Danko every weekend. I always explain the answer, which ends up sounding more like “It’s complicated.” So here goes again, this time in writing. Here’s why you should get on board and some tips to get things started.
#1 Investment in your career Some call LinkedIn the granddaddy (or fuddy-duddy) of social media. It’s not exactly “fun”—you won’t be posting vacation photos or food porn, but it serves a direct purpose that cannot be overlooked: your career. I’d say that’s pretty darn important. When LinkedIn first opened its internet doors, capabilities were somewhat rudimentary, offering the ability to create a simple profile and add connections. Over the years it’s expanded features and continues to at an accelerated rate: activity updates to let you know what your network is doing, applications, keywords so employers and connections can find you, job opportunity monitoring in your field, participation in groups, and much more. It’s like an online career center if you use all the bells and whistles.
Best Practice: Fine-tune your profile on a word processing document before you publish it. There is no way to see a “draft” on LinkedIn. Turn your activity broadcast off temporarily after you publish your profile to make sure it looks the way you want, no typos, etc.
#2 Build Your Brand: We’ve heard about building a “personal brand” a lot the past few years. For those working for corporations, this may seem unimportant, but in this digital age, recruiters and potential bosses want a 360° view of how you present yourself online. Add to that, a resume is a one-dimensional reflection of who you are as a person and a potential employee. A LinkedIn profile lets you show off skills, interests, and most importantly, give you a voice that cannot be heard on a CV. You can include books you are reading, events you are attending, companies you follow, and other professional and personal touches.
Best Practice: Check out all the applications and groups and posting options available on LinkedIn and sprinkle some into your profile. It shows that you are keeping current with your career, industry and care about your presence on LinkedIn.
#3 Get the 411 As a consultant, I am always on the look out for people I know or might want to meet and determine if I have a connection—LinkedIn is a great way to do that. You can see where people worked, what or who you might have in common and act accordingly. Conversely, many people over the years have asked me for an introduction to a network connection and I am happy to do it. It almost serves as a personal referral. Which leads me to my next reason to embrace Linkedin. But before that…
Best Practice: Though you will hear conflicting advice about connecting with people you don’t know, I recommend that you do if you have something in common: interests, industries, secondary connections, groups, etc. Reference anything you have in common in your invitation for context.
#4 Shortcut to Approval Back in the day, it was standard practice to provide potential employers with references. Occasionally I still am asked for that, though it is becoming as rare as a first-class letter. When LinkedIn added Recommendations, it was something I jumped on. Gathering and displaying how others view my work gives potential clients an instant reference and increases trust immediately. This also applies to LinkedIn’s new Endorsements feature, or what I would call “Recommendations-Light” to provide skill-based references with one-click. I am just starting to scratch the surface of that feature.
Best Practice: There is a fine line between showing recommendations and going overboard. Some people have 30 recommendations posted. Too. Many. Whittle down to those showcasing your variety of skills from different vantage points—bosses, colleagues and vendors. Though frowned upon by some, I think it’s fine to swap recommendations with colleagues as long as you honestly respect their work.
#5 You Can’t Afford Not To Being on LinkedIn is considered the norm at this point. If you don’t have a profile, or a lame one with information gaps, people will notice. Who exactly? Recruiters, potential managers, and colleagues, connections—and everyone that is looking you up on the web. It’s part of the digital landscape to be on LinkedIn. Even if you have an off-beat or small consulting business, are a student, or not even looking for a job, your absence will be noticed. It’s an inexpensive, easy and effective way to be a part of the online universe and you have everything to gain.
Best Practice: If you want to maximize your LinkedIn profile impact and network potential, use Branchout to connect the dots in your personal life with other social media.
And by the way, if you want to connect, I’m http://www.linkedin.com/in/janicecuban
Next up: Nobody’s perfect: Suggestions for LinkedIn for the future.