As social networking becomes a bigger part of our personal and professional lives, we’re seeing different social networks serving different purposes. Case in point: LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a social network that focuses on professional networking rather than social connections. If you’re interested in maintaining business contacts from your entire professional life, while networking with likeminded professionals, your LinkedIn account is the place to be.
With over 120 million members, LinkedIn is fast becoming a critical part of job hunting and professional development, no matter what industry you’re working in because it allows you to build networks of professional contacts who can recommend you to other professionals. For businesses, it’s an incredibly effective marketing and SEO tool.
Chapter 1: Getting Started with LinkedIn
How To Establish A Profile
Setting up a LinkedIn profile is very straightforward and only takes a few minutes to get started.
1. Go to www.linkedin.com. Once you’ve signed up and confirmed your e-mail, you’ll be asked if you want to import your contacts list and see if you want to connect with other people you might know. Why not? That’s all it takes to get your initial account set up. At this point you’ll be asked if you want to announce your new profile on Facebook or Twitter, which will include a link to your public LinkedIn profile.
2. You’ll then be given the option of signing up for a Free or Premium account. Unless you’re a recruiter, a Free account works for most people. The free, or Basic account, allows you to see profiles when you search, but if you upgrade to business or exectutive accounts, you’ll be able to send driect InMail, see more profiles, get introduced to companies you’re targeting and zero in on more profiles.
3. Once you’ve announced your presence on LinkedIn, you’ll be able to start adding personal information to your profile. This allows LinkedIn to serve up local advertising to your account.
4. As you can see from the screen shot, the information we’ve included is only a fraction of the information you can display. This is where you can really take control of how effectively your profile is used.
Customizing Your Profile
From here you can do everything from asking colleagues for recommendations to finding friends and personalizing your profile URL. We’ll get to finding friends and making connections in the next section. For now, let’s focus on personalizing our profile and making it search friendly.
Near the bottom of the profile there’s a link that says Public Profile. Go ahead and click on the edit link right next to it. This page shows you exactly what your profile looks like in public search results. You can choose exactly which information is viewable to the public, while keeping other information hidden.
On the right hand side of the page is a link labeled Customize your public profile URL. This feature allows you to customize your profile URL to make it easier for others to find. For example, our sample account URL is http://www.linkedin.com/pub/john-smith/45/872/158. But if John was looking for a job as a sports reporter, he might have better luck changing it to http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnsmithsportsreporter.
As you build your network of friends and colleagues, it’s a good idea to regularly check up on how your public profile looks and that it’s displaying only the information you want it to display.
You can add a fair amount of personal information to your LinkedIn profile, though that’s not necessarily essential. After all, anyone who has found your profile can contact you through LinkedIn’s messaging systems.
Adding a personal photo to our profile is not something all of us enter into willingly. But the general consensus amongst hiring managers who use LinkedIn is that they want to see a profile photo. So bite the bullet and add a head shot to your profile.
Remember, the more information you provide on your profile, the better your chances of making useful business contacts.
LinkedIn is rapidly becoming the first stop for recruiters and HR managers looking to fill new positions. You can help make the decision to work with your company easier by posting recommendations from colleagues and clients on your profile.
From your profile page, click on the link labeled Ask for a Recommendation. This takes you to a form that generates an e-mail to selected contacts based on your past workplaces. You can use the basic request provided, or you can customize it as you see fit. Remember, this message goes at as individual message, rather than a group e-mail.
Once you start receiving recommendations, you can post them on your site to provide potential business partners a better impression of your work, and work habits.
How to Find Your Friends
Now that the bulk of your profile is filled out, you’re ready for the fun part of LinkedIn, finding friends and building networks. Start by clicking on the linked labeled Add Connections. The easiest way to get started is by searching for contacts from your current e-mail account.
From this same page you can also invite friends to join your network by e-mail, too. There are four other options for finding friends on this page, which include:
- Colleagues – This list is generated from your work experience and includes people who worked at those companies when you did.
- Alumni – Based on the schools you’ve listed. Depending on how large your University was, you may want to drill down a bit before digging in too deep.
- People You May Know – More or less a catch all category that really starts branching out a recommending connections based on your other connection. This is where LinkedIn can be very powerful. LinkedIn not only recommends connections based on your contacts and colleagues, it recommends other professionals from your friends’ networks, too. And to get the most from these connections, you’ll need to start building networks and joining groups.
What’s Next – Creating Networks and Joining Groups
Of course the real power of LinkedIn, or any social network, lies in the ability to connect large groups of likeminded individuals who might not normally meet. LinkedIn makes networking with potential employers and business partners very easy for individuals and businesses.