Five Simple Ways to Make the Most of Your LinkedIn Profile

October 22nd, 2013

Consider these four steps to make sure your LinkedIn profile represents you well during your job search and beyond.

1. Make sure your profile is complete and accurate.
This may sound like simple advice, but LinkedIn has so many ways to showcase your background that most people only take advantage of a few. Here is a checklist of things that any profile should include:

  • Professional photo
  • Summary of qualifications
  • Complete job history including dates and brief job descriptions (2-3 sentences each)
  • Education summary
  • Groups (see below)
  • Recommendations (see below)
  • Skills and expertise

Assume that your LinkedIn profile is taking the place of your resume. Research has shown that people are more honest on LinkedIn than on resumes (because the internet is so public), and therefore more and more employers are starting online. The benefit to job seekers is that showcasing your expertise is no longer an 8.5×11 affair. You have the space. Use it.

2. Add connections.
LinkedIn excels at connecting people. Say you hear about a job opening at your dream company. A quick LinkedIn search will tell you if you know anyone who knows anyone who could put in a good word for you. You will have the most luck in this if your network includes over 500 people.

To build your network, click to view your connections, and then select the name of someone you know well. Then scroll through their connections for familiar faces. When you spot one, hover your mouse over their name until a button pops up to “connect.”

You can continue to build your network with every person you meet. It should be standard practice, after every meeting, dinner, seminar, or conference to immediately look up new acquaintances on LinkedIn and send them an invitation to connect. Keep in mind, when you send the invitation, LinkedIn will provide you with a standard form letter – it is well worth it to take a moment to personalize that note, reminding your new friend when and how you met.

3. Join groups.
Groups are a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry. What are people talking about? Who changed companies? How do new regulations affect you? To find the right groups for you, simply set the search bar at the top of the page to “groups” and type in a key word or phrase such as “engineering,” “media relations,” or “hospitality jobs.”

Some people shy away from groups because they can generate a large number of emails, but you can easily manage your email settings under the “communications” tab of your account settings. Click on “set the frequency of emails” and chose the option that works best for you. Receiving a weekly digest is a great way to keep informed without getting overwhelmed.

4. Get recommendations.
Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile have come to take the place of reference letters. With a few simple clicks you can ask a connection of yours to sing your praises for all the world to see.

You should ask for recommendations upon leaving a job, and after completing a project within your company. Scroll down to recommendations and click the little pencil icon to edit. Then click on “Ask for recommendations.” From there you can send a message to any contacts you choose, asking for a few words on your behalf.

Of course, it is always good form to personally call or email current or former bosses and coworkers ahead of time to ask if they would be willing to give you an endorsement. Another hint: offer to write the recommendation for them, so that they can just cut and paste it into LinkedIn. People are busy, and the easier you make this on them, the more recommendations you will receive.

5. Post updates.
LinkedIn is not Facebook. LinkedIn is meant to act as a professional resource, and so many people wonder why they need to post updates at all. The truth is that the occasional post serves to show that you are active in the LinkedIn community, which in turn signifies that your profile is up to date.

Updating once a week is sufficient, and posts should be kept within the realm of the professional. Cute cats and baby pictures are well and good on Facebook, but here it’s better to announce a new certification, share information about a new online resource, or congratulate a friend on a new gig. Keep it short and simple.

Used effectively, LinkedIn can be a tremendous resource to both job seekers and those who are happy in their current position. It only takes a short time to complete your profile. In the long run, you will be happy you made the effort.

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