Step One: Create a stellar profile.
Make sure that your profile is an excellent representation of your skills and your professionalism. Include a clear and professional head shot, and a brief description of your skills and experience. Incorporate relevant keywords into your profile, so that you will be visible to recruiters when they search for applicants. However, don’t forget that your profile also needs to have a cohesive flow.
Step Two: Get recommendations. Since most people don’t make the effort to get recommendations, your profile will stand out if you have them. It makes you a more attractive candidate if people who you have worked with are willing to sing your praises. While recommendations don’t actually count as references, they do give you some credibility.
Step Three: Join LinkedIn groups. Joining groups is the fastest way for you to connect with other professionals working in your field. When you join groups you make yourself visible, you allow others in your group to message you, and you are able to join discussions. Based on the way that LinkedIn is set up, your networking ability will be significantly limited if you don’t join groups.
Step Four: Start communicating. Now that you’ve built a strong profile, and you’ve joined some relevant groups, it’s time to start talking. Join group discussions, and even start your own. Showcase your expertise (but don’t be too obvious about it). Respond to people’s requests for help, and allow them to benefit from your experience. An effective way to build goodwill on LinkedIn is by promoting others; share a link to your colleague’s blog or write a recommendation for a previous co-worker. As people become familiar with your posts, you will be recognized as an expert in the online community.
Step Five: Make strategic connections. Now that people are starting to recognize your name, you are in a good position to start making those strategic connections. Look through the members of your groups to identify people who may be able to help you achieve your career goals. You can also browse through the contacts of your current connections. Additionally, you can find potential connections by doing company and occupation searches. The easiest way to make a connection is by responding to a request they made or a question they asked. If that’s not possible, then be direct with them, and let them know exactly what you want. While it is not appropriate on LinkedIn to ask someone for a job, you could ask them for advice on how to enter the field, which skills are in demand, or which companies to target. Sometimes an inside scoop is just as valuable as a job lead.
Your goal on LinkedIn should not be to find a job overnight; it doesn’t work that way. Similar to old-fashioned networking, social networking is a marathon, not a sprint. Use social networking to help you build give-and-take relationships that will serve you well throughout your whole career.
(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo From: Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net)