Using the LinkedIn platform effectively starts with a compelling profile, but that is just the start–you also need to take advantage of other options to present a full picture of your professional self. That means you should start developing a strategy for using LinkedIn that will help you reach out, improve your network, and establish yourself as a resource for people using the site in different ways. Think of all the various site features in terms of the opportunities they offer to round out your professional story, reveal your expertise, and be a valuable resource for your network.
A compelling profile conveys your professional story from different angles and perspectives to help you connect with anyone who reads your profile. People are built for connecting, and you can reveal important aspects of yourself even when you are in a professional environment. The lines between personal and professional are blurring thanks to societal, cultural, and technological changes—especially on social networks—so you should plan to make the most of the situation.
People quickly experience feeling of connectedness when they have an emotional or intuitive response to your story, life experience, or personal qualities. Use vivid language to talk about your work experience and name the qualities that your actions reveal if you want to move out of the land of resume-speak and into a conversation more suited for social networks.
No matter what the communication, it’s crucial to keep the medium in mind as you craft your message. The way you present yourself on LinkedIn reveals your knowledge of the network itself as much as it reveals your understanding of appropriate, authentic interactions. If you’d like a bit of privacy before going public with your profile changes, turn off your activity updates (you’ll need to sign in to get the step by step). Take the time to build up your profile with applications linked to external sites like Amazon’s Reading List or SlideShare for presentations and you’ll be able to legitimize your expertise as well as adding to the overall conversation.
Don’t forget about the status update either. Update your status message several times a week and focus on sharing valuable information with your network if you want to raise your standing in the LinkedIn community. Send those updates to Twitter too if you like, repurposing content across social networks is an important life skill these days.
Beyond the Profile
Participating in LinkedIn Groups will help you find and network with other professionals in your current field or in your next field. So many people are changing their career trajectory these days that it really helps to establish your passion and expertise by sharing great content. It will set you apart from the people who just hung out a shingle and declared themselves “experts.” Don’t forget how much people love to share their expertise too. Take the time to construct smart, relevant questions for a group you belong to and you can become known as someone who adds to everyone’s experience. Now that LinkedIn tracks and shows influencers in Groups you can raise your profile and reach considerably with thoughtful, consistent participation.
In addition to Groups, you can use the Answers section to further establish your expertise and helpful bona fides by answering questions in your area of expertise. Answers is also a great place to get wide-ranging input from professionals in your next practice area if you’ve decided to make a switch. Asking and answering questions contributes to the overall conversation on LinkedIn (and therefore the value of the network), whether you do it in Groups or in the Answers section.
Use the Jobs section to search for opportunities and remember that you can often apply right through the LinkedIn system.LinkedIn will always offer suggestions for jobs based on your profile and you can follow specific companies as well. Take the time to explore the various search features in Jobs and make sure you narrow or widen your searches as needed to improve your results–if you’re not familiar with customizing searches on the site, here are some search hints from LinkedIn Help.
If you upgrade your account you can keep better track of individual profiles that interest you with the Profile Organizer feature. We recommend maximizing your efforts with a free account before thinking about upgrading if it will help you reach your goals.
Since LinkedIn adds new features all the time, you should get in the habit of paying attention to notices of new features when you log into your account, reading emails from the company, and checking out the Help Center and LinkedIn Blog to learn more. If you are a video fan, you can always take a look at the LinkedIn YouTube channel too!
You are your own marketing department so take a big picture approach to your professional use of social networks. Share information that makes you look good and interact with others as well. Remember that people will take note of the information you share about yourself on different networks and they are looking for authenticity and a genuine sense of who you are. Let them know!