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How to Get Started with LinkedIn

Lori Halley  10 September 2009  1 comments

Whether you’re looking for a first non-profit job or making a career change, or simply looking to meet other professionals in the non-profit sector, LinkedIn.com is one social network you’ll want to get to know well.

Can online networking help your career? No question about it. Already, 45% of all US employers are using social networking sites to help them find qualified employees.

Of those who conduct online searches/background checks of job candidates, 29% use Facebook, 26% use LinkedIn and 21% use MySpace, the survey found.  One-in-ten (11% ) search blogs, while 7% follow candidates on Twitter.

And a recent Jobvite survey reports that 72% of companies plan to do more of their recruiting through social networks.

Skip job boards and use social media instead,” Business Week advises. “LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and blogging are much better tools for finding jobs that speak to your passions than job boards and corporate Web sites.”

How to Get Started on LinkedIn

Paid premium accounts give users advanced features, but even the basic free service allows prospective employers, clients, former colleagues and classmates, and other useful business contacts to find and connect with you online in a purely professional venue.

LinkedIn has created a video to walk new graduates through the process of setting up a LinkedIn profile. Although it is directed to new graduates putting a first firm step on the career ladder, this video introduction to LinkedIn will be useful to anyone who’s new to the network.

Tips for Better Networking on LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s own blog and Learning Center are full of helpful suggestions so you can make the most of your use of the network. Check out the list of LinkedIn webinars for scheduled online training presentations — they’re free, but do note that you’ll have to register 24 hours in advance.

If you’re actively job-hunting and can’t wait to get started, get a jumpstart with Alison Doyle’s Ten Tips to Enhance Your Job Search on LinkedIn. Here’s a quick overview of what she advises:

1. Fill out your Profile

The more detailed you can make your LinkedIn profile, the better the chances that you can be found and contacted.

2. Include a Photo

Choose a photo that represents the “professional you” — not the weekend party animal. LinkedIn is all about professional networking.

3. Pay Attention to the Professional Summary

Be sure to select an Industry when filling out your Summary, as recruiters often use that field to search — as choose your Headline carefully, as it’s likely to be the first thing that people notice in your profile.

4. Include Keywords and Skills

Include keywords and skills from your resume in your profile.  Every industry, profession and sector has its own specialized vocabulary, and using those terms will make it easier for others to find your profile in search results.

5. Maximize Your Contact Settings

Keep your contact options (career opportunities, consulting offers, new ventures, job inquiries, and reference requests) open and flexible — just in case a good opportunity comes knocking!

6. Add Website Links

If you have blog or a personal web site that is business related, including a link can help to show prospective employers a bit more of who you are, including your interests and capabilities.

7. Don’t forget to Make Your Profile Public!

8. Grow Your Network.

The more connections you have, the more opportunities you have — but don’t randomly connect with people you don’t know. The point of LinkedIn isn’t to score a high number of “friends” but to connect with people you actually know, so they can help you and vice versa.

(Participating in discussions via LinkedIn Groups is a great way to start to broaden your circle, by the way — but that’s a topic for another day.)

9. Give and Get Recommendations.

LinkedIn Recommendations are like short letters of reference, which prospective employers can read in advance of contacting you directly — and “the best way to get recommendations is to give them,” says Alison Doyle.

And don’t worry too much if you’re not really comfortable about asking people to give you a reference. LinkedIn makes it easy:

If you write an unsolicited recommendation for someone else on the site, when they approve it so that it appears on their profile, LinkedIn will ask them if they want to return the favor.

That particular tip comes from a top-knotch article in the online version of the Boston Globe, Make Better Introductions, in which several consultants give advice on how to make the most of LinkedIn’s networking potential. It's well worth reading, as there are a few "insider" tips you may not have seen elsewhere -- as well as LinkedIn features you might easily overlook.

My favorite:

Take advantage of the toolbars. If you’re in the job market, [Patrick] O’Malley advises getting the free LinkedIn Browser Toolbar… “If you go to job-hunting sites like Craigslist, CareerBuilder, or Monster and you’re looking at a job at a specific company, the toolbar tells you the number of people in your network who work at that company,” O’Malley says. “You can also see lists of those people” who might be willing to help call attention to your resume once you’ve sent it in.

As with any social networking effort, of course, one key to success on LinkedIn is to get started on making those contacts right now! Lee Hower, one of the original co-founders of LinkedIn, put it this way: “It’s about building relationships and keeping track of people — not just asking people for favors when you are looking for a job, trying to make a sale, or raising money for your company.” Or for your non-profit!

What’s been your experience with LinkedIn — or with using any other social networking site for professional purposes?  Please share your own tips in the comments!

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 10 September 2009 at 5:39 PM


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