There’s a social network for everything. LinkedIn is definitely the “suit and tie” network. It’s the place for professional interaction.
This year, LinkedIn celebrated its 10th anniversary with 200 million users.
From networking to cultivating business connections to vetting job candidates and business referrals, LinkedIn serves as an important network for professionals. Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, it’s important to keep your information up-to-date.
Even experienced professionals can get tripped up by simple things that can have a negative impact. The initial setup of your LinkedIn profile takes time, especially if you have a long work history, but it’s worth it to completely fill out your profile.
We came up with a basic list of Do’s and Don’ts to help you navigate this powerful social network.
- Complete your profile. Use your real name and give a summary of your current position and a little bit about the business. Give your work history for at least the past 10 years. If you’re a student or recent grad, list any relevant internships or related work you did in school.
- Use a professional-looking photo. Avoid using a smartphone selfie or a picture that was of you and a group of friends that you’ve been cropped from. Find a friend with a decent camera or get professional headshots. It’s worth the investment.
- Focus on results. Rather than only listing tasks you do at work, include details of what you’ve done successfully or have improved at work. For example; “Launched the Facebook Fan Page from scratch, building the fan base to the current 8,700+ followers.”
- List your skills and expertise. These reinforce what you’ve listed about your work experience, and people you’ve worked with can endorse you for these skills. Make sure you endorse others for their skills and expertise as well.
- Use the volunteer feature. Volunteer work gives additional insight to who you are, and also backs up skills you may have listed that don’t seem connected to your work.
- Connect to people. This is what LinkedIn was made for! Connect to people you know personally or you’ve worked with, or who work somewhere you’re interested in and you’d like to know more about. If the latter, it’s best to send a message first asking if they are willing to connect and give their insights.
- Be personal. The generic LinkedIn message is “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” That’s boring, unfriendly and, if you haven’t seen the person in awhile or have never met, it doesn’t give any context to why you’d like to connect. Include a short, personal note to the person you are connecting to.
- Ask for and give recommendations. Whether you’re currently seeking new work or you’re happy where you’re at, recommendations are great ways for prospective employers to learn about what you excel at. Give them and ask for them, to strengthen connections, especially if in the job-seeking category.
- Join and participate in groups. There’s a group for everything on LinkedIn — alumni networks, affinity groups, professional associations — you name it. Find, join and participate in groups that reflect your reason for participating in LinkedIn.
- Sync updates. While you can’t auto-sync updates directly from Twitter, you can simultaneously post from third-party tools like Hootsuite or Buffer. Bad idea. Every social network has its unique role and unique audience. And anything you add to your profile is, at any given moment, part of your resume. So be picky.
- Leave profile incomplete. LinkedIn walks you through the steps of completing your profile. Not including basic information makes it look like you don’t care enough to spend the time on it — so why should potential connections care enough to reciprocate your invitation to connect.
- Be a default. The default photo for LinkedIn is a silhouette of either a man or woman. It doesn’t take much effort to get a nice photo taken of yourself and put it up, and it makes it easier for people you connect with to remember who you are.
- Ignore requests. This can make you unintentionally appear rude or careless. You don’t have to accept every request, but login regularly to make sure you’re not missing connections. If someone wants to connect and you can’t remember who she is, or have never met, it’s OK to ask. Send a message asking for a reminder, or otherwise ask why they’d like to connect.
- Join too much. Groups can be incredibly valuable places to build your network and share expertise, but joining too many will add a lot of noise to your experience on LinkedIn.
Some other considerations for LinkedIn:
- If you write a blog or deliver presentations, you can add your content to LinkedIn and reach a wider audience.
- Be smart about “endorsements.” With LinkedIn’s latest feature, users are prompted when they login to “endorse” connections for skills LinkedIn draws from the person’s profile. Sometimes they make sense; sometimes, less so. You don’t have to accept every endorsement, and you can choose what you want to be endorsed for. Think about endorsements strategically.
- LinkedIn premium accounts may be particularly beneficial if you’re job-searching, screening job candidates and actively trying to build your network. You can opt in and opt out to the premium version as needed.
You will find LinkedIn to be a pretty powerful tool for business networking and connections. If you’re not convinced, here are some other stats
- 64% of LinkedIn users are outside the United States. It’s truly a global network.
- 42% of users update their profile regularly.
- 35% of users access LinkedIn daily. Daily! That’s remarkable.
- 82% of users belong to at least one group.