How To Put LinkedIn To Work For You

Are you utilizing LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional internet network, to support your business or career? If not, then you are missing out on great opportunities to grow your business and your career. If you missed last month’s article on why to use LinkedIn, check out “Are You IN?” on my blog. While LinkedIn is also a great promotion tool, in this article, we will cover five ways that will help you effectively network on LinkedIn.

  1. Complete your profile and update it as needed.
    You never known what prior experience or skill might catch a prospect or potential employer’s eye, so make sure you are presenting yourself accurately, completely and in the best light. Remember, your profile is your online resume and a great way for people to find out how talented and experienced you are. If it’s not completed, then you lose the opportunity to showcase your skills and talents. It’s also a good idea to include any volunteer experience you have. Not only does it show other skills you may possess, it testifies to your good character, which most prospects and employers find attractive.
  2. LinkedIn’s primary purpose is to stay in contact with people you know or want to know.
    Keep this in mind when either accepting or sending an invitation to connect. When you receive an invitation, consider the following:

    1. Do you want them to be able to contact you?
    2. Do you want to contact them?
    3. Are you interested in seeing their posts?

If you don’t know the person, a good rule of thumb is to review their profile. If you met them at a social or networking event, would you give them your business card? If yes, accept away. If no, then decline or better yet, suggest they follow your business or employer’s company page.

  1. Send a personal message when inviting someone to connect.
    When using social media, it’s tempting to connect with as many people as you possibly can. However, effective networking is more about quality than quantity. When sending an initiation to connect, avoid any “Connect” buttons not on the person’s profile as you won’t be able to send a personal message. Instead, click on the person’s profile and use the “Connect” button there. You’ll be able to send them a personal message along with your invitation.  In your message, be warm and personable, as people connect with people, not robots. It is also helpful if you reference how you know them as they may not remember. If you don’t know them, be specific as to why you want to connect. For example, if someone is in the same field of work you do, you might want to be able to exchange tips and discuss latest industry trends from time to time. Joining groups and participating in group discussions is a great way to meet fellow professionals.
  2. Check and use LinkedIn frequently.
    Again, remember tip #2 – LinkedIn is for staying in contact. If you don’t check your messages and notifications, you are not staying in contact and no one likes to wait a few weeks for a reply. Would you go a day without checking your email or phone? Probably not. A general rule of thumb is to spend at least 15 minutes each day contacting or responding to people.  Reviewing your notifications is a good place to start – just be sure you read what you are being notified about and take a few minutes to make your message original and not the canned Linked In message. People can tell if you care or not, so take a few minutes to genuinely congratulate a colleague on their promotion or work anniversary.  It’s very important to respond to any messages or invitations in a timely manner as well.
  3. Request recommendations
    Third party endorsements are worth their weight in gold and greatly increase your online reputation. The more descriptive and relevant they are to your experience, the better. Unfortunately, many people either don’t respond to a recommendation request or, if they do, what they say is generic and non-specific.  Here are some tips to get the recommendations you want:

    1. Determine what skill you want your recommendations to highlight. Review your experience and career goals. Make a list of what skills are most important for your career goals. Next write down any of those skills you think you have done well in the past. Review those skills and jot down names of people who you think would and could testify to those skills.
    2. Draft ideal recommendations. Thinking about each skill and person, draft a recommendation that sounds like something they would say and highlights the given skill.

Ex: “I really enjoyed working with Susie on Large Project Name. She managed the project effectively, keeping us well informed and promptly working through any issues. Her professionalism ensured we finished the project on time and on budget. I look forward to working with her again.”

  1. Ask for the recommendations nicely and clearly indicate what you want. For example, Susie is a project manager and Joe worked with her on a large complex project. Susie wants recommendations showcasing her project management skills. This is her email: “Hey Joe, thanks for all your help on the Large Project Name. I really enjoyed working with you and am proud of what the team accomplished.  I’d like to highlight this project on my LinkedIn account. Would you be willing recommend me for project management based on this project? To save you some time, I’ve drafted an example recommendation below. Feel free to use it or say whatever you would like.”

Finally, if you can’t follow all of these tips today, start with the first one and work your way down the list. While LinkedIn is most effective when used regularly, a good profile and limited usage can still benefit you. Just make sure you check and respond to any personal messages you receive.  You don’t want to miss that next great opportunity!

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