Of the many social networks in existence, LinkedIn is the one most widely recognized as a resource for professional career development and networking. Regardless of what industry you're in, creating a public LinkedIn account is an important way to connect with co-workers, re-connect with former colleagues and network with others in similar industries or share similar contacts.
Serving as a virtual Rolodex, LinkedIn can be used for everything from seeking new employment to finding professionals with similar backgrounds or simply keeping your professional contacts in one place.
How to Join
Your LinkedIn profile page represents your career experience to the public. You can add everything from your level of education to current employment and relevant professional accomplishments.
In a pinch, you can upload your résumé and have the LinkedIn algorithm automatically complete the profile. While this may seem helpful, the content is merely extracted from the résumé document and can look haphazard without further customization.
Everyone has the ability to include or exclude any piece of information on a LinkedIn profile, but the more thorough the profile, the better. Users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through the site than those with incomplete profiles.
As you personalize your page, you can reach out to past and current colleagues and ask for "Recommendations," or endorsements of your work. While this isn’t necessary, it’s nice to complement work experience with personal commentary from present and former colleagues. It’s a great idea to make some recommendations for others too, as your testimonials also speak to the nature of work you do and how you relate to others on the job.
Your LinkedIn account is associated with a URL that takes people directly to your page. Creating a personalized URL (something simple like LinkedIn.com/NAME) helps make your page responsive to general Internet searches. Simply click on the "Edit" button in the main profile box to customize.
The Summary section is where you synthesize your experience and expertise and list major accomplishments, strengths and past successes.
Keep it short, sweet and objective — being overly self-promotional or self-aggrandizing is not appealing. Depending on where your tenure in the workforce is, emphasize the areas where you've achieved the most success. If you've been in one industry for 25 years, you don't need to list extracurricular activities from college. On the other hand, if you're fresh out of school, you should play up college experiences, leadership roles and internships.
The “Additional Information” section is where groups or affiliations can be added. To access more groups that are of interest either personally or professionally, search the database and add relevant associations.
In the "Personal Information," you can include details such as your birthday, email address, marital status or IM address. You also can provide details on when you want to be contacted, such as for Career Opportunities, New Ventures or just Getting Back in Touch.
A handy bar on the profile page shows the percentage of completeness. Your goal should be to reach 100 percent. You can click on “View Your Profile” to see how your public profile appears and modify it as necessary.
Add People to Your Network
Now comes the fun part: adding people to the network! You can either reach out to people individually or simply upload desktop contacts to automatically invite contacts who are current LinkedIn subscribers. Over time, adding people to your network creates a web of connections that could lead to your next client or a great employment opportunity.
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