Backpack to Briefcase: Using LinkedIn to Build Your Professional Network

If you do not have a profile on LinkedIn, the largest social media platform specifically for professionals to connect, you are missing out on a tremendous resource.

Many employers believe that the lack of an Internet presence is a negative. If employers “Google” your name and find nothing, they assume you don’t have the technology skills to have an online presence. LinkedIn makes having a presence simple for you. You just need to fill in the blanks!

Social media networking allows you to make connections for jobs, show others that you are involved in your profession, build your professional brand, learn about a career field, and most importantly, it is an online resume that anyone can view.

Why would you want just anyone to be able to find your resume online? LinkedIn has 3 million active job listings, 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates, 122 million people obtained a job interview from their profile alone, and 65 percent of LinkedIn’s revenue is from recruiters looking for talent. That’s why!

Along with completing your profile with your education and work history, be sure to also have a professional headshot. LinkedIn statistics show that profiles with professional headshots get 14 times more views than those with a general photo or no photo. Just having a photo on your profile makes your 36 times more likely to receive a message on LinkedIn. Be sure your photo is recent and shows you dressed in professional attire.

Your LinkedIn headline should never be “seeking new opportunity,” but should tell viewers what job you do or can do: for example, “Marketing Intern,” “Financial Analyst,” “Human Resources Professional,” or “Association Executive.” Even if you don’t have a job at this time, your headline should tell readers who you are.

And speaking of “who you are,” having other people share their experiences about you is very beneficial to recruiters who are seeking candidates. Try to obtain at least five recommendations. Recommendations are different from “endorsements.” Anyone can click on a list and give you an endorsement. Have former or current coworkers, supervisors, mentors, and/or professors provide you with recommendations. These don’t have to be long letters – just a few sentences will do. Potential employers will read those recommendations; I guarantee it.

Don’t be afraid to accept connection requests from those you don’t know well. Likewise, don’t be afraid to request a connection from someone you don’t know well. The whole point of LinkedIn is to help professionals connect. Try to connect with current and former coworkers, customers, vendors, other professionals in your field, alumni from your schools, personal friends and relatives, and especially recruiters and HR professionals. Check the “People You May Know” list frequently and make new connections on an ongoing basis.

Keep your profile professional – no politics, no religion, no jokes. Post articles that are related to your career field and comment on other people’s posts. Join groups that relate to your career interests and follow the posts. You never know who may be noticing your comments or posts – a recruiter may contact you!

As you are building your professional online presence, it’s a good time to consider your other online information as well. If you have ever posted anything on social media that an employer may not appreciate, take it down NOW. Employers will not even consider you for employment if they find provocative or inappropriate photos, information about using drugs or drinking, discriminatory comments, negative comments about a former employer or coworker, and poor spelling and communication skills. Yes, typos matter in social media.

On the other hand, positive social media can help you get a job. Employers are looking on social media to see if the information you posted supports what your resume and LinkedIn page show, such as job history, education, and communication skills. It’s vital to keep your LinkedIn profile updated at all times.

LinkedIn is the top social media site for professional networking. It is a free and simple way for you to make important connections in your career field without leaving your office or laptop. There are millions of professionals with whom you can connect, and many of them are looking for their next big hire – it could be YOU!

Author Shelly Trent, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CAE, is a career coach, speaker and writer whose books include “Humans@Work” and “Compassion@Work: Creating Workplaces that Engage the Human Spirit.”
Photo credit: Twin Design/Shutterstock.com

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