LinkedIn is one of those Internet career tools that we know exists but we’re not really sure just how to use it—sort of like the Pinterest of the professional world. With Facebook and Twitter being such career death traps most people are hesitant to jump into a site where work and social media collide intentionally but LinkedIn can really be a useful tool—if you use it correctly. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to guide you:
Join: If for nothing else, just to be in the space. When a potential employer Googles you—and they will—you’ll prefer that your LinkedIn profile is what shows up at the top of the search page, not your Twitter handle or some other random piece of news. At least having a profile shows you’re in tune with technology and serious about your career.
Connect with as many people as possible: On Facebook we’re all pretty hesitant to add random people as friends but when it comes to your professional connections, your network can never be too wide. You never know who might come across your profile because of someone you worked with five years ago. If they have a good professional reputation, being connected to them puts you in high regard and can provide a free, unsolicited nod of approval.
Ask for recommendations: This is basically an online reference before you officially need one. Seeing that other professionals think highly enough of you to take the time out and recommend you for your profile speaks to the value you’d bring a company and could cause random recruiters or other prospective employers to reach out to you first.
Recommend other people: It’s hard out here and nothing can bring you a little positive career karma like looking out for someone else who’s trying to get ahead too. Plus having your name out there as someone able to recommend someone else establishes you as a bit of an authority and that can’t hurt your own professional career.
State that you can be contacted for job opportunities and new ventures: This is only if you are connected with your boss or nosy employees. It’s hard to say just how much people you actually know pay attention to your profile, but the last thing you need is people knowing that you’re planning or want to jump ship before you actually do.
Add your Twitter account: Unless you have a separate and completely professional Twitter profile, don’t do it. It’s not necessary, no one sits on LinkedIn enough to follow your tweets on there, and if by chance you forget you’ve added your feed to your LinkedIn page and tweet something inappropriate, you don’t want it showing up there.
Request random people without an explanation: When you actually know the person you’re requesting, you can jog their memory by marking a box showing how you know them. When it’s a stranger, they’re going to wonder what exactly you want. Think about how you react when someone you don’t know on Facebook requests you? Ignore! You don’t want that to happen here. If it’s someone whose career you admire or you’re inquiring about job opportunities just drop them a quick note to say so.
Upgrade: Unless you’re about to go hard. With a basic LinkedIn profile there’s enough free information to get what you need. The site is just a connector between professionals what you really want is in-person contact or even personal emails. For most people, it doesn’t require a $20/month or more commitment to do that.