LinkedIn is the world’s largest online professional social networking site. LinkedIn has over 500 million users spanning over 200 countries in every profession, job title and industry imaginable. With its vast reach and search functionality, LinkedIn has revolutionized how we make and maintain networking connections; how we look for employment; how we find business opportunities; how recruiters and employers recruit talent; and how we stay connected with professional contacts even as they move on to new roles in their careers.
If you are a job seeker or you’re looking to expand your social network and increase your visibility, develop your personal brand, and enhance your professional opportunities, then setting up a LinkedIn profile is a must.
Despite the social nature of LinkedIn, it is very different than other social media networks like Facebook or Twitter. Given the professional purpose of the site, as a networker, you are expected to maintain a higher level of professionalism and formality in how you present yourself to a potential employer and how you interact with others. You can use LinkedIn for a myriad of professional purposes, including:
To Grow Your Network: The top reason most people join LinkedIn is for the opportunity to network. A seasoned networker as well as a novice can leverage and maintain several professional networks on the site. While networking on LinkedIn does not replace the genuine connection that can be made in a face-to-face interaction, it can be more efficient. LinkedIn’s functionality provides couple of methods to help users connect with other members.
Search Profiles: LinkedIn provides more targeted opportunities to connect with other professionals than the randomness of networking events. Your ability to search for and review someone’s profile – which in many ways mirrors a resume – puts a ton of background information about an individual’s work history, skills, schooling, and interests at your fingertips.
Discover Degrees of Separation: LinkedIn allows you to see how you may be connected to an individual outside of your network. This feature can help you to see how many connections you have in common and how many degrees of separation there are between you and another individual.
In other words, LinkedIn will allow you to see whether someone has a direct online connection to someone else or whether they have connections in common. Determining how many degrees there are between you and someone you would like to add to your network can help you identify someone who may potentially be able to facilitate an introduction.
To Create Opportunities: Networking has always been important because of the potential it provides to create lucrative employment and business opportunities. LinkedIn offers employment postings and search features that can facilitate a job search as well as business ventures.
Job Search: If you are looking for employment, LinkedIn should be at the heart of your job search. At the most basic level, LinkedIn allows you to research a prospective employer and to create a visible online resume that highlights your skills, credentials and work experience (in essence, your personal brand). It also allows you to include recommendations and endorsements from colleagues and/or former colleagues.
At the most advanced level, LinkedIn allows you to conduct a powerful job search by utilizing keywords, leveraging your connections, recommendations, and endorsements, and researching potential employers. Not to mention that today most recruiters use LinkedIn to find new talent.
Business Ventures: If you are an entrepreneur or delving into the “gig economy”, LinkedIn provides several options to help you market your businesses and / or services including buying targeted ads and publishing strategic content. LinkedIn also offers tools to help you track your reach and engagement.
To Build a Platform: If you’re passionate about an issue or have a message that you want to share with the world, developing a platform is a great way to become an influencer. LinkedIn has a couple of tools that can facilitate platform building.
Status Updates: Posting regular status updates or curating content pertaining to an interest that you are passionate about is a great way to build a platform on LinkedIn. The more consistent you are, the more likely others will be to identify you with your interest.
Blog: LinkedIn has a blogging feature that allows you to share articles that you have written. This is a great way to demonstrate thought leadership. This can be particularly helpful if you are looking to transition to a new industry because it is a tangible demonstration of your interest / passion / commitment to the new field.
To Find Your Tribe: Finding others who share your business interests and / or who are working in your industry is a great way to build your professional community. LinkedIn’s user interface is all about finding the members of your tribe.
Join or create a group: LinkedIn offers various professional networks and groups who share interests and affiliations. For example, you can join your alma mater’s group or create a group for individuals who share your expertise in corporate philanthropy. Joining an established group is not only a great way to connect with others who share similar interests, it also creates an online connection point between someone you may want to meet, but might not already be in your established network.