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September 7, 2012
Don't Just Sit There, Leverage LinkedIn
 
“You’re not taking your career seriously if you’re not on LinkedIn.” A friend who is an executive at a PR firm told me this several years ago — point blank — and I agree with her. Are you currently on LinkedIn? Do you have a complete LinkedIn profile?

If the answer is no, you need to work on it right away. LinkedIn is no longer optional whether you are actively searching for a job or not. And it doesn’t matter what age you are or the stage in your career. College students should have a LinkedIn profile as well. It is a critical tool and resource for your professional development in terms of networking and staying abreast of current trends in your industry.

Also, it is not okay to just sit there on LinkedIn and either a) not have a complete profile or b) not actively use this tool to your advantage. Two examples I want to share: The first story took place at a speaking engagement I attended over a year ago. The recruiter on the panel I was on said he spent at least eight hours per day on LinkedIn searching for qualified candidates for his clients. Additionally, several of my clients in the past few years have been actively pursued online through LinkedIn for interviews.

There is no way you can pass up the chance to get noticed on LinkedIn when you are in a job search. You need to leverage the other advantages LinkedIn provides, including long-term professional networking (through connections and through LinkedIn groups) to help you stay on top of trends in your industry and provide you with sales leads, client leads, etc.

For those of you who may not be familiar with LinkedIn, here’s the scoop: With over 150 million members, it is the world’s largest professional network. LinkedIn allows you to stay connected and easily in touch with your professional contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals. LinkedIn also has a job board with job openings that tend to be narrower/more focused on what you are looking for when you search. You don’t get extraneous or irrelevant positions when you conduct a search.

Here is some advice on the basics of LinkedIn to get you started:
  • Ensure your profile is 100% complete, including a photo. Find one that looks professional, not hokey, and not one with your dog in the background. Some people have asked me if including a photo could mean they are discriminated against for a job opening. You can’t control what others do. That could be possible, but in the end it’s better to err on the side of having a photo than not. Remember that people hire people, not a piece of paper or words on a LinkedIn profile. They are more likely to feel connected with you if you have a photo.
  • Only connect with reputable people you know. Different people have varying opinions on this. I fall in the category of only connecting with people you know — those who you would feel comfortable asking for time from. If you don’t know them, you may not feel comfortable asking them for this. Networking is the primary reason for using LinkedIn, so don’t connect with them if they don’t pass this test.
  • Update your profile frequently. Your profile should always be current and include the latest employment information, experience, or skill set you possess. The people you are connected with are notified when you have made updates and recruiters and employers are searching LinkedIn every day. Stay on top of it!
  • Use keywords relevant to your industry or job search. If you aren’t using keywords in your title, summary, or skill set, your profile can’t be found easily.
  • When you are finished, take a bird’s eye view and ask others to do the same. Ask yourself, “Would I hire me?” Ask others if they would. If your profile looks plain, not compelling, or sparse, then you need to work on it. Feel free to browse other LinkedIn profiles; however, do NOT to copy them. Just get ideas on how to make yours look readable and compelling. 
After you’ve completed these basics, you want to make sure you check your LinkedIn inbox regularly, or have it send emails to your account so you can stay on top of messages. Search for jobs on LinkedIn, add new contacts regularly, and when you meet someone at an event, connect with him or her afterwards on LinkedIn. These are a few of the ways you can actively use and leverage your profile instead of letting it just sit there. Use it pro-actively instead of passively — it can greatly enhance your professional success if you do.

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Guest Blogger Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach and founder of HallieCrawford.com. Her team of coaches help people find their dream job and make it a reality. She is regularly featured as an expert in the media including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and US News & World Report. Visit her website at www.HallieCrawford.com for more information about her team's career coaching services. Set up a Complimentary Career Strategy Session with Hallie Crawford to get advice on your career goals. *Mention you saw us on Talent Zoo and receive a free bonus if you purchase a product or sign up for coaching.* http://www.HallieCrawford.com
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