One of our recent blog posts, 20 Compelling Reasons to Spend Less Time on Facebook and More Time on LinkedIn, inspired me to take a closer look at the LinkedIn system. You can put both Facebook and LinkedIn to work for you and your job search, but LinkedIn has some special features designed specifically for professional networking and career development.
To get the full benefit of this platform's potential, you'll need to do more than just set up your account. Once you have established your profile, there are additional activities you can pursue to further your exploration of career options, advance your professional networking, find employment opportunities, and stay current in your field. Here is a short list of ideas you can put to use right now:
- Share your expertise. And learn from the expertise of others. Through LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers there is the potential for an exchange. Education consultant Tony Bates posted his observations on LinkedIn Groups as communities of practice, which include concerns that discussions could easily turn into marketing platforms. His comments encourage us to find the learning potential: "just linking people together doesn't necessarily lead to a great deal of learning…" however Groups also provide "a chance for new people in the field to test the waters, look for support, and share ideas." LinkedIn Answers provides a forum for users to share knowledge, experience, and opinions in a Q&A format. It's easy to ask and answer in this system. Look for items related to your career field and know that the forums are monitored to remove marketing-focused information.
- Expand your network. While you may have started your account by connecting with people you already know through your email contact list, LinkedIn offers additional ways you can search for connections based on your past experience and education. One example is searching by school. Once you have entered your education history into your profile you can search for other users who have attended the same schools. The search capabilities allow you to further filter the results to see where your classmates and fellow alumni live, where they work, and what they do. You may also find that there are alumni LinkedIn Groups for your school. When logged in to your account, use http://www.linkedin/alumni to access the school search dashboard.
- Research companies and career fields. LinkedIn's structure and management of all the information users provide in their profiles allow you to do some pretty amazing things. Business Insider presents 13 Things You Never Knew You Could Do on LinkedIn, including searching for your next job based on the skills required. "If you have your eye on a better job or promotion, search for that job title on LinkedIn. You'll get to look at profiles of people who have that position and get a good idea what you need to do to reach that level." You'll also be able to see where they work, and how you may already be connected to them through your existing network.
- Use your profile as an ePortfolio. A basic user profile includes information you might find on a resume, such as work history and education. There are other options to consider to make your profile more robust and to demonstrate your skills and achievements. LinkedIn Applications allow you to connect your profile to other accounts you may have, such as Slideshare, WordPress, and GitHub. An additional application, Creative Portfolio Display is designed to help you "display your visual work" (i.e., images, video) from your profile. There are more applications to chose from, and you can also add links to your websites and Twitter accounts to your profile.
- Customize a news feed. You may not be aware that LinkedIn Today is already part of your account. It collects resources from "over 150 million LinkedIn members to show you the top articles shared by people in your network" and create this newspaper-like section. You can find it under the "More" menu item in your account dashboard and also embedded in your "Home" page. With custom settings you can choose from different layouts and add or delete topics.
- Create a weekly to-do list. Keeping your account current is a must. Just like a traditional resume, you'll need to maintain your employment and education information as it changes, and with additional social options, such as status updates, a neglected or abandoned account is easy to spot. Set a schedule not just for updates, but also for participating in the LinkedIn community. Here are 12 Most Productive Weekly Activities to get you started – specific tasks you can accomplish to expand your online presence and maximize your LinkedIn efforts.
There's a lot you can do with LinkedIn as just one part of your career development and job search strategy. Take some time to explore the tools available and decide which ones make the most sense for you. Stay tuned for more options as the platform continues to expand with experimental features currently in development at LinkedIn Labs.
What are your favorite ways to use LinkedIn? What new features would you like to see developed? Share your tips and recommendations with us here.