One of the primary benefits of joining LinkedIn as a social network is its focus on career-related connections. This can take off some of the pressure that may exist on other platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook) to be witty, clever, or even somewhat controversial. You do, however, need to be professional as you make connections and build a profile that represents you online.
Over time, LinkedIn members have developed preferred ways to communicate with each other via the system’s features and functions. It’s a powerful resource – with potential for networking, career development, and job search success for online students and instructors alike – but as the platform has evolved, some techniques have become more effective than others.
How can you make the best of your LinkedIn account? Here are a few tips as you proceed with your next profile update:
- Don’t just send the default invitation to connect. “I’d like to add you to my professional network” is the standard text you’ll find when you decide to send an invitation to another LinkedIn user. Leaving this as-is doesn’t say much about who you are and why you want to connect. And it’s easy to add a sentence or two to personalize a message for each recipient. Public relations expert Sakita Holley provides six scenarios (e.g., former boss, prospective employer) and invitation examples.
- Don’t connect as a “friend” if you’re not a friend. Unless … this is the only way you have to make the connection and you can explain why you want to connect per item #1 above. Can you find an email address for the person online? Are you members of the same LinkedIn Groups? Social media consultant Jeff Bullas notes that connecting as a friend “is a major pet peeve for many professionals on LinkedIn.” Exhaust the other available options before selecting “friend” when you send out an invitation.
- Don’t describe yourself with overused or effusive terms. “Creative” and “motivated” are just two professional buzzwords recently identified by LinkedIn. Used on their own, they don’t really convey much about your qualifications and potential. Are they in your profile headline? Jeff Haden recommends an alternative approach: consider how you introduce yourself to someone you meet in person. Would you say: “I’m a passionate, innovative, dynamic provider of services”? Probably not. In a way, your LinkedIn profile is speaking for you – how are you being introduced?
- Don’t leave your profile unfinished. There is an expectation that you’ll have some basic information completed: your name, a unique headline, location, and industry. Adding your work and education history is also a good idea. You don’t have to go all the way back, but details that are current and relevant to your career and employment goals are important to include. Business Insider also recommends an appropriate photo, summary, and skills. Writing online profiles can become a chore when you have multiple accounts. Journalism instructor Kenna Griffin suggests a method that will ensure you cover all of your profile bases.
- Don’t leave your professional reputation to chance. A new post from community college author and consultant Isa Adney stresses the need “to be intentional and thoughtful about why you have social media and the results you desire from your posts.” Setting priorities for how you want to use LinkedIn will help you make decisions regarding what you include in your profile, which LinkedIn Groups you join, and how you interact with other members via discussion boards, messages, invitations, and more.
You’ll still have to monitor and update your account as your information changes, but starting your profile with these “don’ts” in mind will get you off to a good start, and show that you are concerned about your professional presence online.
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Image credit: tychay, Flickr, CC:BY-NC-ND