LinkedIn is the most popular business network on the planet, boasting more than 200 million users. You're probably one of them. Also highly probable: You're not taking full advantage of this business and career networking service.
Here's the good news: LinkedIn can be an excellent resource without becoming a time sink. Don't neglect your profile or the service in general just because you're not actively looking for a job at this very moment. Hiring managers, clients, colleagues, and potential customers and business partners are constantly browsing LinkedIn. A killer profile and savvy search skills will give you a competitive edge. It might also remind your current boss--who is probably doing the same thing--just why you're so valuable (and potentially poachable).
Our five-step guide will make you a LinkedIn power user, so you can land your next job opportunity, promotion, or business deal.
Step 1: Polish your profile
Your professional profile is the most important--and often the most neglected--element of LinkedIn. This is where you display your work experience, skills, and education. More important, it's the best place to inject some personality into what can otherwise be a dull laundry list of a résumé.
Wayne Breitbarth, author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success, points out that the LinkedIn profile is designed to be much more than a simple CV. "Hiring reps love LinkedIn," Breitbarth says, "because it has defined spaces and it offers a lot more information than a traditional two-page résumé, such as recommendations and links to projects or published works."
The more information you provide in your profile, the more likely your name will appear in searches. LinkedIn has a number of widgets that you can add to your profile to highlight honors and awards you've received, coursework you've completed, patents you've been awarded, languages you speak, certifications you've earned, and even causes you've volunteered for. To add widgets, go to Profile > Edit Profile, and choose widgets from the right side of the screen.
Be sure to include a well-lit, professional-looking photo on your profile too. "The biggest mistake people make is not having a photo," says Breitbarth. "That's an automatic disqualifier for many job seekers and hiring managers alike."
A complete profile is the most important factor in having an effective LinkedIn presence.
LinkedIn will automatically fill many of the fields in your profile, but there's no reason to accept what it comes up with. For instance, typically it populates the profile headline (the words displayed beneath your name) with your current job title. But you can edit the headline to say anything: Just click Profile > Edit Profile, and then click the pencil symbol next to that headline. If you're an independent contractor, for instance, you might prefer to write something that encapsulates your philosophy or describes your unique take on your craft.
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