Want to elevate your credentials? LinkedIn can make a difference, and add a significant amount of gravitas to your professional background. There are a lot of different resources out there that provide helpful tips on LinkedIn, but here are the top things you need to know why you should take LinkedIn seriously as a valid career tool with as much weight as your resume:
1. Online presence.
Nowadays, if your name doesn't pop up on any online searches, it's become almost a bad thing. Here's what an employer thinks: If the candidate hasn't done anything to get themselves out on the Internet, then it's likely that the prospective employee is a non-entity with virtually no accomplishments, affiliations. or leadership. It also indirectly shows a lack of career drive in proactively establishing an online presence. By jumping in, you can help dictate what is published about you. With 4 out of 5 employers doing some kind of social media audit or Web search, you really need to understand how important it is to create a professional profile online, and LinkedIn is a heavily-utilized avenue to accomplish this.
Instead of heaping on a pile of letters of recommendations into an application, asking colleagues, supervisors, clients, and people who are familiar with your abilities in the workplace to write a testimonial can accomplish the same thing, and also provide that first blush impression of you as a person. It also consolidates this information in one place, so you aren't scrambling for recommendations at the last minute. Be specific- when asking someone to write up your positive work attributes, make sure you strategically ask them to talk about one specific aspect of what you have to offer... by spreading out your attributes among several people, it gives a wider scope of who you are to prospective employers. But be careful about 'trading' recommendations with your friends- employers can spot these a mile a way and essentially, these become worthless if it is simply a 'scratch my back / scratch your back' exchange.
3. Q&A - Establish yourself as a subject matter expert.
Some fields require pretty specific knowledge- the question and answer section of LinkedIn can help you establish yourself as a subject matter expert, and gain user votes for your expertise along the way. Find the appropriate categories where you feel that you can knowledgably contribute, and answer questions selflessly. Don't try to insert any 'plugs' or sales pitches to try and direct readers to your site... that's the fastest way to get blacklisted...!
4. Find jobs.
Many employers relish the aspect of having the 'six degrees of separation' factor in LinkedIn, and are starting to only post jobs on this site. If you decide to apply, the company hiring manager or human resource manager can find a linkable trail to how you might be connected to someone inside the company.
5. Find people / become connected.
Conversely, if you find a position that you are interested in, it's important to remember that people pave the way to jobs. Identify a job opening with a company, then jump onto LinkedIn to see if you are connected to someone at that organization where you can find out additional information about the opening. Be careful about 'using' people- no one likes being a stepping stone, so make sure to be polite, ask the right questions about your connection and their interface with the company, and remember to thank them for their time. Cultivating those relationships can payoff when a job opens up there, and you have established an internal advocate!
6. Join networking groups.
There is virtually a group for everyone on LinkedIn, and by connecting to the right 'packs' of connections or in the same industry, you can stay abreast of current issues, trends, and learn new things that can keep your industry-specific knowledge honed. You can also gain influence while enhancing your online profile by participating in discussions and also answering some of the Q&A (see above).
7. Use LinkedIn to gather business intelligence.
This online tool doesn't need to be just for looking for jobs. You can use this site as a way to gather information on competitors, which may help you in your current position! This doesn't mean trade secrets; usually this means obtaining enough information to obtain competitive profiles of other companies.
8. Show traction through regular updates.
LinkedIn allows users to add an update sort of along the lines of Twitter and Facebook- but keep it business-like. Adding tidbits about a recent conference you attended, or a presentation that you gave, can provide a visitor to your profile a sense of your career traction moving forward.
By understanding all of these points, you will be able to leverage your online presence to augment your career credentials and stand out in your career.