I would hope that most professionals these days understand the importance that LinkedIn has become in social media, Internet presence, and career advancement. From having the ability to network with colleagues around the world to having an on-line biography for potential employers and recruiters to see, it is one of today’s “must have” tools for job seekers and professionals alike.
To my surprise, last year I received an e-mail from the folks at LinkedIn congratulating me for having one of the top 1% most viewed LinkedIn profiles of the 200 million members in 2012.
There are a couple of things you have to know about me to understand why this was such a surprise and then I would like to share what I have learned to better utilize LinkedIn.
First, I come from a field where being anonymous was a key piece of staying successful (no, I am not a hacker), but have been in the law enforcement/security/intelligence field for over 30 years. People in my field generally do not want to be or are not allowed to be publicly identified for a variety of reason. But for me, the tragic incidents of September 11th changed that when I had Public Relations people tell me that the general public wants to know whether they are safe and what people in my field were doing to ensure it – so I did my first media interview.
Second, as you may have guessed from above, being in my field for over 30-years makes me 1) a subject matter expert 2) a middle-aged person who didn’t grow up with the Internet and social media. In fact, not more than 10 years ago I swore I would never be on twitter or LinkedIn (thus the surprise at how far I had come) – it is a generational thing.
So, as I began to do media interviews, lecture, and write for numerous blogs and publications, I began to see the benefits of social media, especially LinkedIn. In fact, many people from the media told me that before they contacted me for an interview they looked at my LinkedIn profile.
I currently have over 1,100 connections on LinkedIn, and whether you think this is high or low, my profile is still constantly being viewed and there are some things I have learned about being successful on LinkedIn if you wish for it to help advance your career or land a job.
1. Make sure you have a professional profile picture
Don’t confuse other social media with LinkedIn by making the mistake of using a picture from your vacation, wedding or family Christmas card. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and if someone looks at your picture and the first thoughts are “What the heck were they thinking?” you have lost the battle. With today’s technology there is no reason why you can’t have a good, professional picture of yourself posted… and “selfies” don’t count as professional.
2. Keep your profile professional and focused
Personal information should not be put on LinkedIn for professional and safety reasons. Never, ever include your date of birth –with that and your name I can find you or steal your identity. But also don’t include information about your kids, your pets, or interests or hobbies that would give a potential employer the wrong impression about you. Keep your personal opinions, beliefs, and politics off the profile.
3. Don’t connect with everyone that reaches out to you (and visa versa)
As I stated I have over 1,100 connections, but I turn down many invitations to connect and do not reach out to connect that much anymore. Try to keep your connections relevant to your profession; if you want to connect with friends, family, or old high school or college buddies, use Facebook. Having 50 relevant connections is better than having 5,000 on LinkedIn; it is not a popularity contest.
4. Don’t join 100 groups – it looks desperate
Definitely join groups, but if you are going to join them, be active in them and limit yourself to no more than 20. And again, be careful which groups you do join because people will judge you by your group affiliations.
5. Be professional and polite
When someone invites you to connect take time to look at their profile and, whether you accept or decline, always send them a follow up message immediately, either thanking them for reaching out and how it is your pleasure to connect or why you turned down their invitation. It is a nice touch and shows class.
Lastly, LinkedIn is something you have to commit time to maintain.
Late response to invites or messages, outdated profile information, and not being active shows you are either too busy or lazy – neither a trait you want to project.
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