Why you should use LinkedIn (if you aren’t already)

linkedin2.gifToday’s New York Times article about LinkedIn.com is yet another indication that membership in this professional networking site (note: basic membership is free) is now essential for any career-minded professional. The article announces that LinkedIn just raised $53 million in capital, ensuring that it will grow even larger and more robust.

Wanting to know more about LinkedIn’s features and benefits, I recently took a tour of the site with Krista Canfield, PR manager at LinkedIn. Here are the top activities she recommends for young professionals to get the maximum benefit from membership in the site:

1. Study people you admire. Want to eventually be a chief marketing officer someday? Look at the profiles of current CMOs and see how they got there, what they studied, what skills they developed, where they’ve worked, what groups they belong to and to whom they’re connected.

2 . Tailor your profile to look similar to the people whose careers you want. Once you research those people you admire, work on tailoring your profile to be similar to theirs. LinkedIn is like having a bottomless stack of resumes to look through for great ideas on formatting, key words and language.

3. Research people you are scheduled to meet. Whether for a job interview, a client meeting or a networking get-together, use LinkedIn to learn about the background and interests of people before you meet them face-to-face. (It’s not stalking if the person has posted his or her information on a public website!)

4. Ask for advice and give advice. LinkedIn’s “Answers” feature is a great place to seek advice from a wide variety of people all around the world. You can also show the world what you have to offer by answering people’s questions about a topic where you have some expertise. Asking and answering questions is also a way to build your online visibility. The more active you are in forums like Answers, the more people will come across your profile and want to connect with you.

5. If you want to increase your Google-ability, set your profile as public and choose a vanity URL. Making your profile public allows you to be discovered through web searches in a way that you control. Your vanity URL (www.linkedin.com/in/yourname) allows you to easily promote your LinkedIn profile. I’ve noticed people including their LinkedIn URLs in their email signatures and even on business cards.

If you’re interested in more information and tips about making the most of LinkedIn, check out the resources listed in my blog post “Yes, people really get jobs through social networking,” the book I co-authored with Diane K. Danielson, The Savvy Gal’s Guide to Online Networking (Or, What Would Jane Austen Do?) and Jason Alba’s helpful book, I’m on LinkedIn…Now What?

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