More and more business professionals are using social networks to build relationships, meet new contacts, and market themselves. For the uninitiated, however, diving into the virtual meet-and-greet can be daunting. Where to begin? For first-time users, the answer is
Developed specifically for business, the site doesn't run the risk of blurring your professional life with your private one; and with more than 25 million users, it serves virtually every industry and profession.
Joining a network like LinkedIn is simple, but turning it into a powerful networking tool takes a bit of savvy. Here's how to set up a profile, build a network, and put it all to work — without social-networking anxiety.
Create a Compelling Profile
Goal: Make it clear what you’ve done in your career — and what you want to do.
Before you connect to others, you must first set up a profile page at www.linkedin.com. While your page will detail your work history, don’t assume you can copy and paste your resume and be done with it. Your profile page should reflect your professional interests, passions, and ambitions. The site will walk you through filling in the blanks, but you’ll want to think ahead about two areas: Defining Yourself
Directly underneath your name will be a short headline of four or five words. More than anything else in your profile, these words are how people find and define you. Are you seeking to connect mainly with others in your field and industry? Then a simple, explanatory headline like “Senior
Project Manager at McDonnell-Douglas” is best. Are you seeking to branch out into other areas? “Leader of High-Performing Aeronautical
Engineering Projects” alerts others quickly to the value you would bring to an organization. Regardless of how you phrase your headline, make sure to use keywords that will help others find you.
What You’ve Done, and What You Want to Do
When listing your past job experiences, use verbs as much as possible. Show what you’re passionate about, and what you’ve learned from each job. Chris Brogan, a vice president at business-technology company CrossTech Media and a frequent blogger on the topic of social networks, suggests listing “non-jobs” you’ve done, like chairing a conference or leading a panel. “People shouldn’t just think of this as a resume tool,” he says. “It can be a way to show color and breadth.”
“LinkedIn is aspirational,” says Mrinal
Desai, a former LinkedIn “evangelist” and currently a vice president at desktop-sharing software company CrossLoop, Inc. He recommends including not just what you’ve done but what you want to do in the future. One place to do this is in the “About” section. “You can add an area where maybe you don’t have experience but you’re looking to gain it,” Desai says.
Make Sure You Include:
A solid headline with keywords relevant to your industry.
A picture. “People do business with people,” Desai says. 3.
How you prefer to be contacted. At the bottom of your profile, you can let people know how you want to be contacted — through LinkedIn, by e-mail, or over the phone.
What you want to be contacted about. At the bottom of your profile, you can select interests like reference requests, consulting offers, or career opportunities. Make Sure You Don’t Include:
Any contact information you’re not comfortable having your contacts see. Your contact information will be visible only to those you are connected to, but you should decide whether you want that to include things like phone numbers or personal e-mail.
Anything that even begins to stray from the truth. Unlike even a resume, your profile will be seen by a lot of eyes. Did you really lead that project, or did you lead it along with several others?
Anything you wouldn’t want fellow colleagues — current, former, or future — to know.