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Leveraging LinkedIn

There are whole books and blogs devoted to making LinkedIn work for you. I'll suggest right off the bat that you go out and pick up/follow a few, because it's impossible to cover all the possibilities in one article. However, keep reading for a few of my favourite hints and tips here.

If you're thinking of creating a profile, or updating the profile you created in half an hour some months ago and haven't touched since, start by scanning through the profiles of people who work in similar industries and similar roles to yours. Which profiles really caught your eye and made a strong positive impression? Which ones were ho-hum, and disappeared from your radar as soon as you clicked to the next? Did you see any wording you liked? Any fresh, engaging approaches? This research will help you know which presentation tactics to try out for yourself, and which to avoid.

Don't fall into the convenience trap of the Resume Import feature. It sounds like a fast, logical way to get your information up there, but your LinkedIn profile is NOT just an online version of your resume. Yes, they have a lot in common, but letting your job experience be the dominant part of your LinkedIn profile does not match the way recruiters and employers use this tool. They are looking for a strong first impression, a sense of you, and what problem of theirs they will solve by bringing you and your talents on-board. This is where your "personal brand" comes in. Are you the diplomat who can navigate even the trickiest client relationships and create lasting customer satisfaction? Are you the spreadsheet wizard who can streamline the most complex project for maximum profitability? That's the impression you want them to go away with. Design your profile to communicate it quickly and right away. Go ahead and use the Resume Import Tool to save you the typing time, but get right in there and modify from that point, so that your job descriptions take back seat to who YOU are.

Your summary is your first best chance to make a lasting impression. Make your summary punchy, vivid and memorable. Avoid overused (and hence meaningless) buzzwords. Lead with your best talents; talk about what you BRING to the projects, not about what you WANT.

Your current job title appears automatically under your name, but you don't have to leave it that way. Many job descriptions don't really match what you do, or what you do best. You may want a different job next time than the one you have now. Go ahead and change it to describe your skill set more clearly.

Check out the LinkedIn applications as a way to give interest to your profile, but as with anything else, don't overdo, for risk of cluttering your message.

Use the new Volunteer Experiences and Causes feature to highlight your unpaid work experience, give extra dimension to your image, and show your passion and commitment beyond the workplace.

Recommendations add a lot of colour to your profile; get recommendations by giving recommendations. Model the kind of recommendations you would like to receive by giving praise that focuses on coworkers' soft skills, and by mentioning excellence on a particular project or in a particularly challenging situation if possible. What you get back will probably highlight some characteristics or skills that you didn't think to mention. Seek out recommendations from people who have been your supervisors, your coworkers, and (where possible) your subordinates. Note that recommendations are a wonderful back-door way to demonstrate your writing skills! Make them vivid, readable and engaging.

Join LinkedIn groups pertaining to your industry and/or your skill area, and participate meaningfully. If you establish a presence as someone who asks interesting questions or has expertise to share, then people (and potential employers) will be more likely to check out your personal page to learn more about you. Recruiters often monitor these groups for subject matter experts and articulate "thought leaders".

Add a blog link only if your blog is regularly updated, and directly pertinent to your work -- or if you are a subject-matter expert in an area that demonstrates your abilities with analysis and communication, and makes you more memorable in a positive way. If it's family news and photos of your vacation, employers don't care and don't want to know.

Consider listing the books you read and/or recommend under the Amazon book list feature, to show that you are constantly learning, and to give some insight into your philosophy of work.

Update your status regularly but not so regularly that it looks like you have nothing better to do than issue repetitive status updates! Work for a frequency that makes you seem active and present.

Many job-hunting advisors tell you to link with people who work at companies you have targeted for employment. I consider this a bad strategy. If you succeed in making the connection, but your primary interest is in how your connection can get you what you want, you'll leave a trail of angry and turned-off people. No-one likes to feel used. Invest as much time in giving to your network as you do in "getting".

And finally, perfect spelling and grammar are just as crucial here as they are in your resume. Proof your profile carefully, or have a spelling-savvy friend do it for you. If you're standing in front of a world full of potential employers with sloppy errors on your public page, how likely will they be to put their business into your hands?

We've barely scratched the surface of what LinkedIn can do for your career. But as the saying goes, "90% of success is just showing up". Make sure that you have, at least, shown up in the venue used by thousands of employers and recruiters, and that you've taken the trouble to stand out from the crowd. It makes more of a difference than you think.

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