Thursday, October 28, 2010

14 ways to make LinkedIn work for your career

By Louisa Veidelis

Whether you’re happy in your job or are itching for new opportunities, signing up to LinkedIn and exploring its features can open up many opportunities for your career down the track.

LinkedIn was launched as a professional networking site 2003 and has become an essential networking tool, with 875,000 users in Australia, more than 50 million worldwide and many employers using the site to recruit staff.

So it’s time to stop ignoring all those invitations, and get linked in now.

1. Starting out: promote yourself
Admit it – do you Google yourself? Well, prospective employers will be sure to check out your online baggage too. Interestingly, an effectively built LinkedIn profile will appear above your Facebook page in search results, which gives a better first professional impression.

Once you sign up, change your profile to public in the ‘edit profile’ options. You can also customise your URL to make it more user friendly, featuring your first and last name. You can now include that URL on your resume and on your personal business cards.

2. Reconnect with old contacts
Finally, here’s a way to reconnect with old colleagues and people you meet at networking events. Better that industry contacts see your amazing work history rather than those embarrassing Facebook pics of you on a pub crawl.

Any less than 30 connections can look a little lonely but don’t go crazy adding every Tom, Dick and Harry – limit your connections to those people you truly want to stay in touch with.

And if any undesirables request you as a contact, you can simply archive their request to avoid awkwardness.

You also have the opportunity to view the connections of your connections (or, ‘second-degree connections’). If you would get in touch with one of them you can simply ask your contact for an introduction.

3. Connect your websites
LinkedIn provides a central hub to connect all the various websites displaying your ideas and skills – including Twitter, blogs, your portfolio and company websites.

4. Include a photo
While the jury’s still out on adding a photo to a traditional resume, including your headshot in your LinkedIn profile is a good way to add your personality to your profile. Make sure it’s a professional-looking shot – it’s not the place to show off your latest designer bikini.

5. Get headhunted – use keywords
LinkedIn recently revealed that over 1000 companies in Australia use LinkedIn Talent Advantage to hire. Companies advertise jobs on the site and search users to find people with the exact skills they need. Promoting your skills effectively could the difference between being noticed and missing out.

People can search the database using keywords. Search results are displayed by keyword relevance, with the most important words being those included in a user’s headline and summary. Keyword density is also a factor, so try to repeat your main keywords a few times throughout your profile.

6. Create a strong headline
LinkedIn will make your current job title your headline by default, but you can change this to something more impressive or eye-catching. For example, if you are a freelance proofreader, you could make your headline ‘Independent Editorial and Proofreading Professional’.

7. Write a good, meaty summary
Your summary expands on your headline and gives a brief overview of your professional background. You can limit this to a succinct couple of sentences or go into greater detail if you wish.

Specialties are a feature under summary. Enter areas of expertise here (for example, tax auditing, business development, MYOB), and don’t be afraid to overlap keywords in both sections.

8. Include achievements for each job
LinkedIn can act as your online resume. Include all details about your education and work history that are relevant to your current industry. Most importantly, include measurable achievements for each role.

Here are some example achievements:

* Produced a 55 per cent improvement in on-time, accurate shipment of stock to customers.
* Raised $6000 over two years by securing sponsorships from two local businesses.
* Increased brand recognition and product placement in the Asia Pacific that helped to achieve 45 per cent profit growth.
* Secured a national retail promotion with Starstruck Video stores to the value of $1 million.

9. Ask for recommendations
Add authority to your profile by getting recommendations from past bosses, colleagues or business associates. Sending a recommendation request through the site may be considered less obtrusive than emailing them out of the blue.

10. Join groups and associations
You can also connect with people with similar interests through LinkedIn Groups. This is a great way to add colour and pizzaz to your profile, showing which areas you’re passionate about.

11. Ask or answer questions
LinkedIn Answers is a new function that allows members to submit questions about any topic. Other members can then choose to submit answers. Asking or answering is another way to interact with people on the site and show your enthusiasm and/or expertise. The questions you ask or answer will appear on your profile so make sure your answers are intelligent so they present you in the best possible light.

12. Be honest
This is not the place to bend the truth. Due to the interconnected nature of the site, it’s very easy to contact people who worked with you to verify your claims.

13. Research companies and people
Find out more about companies by browsing the profiles of people who have worked there – how long did they stay at the organisation and what types of tasks did they perform?

And if you’ve got an interview coming up, check out the page of the person who will be interviewing you to find out a little about their history.

14. Keep active
Once you have built a strong LinkedIn profile, keep it updated and check back regularly for new connections to add. Interact with your connections to keep your relationships fresh, help them out with recommendations or introductions when you can and ask them for help when you need it.

Original Article

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