If you’re not yet on LinkedIn, you should be. Five years ago, the career networking website was a helpful option for anyone attempting to find work or develop a professional network. Now it is no longer optional – it’s compulsory. The website’s membership has grown by leaps and bounds in America and around the world. As the membership grew (it is now over 225 million), so did the interest of employers. Now most major U.S. employers use LinkedIn for recruiting purposes.
LinkedIn has been adding more features and options recently, but the basic formula remains the same: you post a professional profile on the site and then connect with other members. While this formula is very simple, the data collected has made this website (the biggest career networking site on the Internet) an invaluable tool for both individuals and companies.
Here are five ways you can use LinkedIn to build your career.
- Fill out your profile.
The first and most important way is to fill out a complete profile. This is similar to a resume but includes a broader range of information. Profiles are searchable, so you should ensure that your skills and experience are clearly worded. To the extent that such materials are relevant to your career, you should also take advantage of the option of adding text documents, videos, or images.
- Build your network of connections.
Adding people as connections is the way you build your professional network. It’s advantageous to as many connections as possible because a larger network facilitates making connections with individuals that you don’t know but wish to contact as part of an employment search (since connecting with strangers is disallowed).
- Endorse and be endorsed.
The “Skills and Expertise” section of the profile allows members to “endorse” specific skills claimed by each person. When you endorse the skills of people you know, they are prompted (and perhaps feel obligated) to endorse your skills. Any employer reviewing your profile can see which skills have received the largest number of endorsements.
- Look for jobs.
Many employers now post jobs on LinkedIn. If you see something you like, you may apply directly from the site (your profile is sent to the employer), or you may be redirected to the company’s own job application webpage. Alongside the job description, the site lists all your connections who work at that particular company – a feature which makes it easy and fast to use your network to leverage a job search.
- Join groups and contribute to their discussions.
There are groups for every profession – and groups for subcategories within most professions. Find one (or more) that appears promising and then start networking with group members through discussions. Also, check out the relevant jobs that are posted in each group area. LinkedIn has become an indispensable tool for finding jobs and enhancing career options. In fact, it is now more important than the dedicated job search websites (like Monster and CareerBuilder). As the number of members grows and the site develops more options, LinkedIn becomes increasingly useful.