I’m now convinced that an active LinkedIn profile is essential for almost anyone who wants to cultivate a career. Even if you are satisfied in your job, LinkedIn can bring you unexpected opportunities. Canfield herself says she was sending a LinkedIn message to an old public relations client, asking for advice about travel to London and Paris, when the contact responded with the tip that LinkedIn was hiring. Canfield wound up getting the job. That’s the way traditional networking operates, but since it’s digital and nearly instantaneous, LinkedIn can be startlingly efficient.
I had another conversation with Canfield this week, and with a career coach source, Robert Hellmann, whose book, Your Social Media Job Search, has a new edition coming out in August. Consider this story an all-levels tip list aimed at those who are still timid about taking the LinkedIn plunge, and others who might want to use more advanced tools and check out new features. I’ll start with basics and wind up with new features.
1. Include more than your current job
If you are setting up your profile quickly and only want to include the bare bones, be sure to list as many of your past positions as possible. If you’ve been in your job only a few months, and that’s all you include, you will look like you are just starting your career. Canfield says that recruiters routinely search according to years of experience.
2. Add a photo
Canfield says LinkedIn has found that profiles with photos are seven times more likely to be viewed. Also, if you’re reaching out to old contacts, they may be more likely to remember your face than your name. If you’ve married and changed your name, a photo can clear up the confusion.
3. Connect to at least 50 people
LinkedIn has settled on 50 as the “magic number” that will increase your networking chances. Career coach Hellmann recommends 70 connections.
4. Connect with people you know.
Career coach Hellmann advises a do-unto-others rule when deciding whether to connect with other LinkedIn users. “If they’re total strangers, they’re not going to help you and you’re not going to help them,” he observes. Would you be willing to correspond with this person, and/or send an email on the contact’s behalf? Then you should connect. One caveat: Some people use LinkedIn to promote products, in which case they want a sprawling network, including strangers. But if you’re using LinkedIn as a job search tool, make sure you know your contacts well enough to want to network with them.
5. Personalize your communications
This is a pet peeve of mine. When you send a request to connect with someone, always take a moment to alter the default message, even if just to say something like, “Hey Jack, Let’s connect.” Think of how you feel when you receive a form letter. I feel alienated, and less inclined to respond.