To get the most out of LinkedIn, start by thinking strategically about your career goals. Then find ways to use the platform’s more-advanced features, like network building and blogging, to achieve them.
Did you know that November is National Career Development Month? It’s a great time to make sure you’re getting the most out of one of the best career development and management vehicles available: LinkedIn.
Most people think of LinkedIn primarily as a job board, but when used strategically, the platform can be an excellent planning, lifelong-learning, networking, and visibility-building tool to help you advance your career. Here are some tips and tactics for using LinkedIn in a more advanced way.
Lay a solid foundation. Be sure your profile is up to date, supports your current career goals, and is consistent with any other online professional profiles you may have. For LinkedIn to work optimally, your profile needs to be at “all star” or “complete” status. This means that, at a minimum, you’ve included a photo, your location, industry, education, current work position and description, two past positions, and skills, and you’ve made at least 50 connections.
Also complete these sections:
- the “About” section, where you can add some personality and convey who you are as well as your career aspirations
- the skills and accomplishments sections, where you can display your skill set—including any new skills you’ve developed—highlight important achievements, and provide links to or upload examples of your work that illustrate your expertise
Make sure you use relevant keywords associated with the function or industry you’re interested in so you can “be found” for career opportunities that support your goals.
Study others’ career paths. Often, those beginning their careers or at a mid-career crossroads find themselves asking: What do I want to do next? What are my options? With more than 100 million professionals posting profiles, LinkedIn makes a superb research tool for learning about the career paths that professionals in other occupations or in more senior roles have taken. Reviewing profiles with an eye toward learning about the daily responsibilities of people in the types of jobs you’re interested in—as well as the variety of career paths those professionals took to get to their current role—can give you some ideas for next steps in your own journey.
Join groups for professional development. One of the best ways to learn the latest skills and trends in your profession is by joining some of the more than 2 million active LinkedIn groups (such as the ASAE group). These are forums composed of people sharing a common profession, industry, or civic or other interest. The key is to be an active participant; you can enhance your learning by engaging. Share information and opinions on professional hot topics or reach out to talk shop and tap into others’ expertise.
Expand your network. You probably know that you should start building your LinkedIn network by inviting your current and past colleagues (your first-level connections) to connect. This is where many people stop. To take full advantage of LinkedIn’s networking power and expand your reach, build your second-level connections by asking your first-level connections to introduce you to people in their networks. Also reach out to your association’s vendors and members. Make it worth another person’s while to connect with you by sharing pointers or information that can help you both reach your goals.
Build visibility by posting articles. By sharing articles about your areas of interest or expertise, or by writing them yourself with the blogging feature, you can use LinkedIn to help you raise your professional visibility. Writing or sharing useful content can help you become known as a reliable resource and subject matter expert, which can position you as someone ready to transition to a new, more challenging role inside or outside your organization.
Maintaining a current and active online presence with LinkedIn can have many career benefits. To celebrate National Career Development month, aim to put at least one of these strategies to work for you today.