In the last decade, LinkedIn has grown from a social networking site for Silicon Valley types to a must-join for professionals around the globe (hello, 200 million users). But what’s the best way to leverage the world’s largest professional network? We asked experts both inside and outside the social media giant to weigh in.
Upload your photo. Profiles with photos get seven times more pageviews than those without, says Krista Canfield, a LinkedIn senior communications manager. Use a clear, close-up headshot of yourself against a plain backdrop. Solid-colored shirts work better than prints. And don’t forget to smile! (You want to look approachable.)
Optimize for search. Recruiters and hiring managers often search for job candidates by entering relevant keywords into LinkedIn’s search engine. So look at profiles of people who have the job you want, as well as job listings, and identify the words that show up most frequently. Then add those to your titles, your headline and your descriptions, says job-search consultant Miriam Salpeter.
Be a follower. Some 2.6 million companies (including 85 Fortune 500 companies) have LinkedIn pages. If you follow them on LinkedIn, you’ll learn when they’re hiring, who has recently left (job opp!), and what’s going on with the company. You can benefit from following companies you’d like to work for—and competitors, too. “If they’re hiring certain types of people, that might be something you want to know from a competitive standpoint,” says Canfield.
Cultivate connections. Should you have 10 times your age in LinkedIn connections, as social media expert Neal Shaffer suggests, or is 500+ the magic ticket to open all doors? If your job demands it, aim for the wider swath of connections, says Ted Prodromou, author of the Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business. If not, focus on cultivating a network of relevant contacts who will want to be in touch with you—but aim for at least 50 connections, says Canfield. One incentive for increasing your circle: You might not have a direct contact somewhere, but if you search the company name, you may discover a second- or third-degree contact who does and you can ask them for an introduction. The more connections you have, the more likely those kinds of contacts will show up.
Get into groups. A network isn’t useful unless you use it, says Salpeter, author of Social Networking for Career Success, who recommends joining a few strong and active groups. Click on “Groups You May Like” and evaluate them by clicking on the “insightful statistics on this group” link on the righthand side of the page.
Speak up. LinkedIn has a “share” box in which you can make a comment or share a link to an article, or just ask a question. “If you share something just once a week on LinkedIn you are 10 times more likely to have your profile viewed,” says Canfield.
You can update your status and search for other people’s status updates via LinkedIn’s Signal (under the News tab). Think of LinkedIn as a place, like Facebook, where you can reach out and support others with messages and comments, says Lindsey Pollack, a career and workplace consultant. “The more you give, the more people support you in return.”