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This has probably happened to you recently…an onslaught of emails that say someone “added you as a connection on LinkedIn”, or they keep “inviting” you to join their network. The only problem is…you aren’t sure what that that means. Why should you use LinkedIn? What do you gain from adding or including people in your network? We’re here to help you navigate this professional social network, and show you how it can help you leverage yourself and your brand.

-What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn was started in 2003, and has over 259 million members, with 84 million of those located here in the U.S.. It is the world’s largest professional network, and over 3 million companies use the company pages feature.  LinkedIn has become the leader in business to business social media interaction. (Source: LinkedIn.com.)

-How do I sign up? What does it cost? 

If you aren’t already involved, then creating your personal account is relatively fast and easy. Best of all, it’s free!  It asks you to fill in a summary, which is a section about your overall qualifications and career choices. Then, you can fill in your previous and current employment, and your personal profile page becomes quite similar to a resume. Think of it as your Facebook-page-meets-a-cover-letter. You can add a photo, and then add contacts and networks, much like Facebook. You can search for contacts and networks in the search bar, or you can use your email contacts (sending an invite will email your colleagues to tell them you’ve joined). You can also pay for a premium account, which unlocks additional jobs and networks.  The paid accounts are VERY useful to those seeking to expand their networks by reaching out to key people at their target companies or in their target industries.

-What can I do on LinkedIn?

In one word: NETWORK!  You can search for jobs, find old colleagues, and list your previous experience. Companies who are part of the social network can search for qualified candidates based on keywords, so it may help you find a great job. It can also help you discover others who are in your field, who may be helpful resources for you. Your page is a great place to send a prospective employer a resume (though if they request a standard paper resume, be sure to follow their directions!)  It can be a good place to store your information for use in creating a resume later on. You can even use their “resume builder”, which uses the information  you entered.

Here are FrontGate’s TOP 3 TIPS FOR BEGINNERS just starting to use LinkedIn:

-Keep it current and professional! We can’t emphasize this enough…if someone goes to your page, make sure it’s up to date, and professional. Check your spelling, grammar, and phrases. Double check links, webpages, and blogs you place  there, and make sure your photo is a good resolution for viewing.  We found 400×400 to be a great size.  Be mindful of your status updates.  LinkedIn is all about professional networking, so leave your vacation pictures on Facebook. Post work related content that is relevant to your professional life.

-Utilize the groups and suggested people in your network: Make sure you check and approve “requests” (like friend requests) which will expand your network and keep your page fluid. Check your page periodically and make sure to “endorse” others with whom you have worked (this is like a recommendation), and you can request they do the same. Word of mouth about your work will look terrific when employers or clients are viewing your page. Make sure you check out the groups you want to join by clicking “demographics” and seeing their activity.

-Turn off activity notifications: If you are concerned about keeping your activities more private, you can go to “privacy and settings” and click the setting that allows only you view your activity. This is a good professional move, particularly if you’re job hunting and want to keep it quiet until you make a decision. Plus, you won’t annoy everyone in your network (and even prospective employers) by showing them how much you are surfing their page!

In our next blog, we’ll discuss our top tips on how companies can use LinkedIn.

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