You’ve friended just about everyone you’ve ever met on Facebook (including your crush from the summer of ‘89). You’re a pro at curating deceptively easy dinner-party recipes on Pinterest. And on Twitter you have a couple of hundred followers reading your 140-character zingers. Yet all this time you’ve hesitated to join LinkedIn. Are you missing out? Here’s a guide to the career-networking website, along with ways to navigate it if you do sign up.
Who should use LinkedIn?
If you work in health care, finance, marketing, event planning, law, technology, consulting, human resources, or sales or at a nonprofit, “the site is a great place to connect with people who can help you professionally, and vice versa, whether you’re job-seeking or networking,” says Victoria Ipri, the CEO of Ipri International, a Philadelphia-based marketing firm that specializes in LinkedIn strategies. About 26 percent of companies research potential employees on the site, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder study. Feel free to skip membership, however, if you’re contentedly self-employed with a trade like personal organizing or gardening; you’ll be able to market yourself to clients more easily on Facebook.
Should you connect with your best friend?
What about a stranger? Your college roommate is a nurse, and you’re an accountant. So you can’t really assist each other professionally, right? Not necessarily. “You’re not just connecting with a person, but their network as well. She may have a link to someone who could help you,” says Viveka von Rosen, the author of LinkedIn Marketing ($30, amazon.com). For the same reason, it’s also wise to consider accepting a request from someone you don’t know. “When you receive a random invitation, look at the sender’s profile and determine if it is a quality connection for your needs and circumstances before accepting or rejecting it,” says Ipri.
What’s the best way to grow your network?
Use the site’s “People You May Know” tool (located on the right side of your page) to reach out to professionals with similar backgrounds and connections. If you’re interested in working for a particular company (IBM or Procter & Gamble, say), go to its page and click to “follow” it, then look at the list of people who work there. Next, find an employee whose path you would like to emulate, then invite her to connect, says Nicole Williams, the resident career expert at LinkedIn: “To demonstrate that you would be a meaningful connection, write a note that conveys that you have done research on her employer and her personal accomplishments.”
How frequently do you need to check in?
Every day for a few minutes, and once a week for about a half hour. That’s how much time you’ll need to write to a new connection and to participate in a group discussion. Keep in mind: “Hiring managers are 10 times more likely to look at your profile if you post something at least weekly,” says Williams.
Should your profile page replicate your résumé?
It should be even more detailed. Think of it as your résumé, plus everything else that you couldn’t fit on it, like video clips of speeches that you’ve given and news articles about your work, says von Rosen. The more thorough you are in describing yourself, the easier it is for an employer to assess your qualifications. So go on—toot your own horn.