Are you halfhearted when it comes to this epicenter of career activity? No more slacking. Here are expert tips on maximizing your presence and putting your connections to work for you.
Tend Your Profile Like a Garden.
Make sure that your photo matches your field. "If you're a marine biologist, a photo of you by the ocean would make sense. But not if you're an accountant," says Catherine Fisher, LinkedIn's career expert. Spend a few minutes a day (or half an hour per week) building your presence. Add new examples of your work, share articles relevant to your field, and participate in conversations. It makes you look like an expert and increases your visibility, because your activity shows up in other people's feeds. And be polite, says Pamela Weinberg, a career coach and a personal branding strategist: "When you ask someone to connect, personalize your message and remind them of the context in which you met."
Fill In All Blanks.
Adding awards and volunteer experience may seem excessive, but this stuff matters. A 2011 LinkedIn survey found that 42 percent of hiring managers consider volunteer work equivalent to formal work experience. "Include anything that can differentiate you from others and help you make a connection with someone," says Weinberg.
For the Love of Pete, Proofread!
A messy profile, like a messy résumé, is going to be dismissed in an instant. Spend some time proofing your work, then send the link to a wordsmithy friend for a read. Each time you update, take a few minutes to polish.
Join Your Alumni Group.
Groups associated with your occupation can be useful for news, sharing info, and learning about conferences. "But if you're not a joiner, at least join your alumni group," says Weinberg. It will probably be fruitful, because alums are usually willing to help out one another.
Use Key Words, Not Buzzwords.
In the summary at the top of your profile (and throughout), steer clear of overused language like motivated, passionate, and driven. Instead focus on terms specific to your field. If you're in marketing, say, mention various channels of the field, like "e-commerce" and "search-engine optimization." Recruiters use key words to search for candidates, explains Becky Wallraff, a recruiter-training specialist at Aerotek, a nationwide staffing agency. When possible, she adds, quantify achievements with data: "If you ran the largest event-planning business in Phoenix, give numbers to show scale."
Get Recommendations From Above, Below, and Beside.
"It's best to have them from all levels and interactions, including managers, peers, subordinates, and clients," says Wallraff. Remember—recommendations carry much more weight than those check-box endorsements on LinkedIn, says Weinberg. Her rule of thumb is one recommendation per job, unless you've been in the same job for many years—in which case soliciting a few recommendations related to that role makes sense.