Create a Compelling Profile
Goal: Make it clear what you’ve done in your
career — and what you want to do.
Before you connect to others, you must first set up a profile
page at www.linkedin.com. While your
page will detail your work history, don’t assume you can copy and
paste your resume and be done with it. Your profile page should reflect your
professional interests, passions, and ambitions. The site will walk you through
filling in the blanks, but you’ll want to think ahead about two
Directly underneath your name will be a short headline of four
or five words. More than anything else in your profile, these words are how
people find and define you. Are you seeking to connect mainly with others in
your field and industry? Then a simple, explanatory headline like “Senior
Project Manager at McDonnell-Douglas” is best. Are you seeking to
branch out into other areas? “Leader of High-Performing Aeronautical
Engineering Projects” alerts others quickly to the value you would
bring to an organization. Regardless of how you phrase your headline, make sure
to use keywords that will help others find you.
What You’ve Done, and What You Want to Do
When listing your past job experiences, use verbs as much as
possible. Show what you’re passionate about, and what you’ve
learned from each job. Chris Brogan, a vice president at business-technology
company CrossTech Media and a frequent blogger on the topic of social networks, suggests
listing “non-jobs” you’ve done, like chairing a
conference or leading a panel. “People shouldn’t just think
of this as a resume tool,” he says. “It can be a way to show
color and breadth.”
“LinkedIn is aspirational,” says Mrinal
Desai, a former LinkedIn “evangelist” and currently a vice
president at desktop-sharing software company CrossLoop, Inc. He recommends
including not just what you’ve done but what you want to do in the
future. One place to do this is in the “About” section. “You
can add an area where maybe you don’t have experience but you’re
looking to gain it,” Desai says.
Make Sure You Include:
A solid headline with keywords relevant to your industry.
A picture. “People do business with people,” Desai
How you prefer to be contacted. At the bottom of your profile, you can
let people know how you want to be contacted — through LinkedIn, by
e-mail, or over the phone.
What you want to be contacted about. At the bottom of your profile, you
can select interests like reference requests, consulting offers, or career
Make Sure You Don’t Include:
Any contact information you’re not comfortable having your
contacts see. Your contact information will be visible only to those you are
connected to, but you should decide whether you want that to include things
like phone numbers or personal e-mail.
Anything that even begins to stray from the truth. Unlike even a resume,
your profile will be seen by a lot of eyes. Did you really lead that project,
or did you lead it along with several others?
Anything you wouldn’t want fellow colleagues —
current, former, or future — to know. LinkedIn is for professional
relationships, and just like at the dinner table, it’s wise to keep
politics and religion politely to yourself.
Build Your Network
Goal: Connect with others who share your professional interests and can help
you meet your goals.
After you’ve created your profile, it’s time
to begin to connect to others. LinkedIn will allow you to search for people you
know to see if they’re already members. But once you connect to
someone, you can also look at the profiles of anyone they know, and in turn
anyone those people know. Because of these three degrees of separation, your
network can grow exponentially. Fewer than fifty direct contacts can translate
to millions of business users.
Before you begin connecting, decide who you want to connect to.
LinkedIn suggests in its FAQ, “Only invite those you know and trust.”
Sharma, a senior director at Force.com, put it in his blog, “If
you receive an invite on LinkedIn, ask yourself if you would take a call from
this person on a busy Monday morning.”
Desai sees who you connect to as a way to ensure quality
control: “My network acts as a filter, and I act as a filter for my
network. My network won’t send me anything that’s spam.”
Also consider your position relative to those you’re
connecting to. “Does my CEO ‘friend’ our
receptionist? Does he ‘friend’ his niece?” Brogan
asks. “I think it depends on how much status matters for you.”
A good rule of thumb is the more traditional your industry, the less you want
to connect to those very far above or below you on the corporate ladder.
But what if you work at Hewlett-Packard? Should you connect with
someone at rival company IBM? Yes, says Brogan: “More than likely,
you’re not always going to be at the same company, and there could
also be some cross-pollination of ideas there.”
How to Not Be Friends
If someone contacts you and you don’t want to form
a connection with them, you don’t need to flatly reject them and
worry about the attendant awkwardness. When looking at the invitation to
connect, simply hit “Archive.” The other person does not
receive a message saying their invitation has been rejected, and you don’t
have to worry about unwanted invitations clogging up your inbox.
Likewise, if you find that an existing contact is blasting
you with too much information or making overly aggressive requests for
introductions and recommendations, LinkedIn will let you remove that person
easily — and without the contact knowing they’re out of
your network. If only it were that easy in real life.
Get the Most From Your Connections
Goal: Now that you’re connected, put all
those people to use.
There are three main things your network can do for you: answer
business-related questions, make recommendations and introductions, and provide
company information. Make sure that you focus on helping others when you first
join. “It’s the idea of bringing wine to the party,”
Brogan says. “If you’re offering up helpful stuff and
services, your reputation will go a lot further than if you’re just
out there for yourself.”
1. Ask and answer questions.
While signed in, you can quickly see a list of open questions
that have been asked by anyone in your extended network. Queries can range from
advice on turning a website into a business to detailed questions about tax
law. Participating in these exchanges is an easy way of gaining trust and
building your reputation. Asking questions will prompt informed sources to
offer their expert advice (which helps everyone in the network), while
providing answers gives you a chance to show off your own expertise to others.
2. Recommend and introduce colleagues.
Recommendations work as a form of currency in a social network.
Those who are happy with your work can write a brief description of their
experience on your LinkedIn profile. By having a broad range of endorsements
attesting to your professional expertise, you show others that you can be
trusted. And make sure to recommend those you’ve had good experiences
Introductions are trickier but also more valuable. This is where
your personal judgment needs to come into play. When someone contacts you for
an introduction, be sure you understand and approve of what they want before
making the handoff. Likewise, make your intentions clear when you are asking
for an introduction.
3. Learn more about your professional network.
You can quickly learn a lot about a potential business partner
or contact by reading their profile. Mrinal Desai uses it before almost every
meeting. “It brings up a lot of things you can discuss and build a
relationship on,” he says. Unlike, for example, someone’s
Google results, everything you find on LinkedIn has been voluntarily placed
there by your contact.
Rachna D. Jain, a psychologist and chief social marketer at
MindShare Corp., a company focusing on the psychology of social networking,
recommends watching to see who your contacts are becoming connected with to
figure out who might be worth getting to know yourself.
Staying Plugged In
LinkedIn has a number of plug-ins and add-ons that can make
your social networking even more effective. Here are three you should
make a part of your online life:
href="http://www.linkedin.com/static?key=outlook_toolbar_download">LinkedIn Outlook Toolbar: Build your network from those you e-mail frequently, manage your network from
within Outlook, and see mini LinkedIn profiles for everyone who e-mails you.
Web Browser Toolbar (for
href="http://www.linkedin.com/static?key=browser_toolbar_download">Internet Explorer and Firefox): Quickly search LinkedIn for any name you come across while surfing. Read about
an interesting person in the Journal? Click on their name and see how
closely you’re connected.
LinkedIn E-mail Signature:
Create a custom e-mail signature in Outlook, Outlook Express, and Mozilla
Thunderbird with a brief version of your LinkedIn profile and a link to your
Manage Your Social Network
Goal: Continue to gain benefits from your social
network — without making it your full-time job.
“Don’t expect that you can post something
one time and get ongoing benefits,” Jain says. You’ll need
to continually update and refine your profile and your network. The most
obvious way to do this is to add new contacts. When Jain comes home from a
conference, for example, she goes through the business cards she collected to
see who’s on LinkedIn. Adding new contacts, sometimes from outside
your immediate field or industry, is also a subtly persuasive way to sell
yourself by letting others see how far your professional sphere extends.
Brogan advises checking up on your profile about once a month
and making sure your job description is still accurate. He also recommends
reaching out to contacts even when you don’t have a business concern.
He tries to touch base with a few contacts every week for no other reason than
to check in and see how things are going. “The thing I think people
do a little wrong in social networking is they reach out only when they have an
issue — when they’ve lost their job, or they need you out
of the blue.”
Danger! Danger! Danger!
Five things you should never do on a social network, according to Dr.
Rachna D. Jain:
Leave negative feedback. “It stays around for a very
long time, so even if you have a change of heart, it can be very difficult to
Lie. “Give a truthful account of where you’ve
worked and what you’ve done. Be real. Be honest.”
Spam. “It’s not a push marketing strategy.
Avoid drowning others in your promotional material.”
Gossip. “Don’t send forth news that may not
be yours to share.”
Oversell yourself. “Stay away from arrogance or
over-hyping what you do.”