LinkedIn: 4 Biggest Mistakes You're Probably Making

Last Updated Aug 6, 2011 7:45 AM EDT

Are you LinkedIn? I admit, I put in a lot more facetime with Facebook. And my experts tell me I'm missing out on opportunities. "Recruiters are using LinkedIn heavily now. You need to be professional -- and findable!" says career coach Kimberly Schneiderman, founder of Career City Services.

Indeed, LinkedIn has more than 100 million members, including executives from every Fortune 500 company. LinkedIn's research team recently mined that information to determine the most common names for CEOs. Verdict? Peter, for a man, and Deborah, for a woman.

But no matter what your name, LinkedIn can take your networking to the next level with just a little effort. Here are the most common ways people aren't making the most of their presence on the site -- and how experts say you can fix that.

Having A Vague Headline Say your current title is marketing manager. Many people naturally leave that as their headline, a huge error because it says nothing about what you actually do, says Schneiderman. Instead: "Use a headline statement that really describes your expertise and talent, like 'Executive-level Product Strategist' or 'Hospitality Executive - Expertise in Franchise, Operations, & Change Management,'" suggests Schneiderman. Then further develop it: "Create a summary about your career that fully describes your passion for your work, your impact in your company or companies, and your professional focus. People in an open job search can map out the kinds of opportunities they are pursuing next. Make it about 3 paragraphs and write in 1st-person using 'I' statements," says Schneiderman.

Maintaining A Passive Profile Filling out an attractive profile is just the beginning. "Most people create a LinkedIn profile, but then don't take advantage of potential connections that might be available through their existing network," says career consultant Shawn Graham, author of Courting Your Career. His suggestions: regularly identify and reach out to potential contacts, use status updates to congratulate those contacts on their successes, and consistently review the "People You May Know" section to identify additional connections.

Not Trying New Tools Branding expert Dan Schawbel says that a major mistake is not taking advantage of the many tools Linkedin has to offer. His tips include connecting with someone you have no connection with by joining a LinkedIn Group they're active in, using a 1st degree contact to gain access to 2nd and 3rd degree ones, and using apps like SlideShare to connect with even more people. And don't forget to take your toolbox on the go: "The LinkedIn mobile application allows you to transfer contact details electronically," says Schawbel. A new one has just been released for the Droid.

Networking Only When You Need Something Schawbel reminded me that networking on LinkedIn is no different than networking in real life. You still want to give more than you receive, particularly when asking for a recommendation: "The best way to get recommendations on LinkedIn is to give one first," says Schawbel.

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