I’ve written about LinkedIn many times on my weblogs, and talked about it at various workshops, speeches and informal gatherings. I think it’s darn cool and quite helpful professionally.
Two quick examples: First, I was having no luck making contact with the public relations team at Sony Computer Entertainment by calling them, so I instead used LinkedIn to search for members of their team and found that most of the marketing folk were in LinkedIn. A quick contact request and I’d established a solid connection in the organization.
I also do expert witness work for patent infringement cases (though I can’t talk about that too much, for what I hope are obvious reasons) and I needed to find people who worked at a specific magazine in the early 1990s. In less than five minutes on LinkedIn I had four names, had queried them all, and less than 24 hours later had established contact with one of the former editors of the magazine and had him agree to send me his back issues. That would have been quite literally impossible to achieve without LinkedIn.
That’s all well and good, but if you aren’t already plugged in, how do you start with LinkedIn?
First off, let’s talk about what LinkedIn actually is: LinkedIn is built around what I call the “Kevin Bacon concept”, that each of us has a circle of trusted collaborators, colleagues and friends, and that each of them has their own circle, etc. If each person in these concentric circles had an online resume, and the linkages between them was known, then you could, for example, quickly identify someone who works at a company where you just interviewed, even though they’re a “friend of a friend”.
That’s the core idea of LinkedIn, so it implies that there are two critical best practices to make your involvement fruitful:
- You need to have a keyword rich online profile in the system
- You need to link to your colleagues, collaborators, former employees, and friends.
- Oh! And you need to encourage them to get involved with LinkedIn too.
The good news is that it’s really pretty darn easy to get started.
Your first step, if you haven’t received an invitation from an existing member of the 4.8 million LinkedIn community, is to just go to the site and click on “Join Now”:
You’ll then need to create a basic profile with name, email address, password, etc. Nothing special, you’ve probably already done this a dozen times in the last six months.
Below that section is where you need to start thinking about your “linkedin findability” (not sure what findability is? You might want to pop over to my findability site):
When I go to new sites, my tendency is to gloss over all the specific demographic and psychographic information they ask, but since your success on LinkedIn is partially determined by whether other people can find you, it’s very important to select the right category and fill this in as accurately as possible.
LinkedIn suggests that it’ll only take you five minutes, but you might want to allocate a few more minutes than that, since it’s quite possible that this will alter the course of your career!
You get a glimpse of that on the next screen:
Spend a few minutes here thinking about the world of possibilities. Be open to contacts that you might not initially think are a good idea: if you’re happily employed, what the heck, let potential future employers contact you, for example. Ya just never know…
Once you’ve done that, you’re in! You’ll move to the LinkedIn members home page, but you’re not done yet since you haven’t entered any sort of profile. Your next step: click on the My Profile tab:
You can see how this isn’t going to help anyone from either my past, present or future find me on LinkedIn! The next step is to add a few positions (you can just list companies if you don’t want to spend hours filling in a detailed profile), specify your educational background (college and degree is fine) and then make sure you add both a summary of yourself (think of it as your “elevator pitch” for yourself) and then list some specialties to greatly increase your linkedin findability.
When you’re done, make sure you test it out by clicking on the button View My Profile as others see it:
Spend some time going back and forth between entering bits and pieces of your résumé and professional history and looking at how it’ll show up for others who find you on the network.
Here’s an example of a fully-filled-out LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn Profile for Dave Taylor.
Tip: if you click on my link and get “you and this linkedin user don’t know anyone in common” it sounds like you need to get your network up and online! I know thousands of LInkedIn members so odds are pretty good we have a second or third level connection once you hook yourself into the network. And, note, your information is not available to the general public, as you can see, just to people who have some sort of connection.
Finally, when you’re happy with your profile, go back to your home page (click on the Home tab) and notice the New User Checklist:
Go through each section and explore how you can start to leverage this powerful online professional networking tool to help you achieve your own professional and career goals.
And somehow I bet I’ll see you in the world of LinkedIn too!
Additional useful reading:
• Find a job with LinkedIn
• Invite someone to join your LinkedIn network
• LinkedIn Request to Forward?
• LinkedIn Etiquette