LinkedIn has been the topic of many of my blogs, especially the past several weeks. Since it is such an important job search tool today, there is a lot of information that job seekers need to know in order to use it most effectively in their job search.

  1. Don’t Dismiss LinkedIn as Something Only for People Who Are Looking For a New Job. The best time to build your LinkedIn profile, connect with people, and participate on LinkedIn is now, before you need it. If you find yourself suddenly unemployed and decide that now is the time to start using LinkedIn, you’re going to be playing catch up.
  1. Don’t “Set it and Forget It.” Your LinkedIn profile is an evolving snapshot of you. You should be updating it regularly with new connections, status updates, and activity (within LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers, in particular).
  1. Don’t Ignore It. Check in on LinkedIn regularly; at least every other day if you are in active job search mode; at least once a week for passive job seekers. Plan on adding one new status update each time you log in.
  1. Don’t Be A Wallflower. LinkedIn is most effective when you engage with it. Seek out opportunities to connect with thought leaders in your industry. Join 3-5 Groups (LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50, although I wouldn’t recommend that many!) and participate in conversations. Respond to, or ask, questions in the LinkedIn Answers section.
  1. Don’t Be Selfish. You will get more out of LinkedIn if you focus on how you can help others, not how they can help you. That’s the #1 principle of networking. The phrase “give to get” is very powerful on LinkedIn. You can earn the respect of your peers and people of influence if you “help enough other people get what they want,” in the words of Zig Ziglar.
  1. Don’t Wait For Others To Find You. Use the LinkedIn People Search function to look for people you know and invite them to connect with you. You should aim to add 2-5 new connections each week if you are a passive job seeker, and 6-10 connections a week if you are actively searching for a new job.
  1. Don’t Forget to Explore the People Your Connections Know. One of the most powerful functions of LinkedIn is the ability to connect you with people who are connections of the people you know. Follow LinkedIn’s guidelines on connecting with these folks, using InMail or requesting connections through your mutual friends, so that your account is not flagged for spam.
  1. Don’t Indiscriminately Try to Connect With People. One of the strengths of LinkedIn is the connections you make, but it’s not a race to get to 500 connections (although 500 is a great number of connections to have!). You should have a reason to connect to these people — either it’s someone you already know or are related to, or someone it would be beneficial to connect with. If you don’t know someone, get to know them a bit before sending a personalized connection request. (You can do so by seeing who you have in common — or who they are connected to, checking out their LinkedIn summary and work history, visiting their website or blog, and seeing what groups they belong to).
  1. Don’t Forget to Check Out “LinkedIn Today.” On your home page of your LinkedIn profile is a roundup of stories that LinkedIn thinks may interest you. Check out these “Top Headlines” to stay abreast of important information in your industry.
  1. Don’t Forget to Give Recommendations. Acknowledge and recognize the contributions of people you know by providing unsolicited, genuine recommendations for them.
  1. Don’t Restrict Your LinkedIn Networking to Online Only. Use LinkedIn to connect with people but then request in-person get-togethers, when possible. Meet for coffee, or lunch, to catch up. The LinkedIn “Events” section can also alert you to in-person gatherings in your industry or geographic area.

Think of LinkedIn as your go-to database of people and professional information. Sales account representatives use tools such as SalesForce to help them keep track of the customers, pertinent customer information (purchases, preferences, birthdates, etc.). LinkedIn can be your resource in much the same way. Growing your connections on LinkedIn will make it a valuable tool to use when conducting a job search.