Put LinkedIn to Work for You!

“I’ve signed up for LinkedIn, but I haven’t really done much with it…”

I’m always surprised when I get that response, particularly from someone who is looking for work (job opportunities or business development).

LinkedIn is a great tool, but it doesn’t work on its own. Here are five ways you can put LinkedIn to work for you.

1. Contacts are an ongoing effort. You can’t sign up, send out a few invitations and sit back to reap the rewards. Commit to building your list of connections, which will increase your visibility. Set a goal to add at least one or two per week.

2. Check your contacts’ connections. Second-degree connections may offer additional opportunity … particularly if your mutual contact will facilitate the introduction. Be upfront and honest when asking for help (and remember, the people most likely to get help are those most willing to give it!)

3. Update your status regularly.
Less than minute-by-minute but more than once a month. And always relevantly! Let your network know about key accomplishments or ask for help with a challenge. (Fill out your profile, too; it’s a great way to help the search engines.)

4. Find groups to help develop your skills.
Use the search box in the upper right to identify groups active in your area(s) of interest. Sign up and watch the conversation to see if it’s pertinent. Ask and answer questions. Watch for thought leaders who might be good connections to add to your list.

5. Be judicious in requests and referrals. Don’t abuse your network and always acknowledge (and return!) a favor. (That said, avoid the you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours reciprocal references … they don’t do much for either party’s credibility.)