Thursday, June 2, 2011

Online Networking on LinkedIn

I've mentioned before how important online networking is when it comes to finding a job.  There are plenty of these sites out there, but the most useful remains LinkedIn.  You can think of it as the Facebook for career professionals; a place where you can make instant connections with people who can help you on your career path.  LinkedIn is fairly straightforward to use, but it does take some practice to make use of its full potential. 

The first step you should take is to completely fill out your profile.  It can be tempting to leave some perceived "minor" details until later, but you will get the best results if you do finish it immediately.  That way, people you connect with will have a better idea about who you are, what you have done so far in your career, and your skills.  Besides, filling out that "Profile Completion" bar feels pretty good.

You should start looking for professionals to connect with once you finish your profile.  Speaking from my own experience, it can be somewhat confusing figuring out where to start.  Luckily, LinkedIn does have a "Suggested Contacts" feature that will recommend people to you based on your interests and career history.  Before you do this, however, you should first search for people you already know.  This can include friends, family, former co-workers, etc.  Once you are connected with these individuals, you will be able to see if any of them are connected with people in the Suggested Contacts list. 

Joining groups is another big part of the LinkedIn experience.  There are groups for just about any topic or organization, and joining them is a great way to make new contacts.  For example, you could join a The NonProfit Times' group and get suggestions from the members.

Finally, a quick tip for connecting with people: When you invite someone to join your network, you are given the option to customize your own message to that person or use a prewritten statement.  I would strongly suggest you write your own message explaining why you want to connect with them, and how you might be able to help them as well.  People generally respond better when they see you have taken the time to write something, rather than using a copy-pasted message. 

So now that you have a general idea of how to begin online networking on LinkedIn, you can get started on your profile.  Happy networking!

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