It can be a pretty daunting task to figure out the different social media platforms available today. LinkedIn, perhaps the best tool for networking professionals, seems like a challenge for many people. It certainly doesn’t work like the social media giant, Facebook, which is geared (or at least should be) towards connecting with your friends and individuals that you know. Message boards and fan groups are only a slight extension of your networks of friends, but still do not operate in the same fashion as LinkedIn groups. So if you’re new to LinkedIn, how do you craft a good profile and make connections that are smart and career-savvy?
Fill Out the Information
Entering your previous jobs and education may seem tedious, but here’s your chance to shine! Copying and pasting from your resume is a decent start, but as your profile evolves, look to make every word and attachment count. (I’m still the “evolving” stage myself.) You can insert presentations and videos under specific positions, allowing others to see evidence of your accomplishments. Were you ever interviewed by your company’s PR team for an article in the quarterly newsletter? Did you publish any research?
Show off a bit of your personality or creativity in your photo, but make sure it is professional: stand or sit upright with an appealing or neutral background. Don’t be lounging in a chair or posing with your pet, unless for the latter case, your profession concerns animal rights issues. Save the personal photos for your Facebook page and the bulletin board in your cubicle.
LinkedIn is generally considered a way of marketing or branding yourself. It’s increasingly become an important resource for recruiters deciding if you are a candidate they would like to pull in for an interview. Of course, you can still send invitations to your brother or sister and add them to your network. However, don’t send invitations only to co-workers or every single person you know.
If you are looking to break into a different field, spend a few minutes at least twice a week scanning news headlines or magazines related to that topic. Read a couple of the articles carefully and make note of professionals who are being quoted, as well as the author of the piece. Look up those people and study their profiles to see if their interests are similar to yours. If so, send them an invitation to connect.
Wait a minute, why should I write to a stranger, someone I’ve never met?
I like to think of LinkedIn as a large virtual conference. When you decide to attend a lecture or event in town, you do so because you’re interested in the speakers and meeting new people. Perhaps you approach an author to give praise about his or her new book. These actions match the above situation, except it’s on a virtual platform now. It can open a lot of doors for individuals who might not be able to afford to visit London or Spain for a conference, but have aspirations of moving overseas for their careers someday.
The Art of the Customized Invitation
Don’t send the standard and highly impersonal invitation: “I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” It’s also quite redundant. Instead, you should select the option to personalize or customize your invitation. You are limited to 300 characters, but that’s enough for three or four carefully crafted sentences. Let’s look at an example:
“I read your article on the latest innovations for reducing medical errors. It’s nice to learn this news on your column because I’m studying to be a nurse. Thank you for adding me to your network today.”
This invitation comes out to only 201 characters, leaving you with an additional 99 if you feel the need to add more details. A personalized invitation packs more value. The recipient doesn’t have to scratch his or her head and wonder why you want to connect.
Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t accept your invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Some individuals are merely selective about adding connections. Whatever the case, celebrate the connections you were able to establish and continue on with your search.
Finish improving your LinkedIn profile and start developing your professional network today.
Post by Pat Cuadros (CLAS ’10)
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