LinkedIn announced recently that they have more than 200 million members. 200 million members used LinkedIn search functions 5.7 billion times in 2012. 5.7 Billion. 74 million of those 200 million members reside in the United States. LinkedIn is huge, y’all.
Do you have a LinkedIn profile? If not, why not?! What are you waiting on? If you do have a profile, when was the last time you logged in or used the app to do anything other than accept invitations to connect? My guess is that many of my readers don’t use LinkedIn very often at all. I arrive at this conclusion because I use LinkedIn a few times a week for various reasons, but would not consider myself a “power user” by any stretch. On Feb. 7, I received an e-mail from LinkedIn that said “You have one of the top 10% most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012.” If I’m in the top 10%, that means that out of 200 million, there must be a bunch of folks that rarely use LinkedIn at all!
So, open up a new tab on your computer, log yourself into your account, and check out these three ways to use LinkedIn to boost your personal brand:
- Update your profile. Your LinkedIn profile is your online professional brand. Many potential employers might think you do not care about your career or your professional life if you update your Facebook status every fifteen minutes, but your LinkedIn profile still says you’re a student worker in the Dean’s Office seeking “a challenging position with opportunity for advancement upon graduation”, or something like that. Update your profile picture with a professional picture. Make sure your headline accurately describes what you’re doing now. Fill in your summary with a brief description of your current role (or what you’d like your current role to be if you’re looking). Make sure that the jobs you want potential employers to know about are listed and honestly list your duties at those jobs. Do not make anything up and try your best not to exaggerate. If a former supervisor gets a call and is asked to confirm your former responsibilities and they don’t line up with what you listed on your profile, you’ll look much worse than if you just tell the truth up front. That being said, this is an opportunity to sell yourself. Talk about your successes and use specific examples. If you sell stuff, use real numbers. If you make websites, provide a link. If you increased clicks on an e-mail you created, give a percentage. You get the point.
- Connect with people. Find connections based on people that you know or people that you have met. LinkedIn is an appropriate place to connect with professional contacts that you have only met once, maybe at an industry meeting or conference. In fact, it is completely acceptable to do so. But when you do, send a personal invitation to connect instead of the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network” invitation. Customize your invitation to reflect why you are asking them to connect. For instance, say “It was great to meet you at the conference in Florida this past week. I look forward to gaining your insights on the impact of technology on personal financial decisions.” That way, you’ll remind the person you’re connecting with who you are and you’ll give them a reason to connect with you. Flattery never hurts, when offered in moderation. I would not recommend connecting with something who you do not know or have never met. I just do not think this is effective, although other folks may disagree with my sentiment.
- Keep up with the trends. LinkedIn regularly releases new tools and features, and the human resources field – the field that will hire you at some point – is keenly aware of the changes. Make sure that you are, too. For instance: LinkedIn offers a new “skills” section where you can broadly list skills that you have and then receive “endorsements” from your connections who have seen you exhibit those skills before. It’s much easier to receive an endorsement than it is to receive a recommendation, which is good for you. Although recommendations are more personal, being endorsed 30 times for a skill required at a job you’re applying for will speak volumes to your qualifications when a recruiter views your profile.
- Customize your public profile URL. You can make your own custom URL which makes your profile easier to share. On your profile page, click “Edit Profile”, then right under your picture, click “edit” to the right of the URL currently listed. Then, on the right hand column of the next page, click “Customize your public profile URL” and make it something that will be easy to remember and share. Once you’ve got your custom URL, share it! Put a link on your e-mail signature, link up your other social media accounts and even consider putting a QR code on your business card if you’re allowed to do so. The more people you are connected with, the better your chances of seeing new opportunities, elevating your personal brand and getting the most out of LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is one tool to keep in your toolbox when trying to elevate your personal brand and develop professionally, but it isn’t the only one. Twenty-somethings and young professionals need to keep their profile updated, however, because it’s a free and easy way to network with colleagues, bosses, future bosses and leaders in your industry. Comment on here and let me know what changes you made to your LinkedIn profile to make it stand out.
Keep reading to see the infographic from LinkedIn announcing 200 million users: