How to Make the Most of LinkedIn

Used correctly, LinkedIn can give job seekers a competitive edge.

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According to the latest figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has been consistent throughout 2012 at 8.3 percent, with the number of unemployed people at 12.8 million. Yet there are only 3.8 million reported job openings, meaning that roughly one third of the unemployed have a chance at getting a job.

While some may argue that we are out of the recession, today's job hunters are not out of the rough. They need any competitive edge they can get—and sometimes that edge is simply making a few key social media moves. 

What does it take to land that great job?

LinkedIn, the largest professional online network, plays a vital role in today's job search. Use it strategically, say a few high-level recruiters and thought-leaders, and it can work wonders for your career.

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Your LinkedIn Profile

It's not enough to just be on LinkedIn, you have to be actively engaged. That said, there are some dos and don'ts to consider. "People have to remember that it's not Facebook, it's not Twitter: it's a professional brand," said Hunter Gilmore, head of The Hunting Lodge, an advertising recruiting company. "We're all leaving this digital chain and it's really hard to erase those things and they are easily searchable."         

When considering what to post to your LinkedIn profile, "post something if you just closed a big contract or were honored and gained some new account. It's a little about self-promotion," said Shari Davidson, president of On Balance Search Consultants, LLC, and "Top Recommended" on LinkedIn. "Don't post that you are reading 50 Shades of Gray. Instead, mention a book that is relevant to personal growth" or your field of expertise or industry.

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Making Connections

Since LinkedIn is a network, connecting is vital. It is "just like regular networking, you need to build relationships," said Davidson. "You have to have that conversation, build that trust with people."

But how do you first get that connection? "Do enough research so that you have the path to an interesting conversation, or are at least able to show you're interested in them as an individual (rather than simply collecting acquaintances)," said Dorie Clark, head of Clark Strategic Communications and author of the forthcoming Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future.

And when you do choose to connect with someone, consider adding a personal note to the invitation request, said Gilmore. Let them know you're an actual person interested in what they have to say. "If you're requesting an introduction to someone through a mutual friend, be sure to explain why you want to connect—and why that connection will benefit the other party," said Clark.

If you come across someone out of your network whose name is only displayed as "LinkedIn Member," try using Google search to find the person. Type "LinkedIn" along with the unique features found in the person's profile into a Google search and their full profile might appear. For example, if you're trying to find the hiring manager for company X and you know from their profile they attended University of Wisconsin, search "LinkedIn hiring manager at company X University of Wisconsin," and they may appear. The reason this works is because topline profile information appears in Google's search results and there are no connection restrictions.

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Recommendations

LinkedIn recommendations publicly showcase your references and talents before a hiring manager even asks for them, making them an important asset.

"Whenever someone E-mails you with a compliment about work you've done, ask them if they'd be willing to paste that note into LinkedIn" said Clark. "It won't take more than two minutes of their time, because they've already written it, but it will make the accolades public and lasting."

However, make sure that you actually deserve a good recommendation. For recent college grads "without any real job experience, ask your professors or those who you did internships for," said Davidson. For instance, ask your college professor for a recommendation if you did well in their class, but steer clear of the professor whose class you rarely attended.

Groups

Groups provide you with an opportunity to meet new people within your industry and with whom you have common interests.

[LinkedIn and Other Social Media an Essential Tool for Job Seekers]

Join groups that will benefit you. For example, if you're a professional woman who works in social media, you might consider joining The Women's Network and Social Media Today. Both groups allow you to connect in different and valuable ways while widening your potential connections. Groups allow you to connect with people regardless of their network. Davidson recommends joining several groups within your industry and one group "just to be social."  

LinkedIn Premium

Finally, you might consider signing up for a LinkedIn Premium account. It comes at a cost, but a free trial is available.

The LinkedIn Premium account offers members a Job Seeker badge that allows you to broadcast that you are looking for a job. With this badge, anyone—even those outside your network—can see your profile and you can see everyone who has viewed your profile. Users who do not wish to broadcast can receive a Premium badge with the same added benefits.

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Other key benefits within this account type include: free monthly InMails, allowing you to message any user on LinkedIn, regardless of whether you are connected; Advanced search features, letting you zone in on hiring managers and other key decision-makers; Open Link Network, permitting anyone to message you without an introduction or InMail. And most importantly, every time you apply for a job on LinkedIn your profile will be featured at the top of the applicant list.

Good luck!

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