This blog entry is the third and final in a series about increasing your professional networking abilities and tactics. View others in the series: Face-to-face networking or social media networking.

Part Three: Using LinkedIn

Sure, you’re already familiar with this powerful network, but just how familiar? Right now, seminars are being given at professional development conferences on how to get the most out of the professional social network—it is that powerful. If you’d like the abridged lesson, read on for my crash course on the social platform.

With LinkedIn, creating a spectacular profile is key. One-word descriptions of your previous experiences simply will not cut it. Think about all the work you put into your resume. Now do the same for LinkedIn. Seriously. LinkedIn IS the new resume.

You’ll want to include those same bullet points for your experience, any awards you’ve won during graduate school, and more:

  • Join LinkedIn Groups: Joining LinkedIn groups will give you access to conversations in your field that allow you to connect with your favorite companies and thought leaders. Just like I mentioned with the other social networks, it’s important to be engaged here by contributing to conversations within these groups. Make one good comment and you might make a contact. Make 3x a week, and you’ll start to get a reputation as someone to watch.
  • Leverage endorsements and recommendations: LinkedIn allows others to vouch for various skills that you have and to even write recommendations regarding your skills. These can carry quite a bit of weight to prospective employers.
  • Protect your reputation: If someone with a bad reputation leaves a recommendation on your page, it can be to your detriment. In a strange way, allowing someone to recommend you is an inherent endorsement of them as well. Be sure that you’re in control of your image and your associations so as not to drive off new networking possibilities.
  • Provide work samples: Especially important in some fields, work samples can quickly establish you as valid, relevant, and competent. Uploading recent work (marketing copy, writing samples, graphs, whatever it is you do) demonstrates a confidence and an inherent professionalism that’s hard to beat.
  • Personalize your “Connect with Me” message. Like any social media platform, LinkedIn can be a bit spammy, so you don’t want to be just another connection request in an inbox. This is especially true if you’re trying to connect with someone you don’t really know. You’ll want to personalize the message indicating either how they know you or why they should connect with you. The potential contact is more likely to accept your connection request, especially if there’s no fear you’re a robot seeking to mine their contacts.
  • Don’t go to LinkedIn Jail. Yes, there really is a LinkedIn jail. If you send too many connection requests that are denied or marked as spam, LinkedIn will require you to enter a person’s email address in order to connect with them. Obviously, this seriously limits your networking potential. Instead, be very strategic when requesting connections, using either people that you already know (which isn’t that helpful) or deeply personalizing your “Connect with Me” message (as described above) to increase the likelihood of connection. Don’t just send out a thousand requests. I repeat: do not send out a thousand requests.

I’ll end this post with a short list of power users who have some smart things to share about networking on LinkedIn:

Have you hit any walls in your search to grow your network? Let us know. We’d love to help!

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