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Networking with LinkedIn: A Beginner’s Guide

3/20/2012 2:34 pm

Online university student professional networking

As they say, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. But in the networking-crazed world of business today, how do you keep track of who you know, and who they know, and how the people who know the people you know might help you reach your goals?

If you’re like a growing number of professional networkers and job-seekers, you go to LinkedIn.

Online university student professional networking

As they say, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. But in the networking-crazed world of business today, how do you keep track of who you know, and who they know, and how the people who know the people you know might help you reach your goals?

If you’re like a growing number of professional networkers and job-seekers, you go to LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the largest professional social network on the web. It was launched May 5, 2003, in a living room. Since then, it has grown to:

  • 150 million members worldwide (in more than 200 countries and territories) as of February 2012
  • 4.2 billion professionally oriented searches in 2011
  • Membership that includes executives from all Fortune 500 companies in February 2012

Through LinkedIn, you can easily map your circle of connections, how they might be able to introduce you to an employer or expert within their circle of connections, and so on. Through LinkedIn, millions of people are finding out that, through just a degree or two of separation, they know a lot of people. People who can help them find that next job, learn an important skill, share some ideas and advice, get a speaking gig or professional development opportunity, or just continue to grow their personal and professional networks.

This beginner’s guide to getting started with LinkedIn comes from a February 2012 webinar by the Western Governors University Alumni & Career Services team. In this post, we share the basics, but to learn a lot more—including some extremely helpful do’s and don’ts for online professional networking—check out the free webinar at your convenience.

How to get started with LinkedIn:

  • Read the fine print. Understand your privacy rights, ownership of LinkedIn content, etc., before getting started.
  • Create a profile, upload a professional photo, and select your security settings.
  • Connect! Join groups, make connections to your contacts, and start networking.

What should my profile include?

A complete profile makes you 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn.

A photo isn’t required, but a good, professional photo goes a long way toward making a good impression and helps potential contacts remember you.

Brand yourself. The limited-space subhead under your name gives you a chance to let people know who you are as a professional or job-seeker.

Highlight current and past employment, education, credentials, expertise, organization, and skills. Use this opportunity to capture attention. If you’re looking for a specific type of job, focus on the items in your biography that an employer in that field would be looking for.

Security settings: Be strategic

Do you want all the changes you make in your profile to be broadcast to all your contacts? Think carefully about that: Do you want your current employer’s HR director to see when you’re ramping up your profile in preparation to seek a new job? Do you want potential hirers to be alerted every time you tweak and re-tweak your resume or professional summary?

LinkedIn gives you the ability to customize your security and privacy preferences for your profile, how LinkedIn contacts you via email, what kind of personal information you share, how you participate in groups and networks, and more. Think through all these decisions carefully and strategically.

Getting connected

Who do I connect with on LinkedIn?

Generally, the answer is anyone you know. You may need to make strategic decisions on an individual basis, but it’s usually smart to connect with friends, family, colleagues, vendors, classmates, that guy you chatted with over lunch at a professional conference…

Remember: This is not Facebook. Connecting with a friend who you go out with on the weekends is not as risky here. Photos won’t be posted. Status updates won’t reveal personal details. Networking is about who you know, and if your sorority sister knows the vice president of the company you really want to work for, having that connection can be invaluable.

Ready to dive in? Learn more with the free Networking on LinkedIn webinar.

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