Monday, March 19, 2012

LinkedIn LinkUp!

Are you LinkedIn? Don't miss out on the connections you're making during school, your internship, at conferences and networking events.  Professional online presence is an important part of the job search and way to continue to network with colleagues and engage in the conversation of librarianship.

Take a few minutes to create or update your LinkedIn profile, connect to classmates and colleagues, or join a new group.  Read on for suggestions on how to get started and optimize your experience.

Getting Started
The basic steps for using LinkedIn are:
  • Create a profile highlighting your experience and skills
  • Build your network with connections and groups
  • Interact with connections for recommendations, introductions, advice, etc.
At minimum, create a profile and connect to people you know from school or work right away.  You can enhance your profile and expand your network over time.  Like any social media site, LinkedIn is dynamic.  The most effective users consider involvement an ongoing process in which they continually update their profiles, add connections and interact in new ways. 

Your Profile
The LinkedIn profile paints a picture of your professional experience, qualifications and skills.  In many ways it resembles a resume, but you should also think of it as part of your personal brand.

LinkedIn has added some features that can enhance any profile but are especially useful if you have limited job experience or are in the midst of a career change  You'll be prompted for some of these steps when you create a profile or use the profile completion tips wizard, but you can also access the options using the link to "Add Sections" when you are in "Edit Profile" mode.
  • Courses: List classes relevant to your interests or in which you acquired in-demand skills such as web design, virtual reference, instruction, subject specialization, etc.
  • Skills & Expertise: Use skills tags to highlight what you're great at—and what you want to pop on your profile—whether you learned it in school, on the job, or on your own.  Include business, management and communication as well as technical abilities and more (sort of like a functional resume). Start typing a word to choose from a bank of options or write your own.
  • Volunteer Positions: Volunteer positions and internships provide valuable professional experience in the field or with general skills like leadership and organization.  Students who have not held many jobs could list volunteer positions under the "Experience" section, especially if the position is directly related to your career goals.  Those who have held a number of professional positions could add a "Volunteer Experiences & Causes" section to include community work and additional experience separate from employment history.
  • From the "Add Sections" menu you can also add Honor & Awards, Publications, Certifications, Languages and more.
Some General Tips:
  • Add a photo: Include an image that is professional and reflects who you are.  Most people suggest an image where you can see your face and looks "real." If you're already active on other social networks, it can be helpful to use the same photo so your followers will recognize you, especially if you're primarily using other sites (like Twitter) for professional networking.  You could consider a globally recognized avatar from a site like Gravatar.
  • Tagline: Craft a create, descriptive tagline and change it as your interests and qualifications evolve.
  • Customize your URL: LinkedIn assigns a default URL to your profile but you can edit it to your name or something more memorable that will more easily fit on your email signature or a business card (Need a business card? Check out sites like Vista Print)
  • Update & Improve:  Update your profile regularly as you gain experience and meet new people.

Building Your Network: Connections & Groups
There are a number of ways to make connections.  Search for people by name or institutional affiliation, check out group members, or use the links in your profile to find people that you may have worked with in previous positions.  LinkedIn will also suggest connections through people in your network.  After clicking "connect," select how you know the person from the drop-down menus based on your profile.  If you do not have a shared school or workplace, you will be asked to enter an email address.  Including a customize message in the invitation is helpful if you haven't spoken to the connection in a while (and more personal, in general).

Groups provide forums for engagement and interaction with like minded professionals.  Members of groups will often share job postings, ask for professional advice, or organize networking events.  Remember that your activity on groups is public so keep it professional.  Sharing resources or thoughtfully answering questions is a great way to participate in the conversation, but negative comments or behaviors will make you stand out for the wrong reasons.
  • Professional association, regional association, and special interest groups can expand your connections to a wider group of professionals.  In some instances you have to be a member of the organization to join the LinkedIn group, but many groups are open to anyone.

Further Interaction
Once you've added connections, harness the power of your network to:
  • Ask clients, colleagues or supervisors for recommendations.
  • Get an introduction to a new person through a shared connection. This could be helpful for an informational interview, if you're moving to a new city, would like to set up a visit to a local library, etc.
  • Interact on group discussion boards or via LinkedIn messages to ask questions, share advice and resources, find job postings and more.

Looking for additional ideas on how to develop your personal brand and utilize social media in your professional life? Check out the archive of our webinar Leveraging You! Developing Online Presence for the Job Search and Beyond.
If you have more tips, please add them in the comments.  See you on LinkedIn!

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