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When LinkedIn launched in 2003, it was a pretty simple idea: a social network for the professional sphere. But since then, the site and the way people use it have increased in complexity, and it can be a bit overwhelming trying to get into it for the first time. These 5 tips will get you from total newcomer to all-star networker in no time.

1. Create a Great Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is your professional face online, so make it a good one! If someone comes to your profile, you want them to be impressed. You don’t want sloppy writing, rambling paragraphs, or a sparsely populated page. A well-curated LinkedIn profile is like a great résumé: to-the-point and informative.

linkedin-profile-public

You can add a huge number of things to your profile, like certifications, projects, and a portfolio. Stick with the basics for now. Here are five things you can focus on to get started:

  1. A professional-looking photo.
  2. A short introduction that gives people an idea of who you are, what you do, and what you aspire to.
  3. Your work history, with details about your responsibilities at previous employers and links to things that you’ve created.
  4. Your skills, including technical and personal.
  5. References from others who vouch for your awesomeness.

linkedin-recommendations

References come in two different ways: first, you can have someone write a publicly displayed reference for you. This is like a regular job reference. Second, they can endorse you for a skill. If you list a skill on your profile, any of your connections can endorse you for it. Being highly endorsed for a particular skill shows potential employers that others appreciate your abilities and that you have valuable skills.

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Keep your profile up-to-date, too. If you get a new job, start doing some new volunteering, or have new projects posted online, make sure to include them in your profile.

Building your profile from scratch can take time, but doing it well the first time will pay off later when you have a professional-looking profile, lots of useful information, and a huge number of connections. Start with the basics, and build up from there!

2. Connect with the Right People

LinkedIn, like job hunting, is all about connections. The more connections you make, the more likely you are to know someone at a company that you’d like to get a job with. You can request introductions to second-degree connections, and this is a great way to meet new people and get your foot in the door at a company. Obviously, having a huge network of connections is extremely valuable for job hunting (fortunately, LinkedIn has some great ways to manage your relationships with contacts Stay Connected Smartly: Use LinkedIn Contacts For Better Relationship Management Stay Connected Smartly: Use LinkedIn Contacts For Better Relationship Management Being at the right place at the right time is often squarely tied to luck. While it's true that you can't be everywhere, it is also true that nurturing your professional relationships could help you... Read More ).

When you join LinkedIn, you won’t have any connections. Let’s fix that.

The first thing to do when you’re looking for connections is to give LinkedIn access to your e-mail accounts to see how many of your contacts already have accounts. Just go to Network -> Add Connections. If you add your personal and professional e-mail accounts, you’ll probably find that you know a lot of people that are already on LinkedIn. You can automatically invite all of these people to connect.

linkedin-add-contacts

That’s a great start! But what about finding other people? The more people you have in your network, the better your LinkedIn experience will be, so let’s see if we can find a few more.

One useful way to find people is through LinkedIn’s suggested contacts. On the right side of the homescreen, you’ll see a few people that LinkedIn thinks you might know — if you click on “See More,” you’ll see a huge list of them. Scroll through here on a regular basis and see if there’s anyone you know. If there is, send them an invitation to connect!

linkedin-people-you-may-know

And, of course, you can always just use the search bar and enter someone’s name.

3. Join Groups

Just like on Facebook, people on LinkedIn can belong to a number of groups. Instead of “Dr. Who Fanatics” and “Team Edward,” these are groups like “Internet Marketing Professionals” and “WordPress Blogging for Non-Profits.” These professionally focused groups are great for meeting other people who share your professional interests. Many groups are open, so you just have to click “Join” to join them. Others require you to be approved by a moderator.

linkedin-groups

Why should you join groups? Three reasons:

  1. Participating in group discussions is a great way to get your name out there and start making contacts. If you can provide useful information, people will know that you’re an expert.
  2. If you’re in the same group as another person, you can send them a direct message, even if you’re not connected with them, by using the “reply privately” button on one of their posts. This is a good way to connect with new people in your field.
  3. If someone runs a search for a potential employee or collaborator, you’ll show up higher on the results list if you’re both in a common group.

linkedin-your-groups

To find groups, just type a relevant keyword into the search bar and hit search. Join any groups that you think might benefit you.

4. Get Others To Do The Work For You

Personal branding is one of the biggest goals of participating in LinkedIn — you want people to know your name and remember you when they’re looking for someone to hire. You can build your brand by participating in groups and making a lot of connections, but you can also take advantage of your network to get your name out for you.

linkedin-posts

How do you do this? By sharing really great things. Just like on other social networks, you can share status updates, photos, and links, and others can comment on and re-share them. And if someone re-shares one of your updates, all of their contacts will see it, even if you’re not connected with them. If they share it, it’ll go even farther.

linkedin-share-meter

The advantage of this is that if someone really loves what you’re posting, they could get in touch with you or ask you to connect. You never know who might see your posts, so make them good!

5. Get Smart About Your Job Search

Although you can use it for a wide range of things, LinkedIn is really about developing connections and helping you find a job How To Use LinkedIn To Research Your Next Job How To Use LinkedIn To Research Your Next Job Read More when you need one. Because of this, there are some really great tools you can use to help your job search.

linkedin-recommended-jobs

Just clicking on the Jobs tab will show you a number of different things you can do. You can search for a job, peruse the recommended jobs, and save jobs that you want to look at again later. You can also use the advanced search to narrow the potential jobs by location and function. If you click on “More Options,” you’ll see even more filters.

linkedin-job-search-save

One of the most useful things you can do is to save your job search so you can easily come back to it later. Click on “Save Search” in the top-right corner of the page to save a specific search string. Once you save it, you can get e-mail alerts every day, every week, or every month about new postings. This makes it easy to stay on top of new job opportunities.

Get Started Today!

Diving into LinkedIn can feel a bit overwhelming, but if you follow these five tips, you’ll go a long way toward being a professional networking virtuoso. It often gets left behind when people talk about fancy, innovative social networks, but LinkedIn is actually a really effective place to get in touch with people and make professional connections.

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to make your LinkedIn endeavors a success, check out our guide to using LinkedIn as a living résumé and read these 8 LinkedIn hacks that could further your career 8 LinkedIn Hacks You Should Use To Further Your Career 8 LinkedIn Hacks You Should Use To Further Your Career If you're a jobseeker or just keen to move up in the world, you've probably set up a LinkedIn profile and started building a network there. You may have put a little thought into your... Read More . If you’re still not sold on LinkedIn as a useful thing, check out these six reasons why you should be using it 6 Reasons You Should Be Using LinkedIn: How It Helped Me 6 Reasons You Should Be Using LinkedIn: How It Helped Me You've seen the word "LinkedIn". What is this social network for professionals actually for? Could it be that you're missing out? Read More .

Have you joined LinkedIn recently? Did you find it overwhelming? Or are you a seasoned pro? What are the Most Unexceptional tips you have to share for LinkedIn success? Tell us everything below!

Image credit: Sheila Scarborough via flickr.

  1. Daniel E
    April 14, 2014 at 3:42 am

    Have you ever gotten an invitation that simply said, “I'd like to add you to my network” or “Since you're a person I trust...”? Those of course are from LinkedIn templates, and those using them fail to show me why I should connect with them. “I'm a person you can trust? But are you a person I can trust?”.

    Bottom line: give the prospective connection a good reason for connecting with you. Like, what's in it for him? Or, it could even be more beneficial for you, e.g., if you're looking for a mentor.

    Do not use the default LinkedIn templates. Doing so is a sign of laziness, of little thought going into the connection request.

    • Dann A
      April 14, 2014 at 8:19 am

      I get those invitations on a regular basis and, to be honest, I send them quite regularly, too. If I'm trying to connect to someone that I haven't actually met, I'm more likely to customise the invitation. However, if the person that I'm trying to connect with already knows me, or is likely to have heard my name before, I'm a bit less likely to do it. In many cases, if someone sees that you have a lot of connections in common, they'll feel fine about adding you as a connection even if they haven't met you.

      This is good advice anyway, though—adding a bit of a personal touch is always a good idea. Thanks for pointing this out!

  2. Dann A
    April 13, 2014 at 7:23 am

    For better or for worse, LinkedIn continually tries to get you as many contacts as possible. In general, I find this to be really helpful—it looks at who you might know based on who you've interacted with, and makes recommendations.

    However, it can be a bit of a surprise if you're not expecting it. I've done some research on this issue, and this is what I've found out:

    1. Related to Android, yes, LinkedIn has access to your contacts via its mobile app. However, before you can successfully download the app, you'll see a pop-up list of permissions that you must accept to install it. One of those permissions gives it access to your contacts. So if you continue with the download, you give them permission to use your phone contacts to recommend connections for you. If you don't want to give them access to your contacts, you can choose to not download the app.

    2. According to the privacy policy (http://www.linkedin.com/legal/privacy-policy), by joining and using LinkedIn, you give them permission to collect information from accounts that you sync with LinkedIn, accounts that you use your LinkedIn account to sign into, and websites that use LinkedIn plugins. (You can opt out of the plugin data collecting by going to the privacy policy page and clicking on a link about halfway down the page.)

    3. While it may seem like you're receiving LinkedIn invites from people who aren't on LinkedIn, what you're actually receiving is a recommendation to invite THEM to LinkedIn. This is a pretty common thing in social networks—I see it on Pinterest all the time with my Facebook contacts. It can look a bit suspicious, but it's just a standard attempt at maximising the number of users on their site.

    If you're not expecting the kind of contact syncing and data collecting that LinkedIn does, it might look like a violation of privacy. But as far as I know, they're good about only accessing data that you've given them permission to, and I haven't seen any indications that they're doing anything malicious with that data.

    I hope this information puts you more about ease regarding the safety of your data with LinkedIn.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Lynxie
    April 12, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Please be aware that if you use the LinkedIn apps, especially Android, that LinkedIn will suck up all your contacts without permission. You will then receive LinkedIn invites from long dead relatives and friends who would never join LinkedIn.

    http://community.linkedin.com/questions/15556/how-did-linkedin-get-my-address-book-info-without.html

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