Polish up your resume and make the popular professional networking site work for you.
LinkedIn is one of the only social networks that you had no use for until the moment you moved your mortarboard tassel from the right side to the left. And no wonder: It's a social networking site that's visually very blah, and there's not a cat meme in sight. So do you need to sign up? In a word: yes.
LinkedIn is indispensable. If you work (or want to work) in health care, sales, finance, marketing, event planning, law, technology, consulting, human resources, or at a nonprofit, "the site is a great place to connect with people who can help you professionally," says Victoria Ipri, the CEO of Ipri International, a Philadelphia-based marketing firm. In fact, about one-fourth of companies research potential employees on the site, according to a recent study.
You want in on that online recruiting, but interacting on LinkedIn is different than on Facebook or Instagram, where you know which friend requests you want to accept and reject. To make the most of your time spent scrolling through LinkedIn, abide by these rules and you may just find yourself interviewing for your dream job.
Accept random (but useful) connection requests.
Should you connect with your best friend? She's a nurse and you're an accountant. (Answer: yes.) What about a stranger who's in your field? Again, yes. "You're connecting not just with a person, but their network. Your friend may have a link to someone who could help you," says Viveka von Rosen, the author of LinkedIn Marketing ($13; amazon.com). What about someone 100-percent random? Well...maybe. "When you receive a random invitation, look at the sender's profile and determine if it is a quality connection for your needs and circumstances before accepting or rejecting it," says Ipri. And use caution if you include your home address or phone number in your profile.
Consider further expanding your network by using the site's "People You May Know" tool to reach out to professionals with similar backgrounds and connections. If you're interested in working for a particular company, go to its page and click to follow it, then look at the list of people who work there. Next, find someone whose path you would like to emulate, then invite her to connect. To demonstrate that you would be a meaningful connection, write a note that conveys that you have done research on her employer and her personal accomplishments.
Check it daily, but not compulsively.
Log on every day for a few minutes and once a week for about a half hour. That's the amount of time you'll need to write to a new connection or weigh in on a group discussion.
Be a bit braggy.
Think of your LinkedIn profile as your resume, plus everything else that you couldn't fit on it, like video clips of speeches that you delivered in college and links to school-newspaper articles you wrote," says von Rosen. The more thorough you are in describing yourself, the easier it is for an employer to assess your qualifications.