Because of the rapid growth of social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, many people are unsure of how they should draw the line between professional and personal communications. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but if you follow a few rules of thumb, you’ll do a better job of managing your professional brand.
First off, if you aren’t yet familiar with it yet, LinkedIn has become the hot destination for professional networking. It’s the ultimate social and professional mixer that helps people connect through career experiences.
Essentially, you go to LinkedIn to create a living resume. It may help you get discovered by HR recruiters or former co-workers. So it is essential for you to market yourself properly. Here are five easy tips for making the most of LinkedIn.
1. Be professional.
It’s strange to even say this, but you need to treat LinkedIn as you would any other workplace. Consider LinkedIn just another extension of your career, because for now, it kind of is. There are enough working professionals on LinkedIn that you must assume that everything you write is going to be seen and interpreted by some of your co-workers.
Separate your personal online life (e.g., Facebook) with your professional online life (i.e., LinkedIn). There is the “work you” and the “home you.” LinkedIn is the place for the work version of yourself.
2. Build a better resume.
Too many people miss the opportunity to share what they did (or do) at their job. They give the functional description, which might be something like “managed four people who perform business-related tasks.” Um, yeah.
Tell what you did that went above and beyond the basic job task. Tell how you improved something, saved money, or generally made something more awesome. Don’t brag, but don’t be overly shy either. You are talking about your “brand you” identity.
Also, if you’re not a good resume writer, consider hiring a professional who can brush things up for you.
Part of this “build a better resume” tip is completing your profile. LinkedIn gives you some feedback regarding the percentage complete of your profile. Seriously, get in there and complete to 100%. And yes, include a professionally appropriate photo of yourself.
3. Participate in the community.
LinkedIn is technically a social network, so go socialize. If you’re there anyway, you may as well make the most of it. There are groups that organize around topics and industries. Join one or two of these LinkedIn groups and see if you like it.
Just be aware that — like any social network — there are rules and mores. Observe the community before you start blasting out your opinion on topics. Lurk for a while, see how the group operates, and then find ways to share your thoughts. Again, it’s a professional community, so be sure to carefully review what you post.
Spell check is your friend.
4. Answer (and ask!) some questions.
Okay, this is probably part of the last point, since you are participating in the community. But “answers” are worth breaking out as a separate item. LinkedIn has an interesting feature where people can ask questions of the community and then anyone can answer. It’s called (get ready) “Answers.”
Theoretically, the people who are asking the question are actually soliciting advice from the LinkedIn community. Other times they are just grandstanding to draw attention to themselves. Check out the question carefully and decide if you can actually add value by answering the question.
If you can add value, answer the question. It may help enhance your personal brand to share your professional knowledge and insight.
You can learn a lot just by reading the answers that other people post. It may spark a new question in your mind, which you can ask the social network.
5. Connect responsibly.
If you are new to LinkedIn, you may be surprised at the number of requests to connect with people. It’s not like Facebook, where you are probably connecting with family and close personal friends. LinkedIn is all business, which makes it a different kind of connection.
There are many people out there who will randomly add people to their LinkedIn network. It’s one thing to try to make a professional connection and something entirely different to connect with a complete stranger “professionally.” People in your actual professional network may one day ask you to introduce you to another connection. It’ll be an odd thing to admit that you’re connecting with complete strangers.
It’s better to connect with people that you know well enough to call a colleague or peer, so that the relationship has context. One day, you may need that connection, so you want it to be real and honest.
There are, literally, hundreds of websites out there offering good advice about using LinkedIn. As the service grows and evolves, you’ll want to grow with it. Start with a strong, basic foundation and then check back to see how the service evolves. Just like Facebook, the rules around privacy and usage on LinkedIn will likely evolve with the needs of the user base.
LinkedIn is part of your overall personal and professional brand footprint, so using it effectively can be an integral part of your career.
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