By Thomas Lashier
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking platform. In the past 12 months, it has re-invented itself as a valuable content-distribution network featuring articles and posts by LinkedIn “Experts”: selected industry leaders who share their expertise with the wider network. Over 2.4 million people are registered on LinkedIn in Iowa alone, so what are some fool-proof, easy ways to get started taking advantage of this network? How do you go about networking within this mass of business professionals?
1. Complete Your Profile
Told you these are simple. Completing your profile doesn’t mean adding your name, occupation, and a picture and calling it good. LinkedIn allows you to get incredibly in-depth with your profile. Think of this as your ultimate resume and don’t be afraid to show off a little bit. LinkedIn allows you the freedom to add as many prior positions as you want, and you can add your job descriptions to these roles (and your current one).
You can also add “projects” to your profile within each of your jobs, or separately. If you worked on a specific website, a video, a portfolio, an overseas assignment, or some other special assignment, you can feature that project here. In my own profile, I focus on a couple video projects.
You can also add any “publications” you contribute to or that you’ve been featured in. This is a great place for blogs or press mentions. In my own profile, I focus on our Freaky Fresh blog and a special white paper I wrote for Freaky Fresh. (Hey, you can read that one here).
You can also add your education history and philanthropic causes you care about. Make sure to add these activities so people with similar interests or fellow alumni can network with you more easily. LinkedIn will show you how “complete” your profile is with a special graphic you can find on the right side of your profile as you’re filling it out.
2. Use LinkedIn As A Free Relationship Database
LinkedIn allows you to add notes and relationship history to all of your LinkedIn contacts. If your GMail is connected to your LinkedIn account (use Rapportive for this), you can even see emails between the two of you. You can add contact info for each connection as well. We talked in-depth about this feature in a prior post, so if you’re interested in learning more you can click here.
3. Join Groups
LinkedIn’s greatest networking tool is the LinkedIn Groups. These groups are essentially limitless in scope and industry. No matter what your job or interests, there is sure to be a LinkedIn Group for you. And if there isn’t, create one! These groups allow you to turn a giant network into a small group of professionals you can talk with on a regular basis about industry topics and best practices. Groups foster discussions between members and allow you to learn from like-minded business professionals from around the world. For instance, I’m involved in Iowa State University’s alumni network group, a B2B Social Media Marketing group, and an Iowa Business Owners group. Simply log in to LinkedIn and search groups for some groups you would like to join!