We've all been there. You're at a meeting or a networking event and you meet another professional. Within the next couple days you search for that person through Google or directly through LinkedIn to learn more about them and possibly even connect. And odds are if you don't do that, the other person does.
Social networks have become engrained in the fabric of contemporary networking, and LinkedIn is the network of choice for the business crowd. Having a LinkedIn profile is a necessity for every working professional. Here's why:
1. Control of Your "Personal Brand"
Businesspeople are expected to be on LinkedIn, and a lack of a profile can be an indication of an out-of-date or inaccessible professional. Your profile acts an extension of your business card, showcasing who you are, where you work and what your expertise is.
Quick tip: Don't use Facebook for business networking.*
*unless you feel 100% comfortable with your peers seeing that picture of you from the Bahamas two years ago
Here are three things you can do right away to make sure you're controlling your personal brand on LinkedIn:
- Get a profile - This is a no-brainer. If you're not on LinkedIn, plan to set up a profile. LinkedIn offers several great tutorials on how to do this.
- The basics - If you do nothing else, add your contact information and your current employer. This will drastically increase the ability for other people to find you on LinkedIn.
- Keep adding - Once you've completed the basics:
- add former employers (to connect with past colleagues)
- add education (to connect with former classmates)
- add a summary of your job and expertise (so people can learn more about you).
2. Organize Relationships
Increasing the size of your professional network, whether offline or online, should be an important component of any business professional's career. Having an extensive network comes in handy not only in career transition and advancement, but can be a great resource for sharing ideas and seeking support for issues related to your specific job function.
- Staying in touch - Remember that person you met at the networking event mentioned above? Build that relationship by connecting with them on LinkedIn.
- Staying current - LinkedIn provides you with constant updates about people you're connected to, including job transitions, promotions, shared content and more.
- Staying in the loop - LinkedIn makes it incredibly easy to pose questions to your network and receive nearly instant feedback, making it a powerful tool for getting answers to your job-specific questions.
3. Finding Information & Answers
While LinkedIn is primarily a networking tool, it's become a great research tool for crowdsourcing ideas and information among similar groups of people. Here's how:
- Your own audience - LinkedIn gives you the ability to ask your own audience a question and receive answers quickly, either through your status message or through a group discussion board.
- The power of the Group - If you're not using Groups in LinkedIn, you're missing out on an opportunity to listen in on many of the discussions that your peers are having right now. Join a group or two to start, and simply read some of the discussion topics. You're bound to gain something insightful within the first week.