If you’ve never heard of LinkedIn, you’re already behind.
According to their homepage, over 55 million professionals belong to the networking site, including every chief executive of a Fortune 500 company! Right now, every second, LinkedIn gets a new member. The masses have spoken with their profiles: LinkedIn is a necessary resource to increase the number of contacts you have in your own industry as well as others, and if you want to be a successful businessperson in the new decade, you’ll have to join.
Fortunately the site is free, so there’s no investment other than time in joining the site. The first step you’ll have to take is creating a profile for yourself. Remember, LinkedIn is not Facebook. You don’t want to be sloppy here. In fact, the more professional-looking your profile, the better.
Just as with a resume, triple check your spelling and punctuation to ensure there are no gaffs or typos that could damage your public image. Because even though the only people who can see your entire profile are within your contacts list, this profile will be public in the sense that it will be used to help you get new jobs, new clients, and new contacts. If you want to ensure you have a job through the next decade using LinkedIn, don’t be lazy on your profile.
You’ll have to give your employment status, your industry or trade, and your location, as well as your educational history. You then have the option to allow LinkedIn to use your email contact list to find contacts for LinkedIn. I recommend letting LinkedIn do this if you want an aggressive strategy for finding new contacts in industries other than your own, or even within your own industry. However, random contacting is kind of like shooting buckshot into the sky, and hoping it hits a bird. Sniper targeting for efficiency is a bit better. But everyone is different, and you may like to play the numbers game with contacts. The more you have, the more likely one will be of benefit to you.
Once you have your profile set up, you can begin inviting other members and non-members to link up with you. What this feature does is give you a pool of contacts through which you can invest some time in discovering whether any could be potential employers or clients. You’ll use these people as references in your other business contacts, as well as reconnaissance for jobs out there that are right for you.
Now that you have set up your profile (with a flattering photo!) and made a large coterie of contacts, start inspecting the job listings everyday, which you can find under the jobs tab at the top of the screen. Also, join a group that is pertinent to your field. For example, I joined the Twitter for Sourcing and Recruiting group because I wanted to keep up with recruiters and how they use Twitter to find new candidates so I can pass the advice on to my clients. These groups are great ways to meet people in the industry you’re interested in breaking into.