If you liked the four LinkedIn tips we provided in our last post then read on, because we were just getting warmed up! We’ve got four more tips for you below, and they’re every bit as good as the first set.
1. Customize your messages. Once you’ve set up your profile, uploaded that professional headshot, and feel pretty darn good about how you’ve presented yourself, it’s time to start using this awesome technology to make some connections. LinkedIn conveniently supplies a scripted message for you to use when you invite someone to connect with you, and most people just use what’s provided. Sometimes, if you know the person really well, you can get by with the standard invitation language. Most of the time, however, it’s worth the ten seconds it’ll take you to craft something custom. Let’s say you met someone at a professional conference and you talked about possibly doing business together. You exchanged business cards. You’ve since returned to the office and want to follow up with that person by connecting on LinkedIn. Instead of just sending the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message, why not write something like: “Susan: great to meet you at the National Blah Blah Blah Conference last week. When you get some time, let’s touch base about that partnership we discussed. In the meantime, I thought we could connect on LinkedIn.”?
2. Get advanced. Connecting with people you already know in LinkedIn is easy enough, but what if you want to use LinkedIn for more strategic reasons? Use the Advanced Search feature. Located next to the main search bar at the top of your page is a link titled “Advanced.” Click on this and a page full of search fields will open up. You can find fellow alumni by typing the name of your alma mater into the “School” field. You can field people at specific companies, with particular titles, in specified locations. The networking possibilities are endless. And, LinkedIn will even show you a pathway to connecting with people by saying whether people are 1st, 2nd or 3rd order connections and showing you who from your connections already know the people you’ve found in your search. Then, you can ask your connections to introduce you.
3. Don’t be an Endorsement Junkie. One of the latest features of LinkedIn is Skills & Endorsements, where you can list special skills and competencies that your connections can then endorse. On the surface, this is a great way to succinctly highlight your qualifications and balance out the narrative approach we recommended for describing your experiences. And, because others endorse your skills, you’re not making the argument by yourself. A problem arises, however, when people start endorsing others for skills they’ve never seen them exercise. For instance, if you endorse your friend for his ability to use Excel, but you’ve never seen him create a spreadsheet, then your endorsement doesn’t mean very much. So, while we encourage you to use the endorsement feature, be judicious in its use. Do your part in preventing this feature from becoming yet another social media popularity contest.
4. Seek Recommendations. Endorsements are good, but recommendations are better. When someone endorses you, they get their picture posted next to your listed skill; when someone recommends you, he or she has to actually write something about you. It takes some effort and the person has to know you pretty well in order to write something that sounds genuine and compelling. So, make sure the person you ask to write a recommendation for you can deliver that kind of message. The recommendation doesn’t need to be long, but it should be specific and have a viewpoint. Especially if you’re in a job search, make sure the recommendation speaks to skills and qualities you know are needed in the positions you’re seeking. To that end, it’s ok—helpful, even—to let recommenders know why you’ve asked them or what skills and qualities you think they might address. In addition to being selective in who you ask to recommend you, you should also be selective in how many recommendations you seek. The emphasis should be on quality over quantity here; otherwise, as with the endorsements, you run the risk of appearing more interested in the pride of having them than in what they actually say about you!