If you are reading this you hopefully already have a presence on LinkedIn, but maybe you are not as active as you should be. Confused as to why you need to join and use LinkedIn? Well, if you are a professional, there are many reasons why you at least need to join LinkedIn and should utilize the platform as your primary social networking tool.
Why use LinkedIn?
I will be honest with you in telling you that I first began using LinkedIn in transition, so for the job seeker it goes without saying that LinkedIn can be a valuable resource. But this is not just about jobseeking: LinkedIn is a professional networking site that should be utilized as a powerful tool at every step in a professional’s career.
So why join LinkedIn and use it? Let me count the ways…
1) Reconnect with Your Past
Are you one of the many members of classmates.com? Do you use it to keep in touch with people from your past school days? Think of LinkedIn as an extension of that, with the ability of directly connecting you (without additional costs to send E-Mails or other restrictions that classmates.com has) to not only former classmates but also former colleagues. After you have graduated from college more and more people in your network are professionals, not classmates, so LinkedIn fills this gap nicely. This is the primary reason that I find most executives have a presence on LinkedIn, and this is a unique attribute to Linked In that no other social networking site at the present has.
2) Get Found
Once you have a presence on LinkedIn, just as you can find your former colleagues, they can also find you. Once you fill in your profile, you are added to the database of more than 30 million users worldwide, the excellent search tools that are available on the social networking platform will allow people to easily find you. Being found is also important if you are in transition or thinking of a new job, but more on that angle below.
3) Gain Expertise
There are many LinkedIn groups that are open for professionals to join, and by joining these groups you not only get potential access to directly contacting experts in your industry, you can also join in group discussions and read group news that are specific to your industry. [Note: If you are interested in learning more about and discussing social media, you should definitely join my Windmill Networking group!] I believe that most industries are covered, and the largest of these groups have anywhere from a few thousand to one hundred thousand members! I know of executives who have landed new jobs in new markets who use these groups to acquire new expertise. On the other hand, LinkedIn also provides a great Q&A functionality that you can use to ask the network of 30 million professionals any question you’d like. I have answered questions on “What is the best CRM?” (if you were curious, see why I use LinkedIn as a CRM) as well as asked questions on “What Websites Do You Recommend to Self-Publish My Book?” The answers section is completely searchable, so you can really learn a lot and feel comfortable knowing that it is coming from real professionals, not just your standard Internet message board.
4) Career Management
I don’t want to be blunt in titling this “Looking for a Job”, because even if you are not looking for a job, a network should be your insurance for your future career growth. Companies are organic entities whose needs change and do not and cannot promise you a guarantee that your job will be there 10 years from now, next year, or even next month. That is why you need to be on LinkedIn so that you can both find potential companies and recruiters as well as be found by them. Even if you are happy in your job, it can’t hurt to have a minimal presence and receive contacts from recruiters in your industry or specialty who may be able to help you out in the future, can it? LinkedIn is free career insurance!
5) Business Development, Sales & Marketing
One thing I would like to make clear is that LinkedIn is not a tool to sell your product on, and you may very well be suspended should you decide to spam people or message boards with adverts. That being said, I have used LinkedIn from a sales & marketing prospective to a) find potential customers, b) map out their organizations, c) request introductions inside the organizations, d) look for potential partners or distributors, and e) look for potential service providers. In fact, I hired a translation service because I found them on Linked In! Why start from scratch looking for a service provider when you can utilize a network of real professionals to help you find them? Which leads me to…
6) Your “Trusted Network of Advisors”
I have an older brother who I trust in terms of asking for help in mapping out and executing on my professional goals. He once asked me, “Neal, do you have a trusted network of advisors?” In other words, for anything in life, do you have a trusted person you can ask for advice on? Do you have a financial advisor? A legal advisor? A career coach? A reliable web marketing adviseor? etc. These advisors (you don’t necessarily have to pay for their services if they are in your tight network) are essential in not only bouncing ideas off of them for your professional career, but can even help you out on personal affairs. I have met many in my trusted network through LinkedIn, followed up by actual one-to-one meetings with them at a Starbucks over a cup of latte (I’m a tall soy latte person for all of you marketers out there).
7) Network & Connect with Your Peers
I recently read a book called The $100,000+ Career which is about how to find a job. It said that if you meet 100 people and meet 100 people that they introduce to you, you will most definitely be able to find a job. I have not tried out this exercise, but the whole idea is that you never know how someone, or someone that they know, may be able to help you out when you need it. I openly connect with anyone on LinkedIn because you never know how you can help them or vice-versa. Case in point: I recently accepted an invite from someone who was interested in relocating to Asia and looking for job advice. Six months later when I was looking for advice from him, he was able to guarantee an interview from the lead recruiter of a very large enterprise software company. This could not have happened if a) we never connected and b) I did not offer to help him out.
I hope that I have opened your eyes if you are not currently on LinkedIn, and if you are a current member I hope I have provided you advice as to how you can become a more effective user of the platform to meet your own objective. I also welcome your comments as I am always a humble learner in this game of life…
Are there any other reasons that you would add to this list?
For all you marketing professionals reading this, here’s a great infographic from Sprout Social on some key best practices for LinkedIn.