I’m late to the game with Meme15, but when I saw this month was going to be about LinkedIn I was glad to join in on the conversation. In my experience LinkedIn is sort of the step-child of the social media world; the slightly standoffish, well-behaved step child who has a really good job. Which is what LinkedIn is about, jobs and careers. It is the place to be for professional networking and I lived there 24/7 for a couple of weeks back in October 2011 after getting laid off.
However, the day you get laid off is not the day to set up your LinkedIn account. Luckily for me I have had an account there for years and my previous employer (the same one who let me go) had an in-house seminar on LinkedIn shortly after I started there. They showed new users how to set up an account, how to complete a profile, and left us with the message that if we were serious about our career we would network all the time, not just when we were unemployed. Before the class was over I challenged myself to increase my LinkedIn connections to 100. I don’t remember how many I had at the time, but it was probably less than fifty. I took the challenge to heart and upped my connections as well as I could. Many of the people I added were sitting there with me and I was glad I was already connected to them the day I got the layoff notice. It saved me the time of waiting for them to add me as a new connection and meant I could start networking immediately.
The first thing I did after I got laid off was get a haircut. (I suddenly had my afternoon free and I needed to look good for interviewing.) The second thing I did was sent out a request on LinkedIn for recommendations. This did a few things for me. It let people know I was looking, added some instant recommendations to potential employers reading my profile, and lastly it was an incredible confidence builder. I had about ten people reply very quickly with great recommendations. It was awesome and a good reminder that LinkedIn is more than just an online resume. It is a tool that connects us to other people just as other tools like Twitter and Facebook.
During my job search I used LinkedIn to research the people I would be interviewing with. I could discover possible connections and usually get a look at their face. Knowing what a person looks likes does wonders for rehearsing an interview in your mind. It may feel like stalking to look people up ahead of time, but you can bet employers are reviewing your online presence before they even call you. Which is another good reason to have a LinkedIn account. That way when your prospective employer Googles you they will get a professional online resume to review and not just those college pictures on Facebook that your “friend” tagged you in.
Now that I am out of job search mode I probably check LinkedIn less than once a week. I forward my twitter account to post updates to my linked in account so I don’t have to create separate status updates. I belong to a handful of LinkedIn groups, but I typically don’t see much value from them unless they have a real world counterpart. They do let people viewing my profile know my interests, both professional and persona,l so there is some benefit. Even though LinkedIn takes up less of my day-to-day online mental energy, than say Twitter, I make it a point to keep track of when people I know change jobs. I also review the “people you may know” section from time to time and add new connections if it seems appropriate.
As part of your own career maintenance you should always be networking with your peers and colleagues. LinkedIn is one easy way of accomplishing this. Like all social media tools it can’t replace face-to-face conversations, but it is a great resource for any one wanting to increase their professional connections.
#Meme15 is a monthly blogging event set up by Jason Strate (B|T) to share how we use social networks to enhance our careers and professional development. The assignment for February was – Why and how you use LinkedIn.