(Last Updated On: 09/03/2017)

In today’s hiring climate, there are few things more important than establishing a positive and professional presence on LinkedIn. And though it can be tempting to setup your profile and then logout forever, taking advantage of all the site has to offer can really help you build your personal brand and improve your chances of finding the job you’re after.

To help you make the most out of LinkedIn, we asked a panel of college career counselor the following question:

LinkedIn can be an extremely valuable tool, but it isn’t always obvious how to make the most of it. What is one thing that people should do or understand about the site in order to leverage it effectively?

Their answers are below. As always, we hope you find their perspectives helpful, actionable, and inspiring.

Amanda Peters

Career Development Specialist, MIT

The first step for Linkedin success is to ensure your profile is complete. Have a friendly yet professional profile picture, a headline and compelling summary that convey your brand and transferable skillset, and join relevant groups. Once that step is accomplished, it is time to reach out to connections and connections-of-connections to arrange informational meetings, learn about opportunities, and find the best fit career for you! [For more on choosing a career, networking, and branding yourself, see past Ask a Career Counselor posts, including How to Choose a Career and How to Market Yourself After College.]

But, how do you contact those connections-of-connections? One thing that Linkedin Basic (free) account holders should know is how to reach out to potential contacts through groups. I don’t recommend sending Connect requests to people whom you have not yet had contact with. When you do send those requests out, of course, be sure to tailor them so the person remembers when you met and why you want to connect. I do recommend emailing potential contacts to explain who you are and to politely ask for an informational meeting. Often, you can do a Google search to find their email address, but if you have a Linkedin Group in common, you can also send a message through the group.

How to email someone via Linkedin Groups:

  1. On their profile, click on the group you share in common (it will be on the right); you can also join a group they are in in order to do this
  2. Click on the Members tab on the group page
  3. Search for their name in the Search Members function on the left
  4. Scroll over their name on the list of results, and the phrase “Send Message” will appear on the right
    Write a professional message introducing yourself and asking for a short phone or in-person meeting, include your contact information in the body of the email, and ensure that your subject line is clear and will not go into spam
  5. Hit ‘Send’ and you are done with this step!

Mary Schilling

Executive Director of Career Development, College of William & Mary

To paraphrase one of my colleagues, Wendy Webb-Robers, Senior Associate Director in our Cohen Career Center, students need to understand that it’s not just about creating your own professional profile and making a large numbers of connections with others in LinkedIn. What it is all about – from the very beginning of initiating connections – is building personal, human relationships for your own career development and your job search.

Your outreach messages should be personalized and customized, your interactions should be written in a tone that is relationship-building, and your efforts should be aimed at making personal contacts with your connections.

If you can’t meet face-to-face, continue to build and maintain your relationships by sending an occasional message, possibly forwarding a link about a newfound resource or a particularly relevant article about the field in which you share interest. Let your contacts know about new people you meet at conferences or a professional news piece you’ve discovered in your job search. Build, maintain, express your gratitude and take good care of the relationships. They are priceless!

Deborah Federico

Associate Director, Undergraduate Career Services, Boston University School of Management, and owner of From College to Career

Most people these days understand the value of being on LinkedIn but not as many understand what to do with it after they’ve established their profile. LinkedIn is a professional networking site and the key word here is “networking.” If you’re not actively using it to brand yourself as a professional who stays current in his or her field or if you not using it to stay on the radar screen of the people in your network, then you’re not using it effectively.

Start off the New Year by making it a habit to log into LinkedIn each and every day and do something on it. Use your status update to post links to articles you’ve read, conferences you’re attending, professional activities you’re involved in or opinions you have about recent developments in your field. These status updates will show up in the newsfeed of all your connections, positioning you as a career professional that is interested in and serious about your career field. Another tip is to post or answer discussion questions in the groups you’re a member of. Lastly, comment on or “like” others’ posts or send them a direct message to congratulate them on a recent accomplishment.

By being active on LinkedIn each and every day, your name is bound to pop up when someone has a position to fill for which you would be the ideal candidate.

Roseanne Bensley

Associate Director, Career Services, New Mexico State University

LinkedIn is all about skills and specialty area. Locate employment interest through Indeed.com and highlight the position. Go to TagCrowd.com and paste the job description to create a cloud. The top words will pop up.

Do this with several jobs to see what skills are most essential to your field of interest and then look at your LinkedIn profile. If you have those skills but did not add them to your profile this would provide a quick review to talents you can add to spice up your account. Don’t add skills you don’t have but sometimes we need this little reminder of our talents.

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