Social media is here to stay. There’s Facebook for keeping up with friends and Twitter for instantaneous news. There’s Instagram for classy-looking pictures. There’s this and that and everything in between.
For professional purposes, LinkedIn is the social network to which you should be paying attention — no matter your level of professional development. Like anything on the Internet, everything is public, so it’s even more crucial to demonstrate what you know professionally but also what you want to learn.
I like to think of LinkedIn as a follow-up step. In addition to thanking a specific person through email and a handwritten note, connect with this person through LinkedIn. The rules for connecting on LinkedIn are a lot like the rules for connecting on Facebook. Only connect with people you actually know. So when you send that connection request, include a personal note instead of the basic, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Say how you met them, and thank them again for talking to you about your career goals.
Although LinkedIn is a professional platform, that doesn’t mean you can’t be you, with an interesting spark behind your skills, positions and experience. If you love chocolate and coffee, why not express how you would love to meet and talk as long as those two things are involved? If you are training for a triathlon, include that in your summary about yourself. This is your first impression, and it is where people will decide to connect or simply move on.
Another great way to express what interests you is through contributing to groups and acknowledging what others have to say. If you are interested in accounting, connect and join financial groups. If you stay close to your alma mater, connect with professionals who are also closely connected to their universities.
Lastly, just like any other social networking sites, you get out of LinkedIn what you put into it. Take it as an extra step to move toward your final goal of a landing a job or networking meeting. But never underestimate the power of face-to-face connections. Those will always be the strongest links in your professional world.
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