LinkedIn has evolved from a simple professional networking tool to a platform for recruiters and employers to search for qualified, best-fit candidates. Maximizing your use of this global forum can help you put your best foot forward.

1. Make a Good First Impression

You only have one chance to introduce yourself. Be sure to make a positive, strong impact by making your LinkedIn profile stand out. Your Headline and Summary are where you make this happen. Create a connection with your reader. Tell your story. Differentiate yourself from the crowd by precisely stating why you do what you do.

Just as with a resume, most people don’t have a lot of time to read your entire profile. Write your headline like an elevator pitch – articulate the value you bring in as few words as possible. By the way, you only have 120 characters to work with here. In the summary, you have 2,000 characters available. But, you don’t need to use all of them. Keep your reader’s busy life in mind and draft a summary that can be easily read or skimmed for the main points in 10-15 seconds.

Be authentic. Write like you speak. A key component to this is writing your summary in first person. Never write any part of your profile in third person. You are introducing yourself to the LinkedIn community. You wouldn’t say, “She is an experienced finance director” when introducing yourself in person. Don’t do it when writing your LinkedIn profile either (or your resume!).

Related: Writing Your Own Resume? Make Sure You Know the Rules!

Make an impact with that header at the top of your profile. I do love looking at pictures of the mountains, the ocean, or flowers, but those photos don’t tell me anything about you except maybe where you vacationed last year. Customize this header to give an idea of what you do to someone who just landed on your page.

2. Build Connections

LinkedIn was created to be a networking tool – a place where you connect with like-minded professionals. Sharing your knowledge, gaining new information, and becoming more engaged is one of the many benefits you’ll reap from connecting with people in your same field, function, or locale. Better yet, the networks you build on LinkedIn could lead to your next big career move.

Join LinkedIn groups – there are more than 2M available and you are allowed to join as many as 100. Look for groups that have good dialogue and participants who are active and supportive of each other. You can use these groups to your advantage – market yourself, research organizations you might want to join in the future or find someone who shares your passions.

Take advantage of LinkedIn’s tools, including PYMK (People You May Know). Look for people with whom you have common connections, job titles or similar interests. When you send an invitation to connect, include a personal message. It doesn’t have to be long, but briefly state why you’d like to connect. People are much more likely to respond — and you never know where the conversation may lead. One of the greatest perks of the digital age is being able to cross “virtual” paths with people you might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet!

3. Influence and Engage Others

Publish! Writing about your area of expertise or what you are most passionate about gives people even more insight into who you are. It engages the people who read your LinkedIn article and starts a conversation. Take advantage of this opportunity to publish on the world’s largest professional forum and leverage it to build your profile and your network.

Be sure to reach out and send connection requests to people who shared what you wrote. You know that you have common interests if someone shares your post with their network. Creating a connection with that one sharer opens the door to potentially hundreds of others.

Commenting on other people’s articles is also a great way to build an audience and a following. You can begin discussions around the topic of the article that showcase your point of view. It doesn’t matter if other LinkedIn users agree with you or not. What matters is the connections you created and the conversations you started.

4. Position Your Profile for What You Want

One of LinkedIn’s newest services is “How You Match” on LinkedIn Jobs. This valuable feature helps you find out if you’re a good fit for that job opening. When you view a job on LinkedIn, to the right of the job posting is “How You Match” followed by a checklist of how your factors, such as education level, skills, years of experience, and current job title, match the company’s criteria for this job posting.

Maintaining your profile with your current skill set, location, industry, role, and education will not only help you get the most out of “How You Match” but will also help recruiters find you and help LinkedIn recommend the right jobs for you.

The job market is changing now faster than it ever has before. Well-honed and relevant skills are vital to landing that next role. Make sure your skills are listed and pinned in order of importance for the types of positions you are looking for.

Are you missing one of the key skills a job posting mentions? Then here’s another LinkedIn tool for you – InLearning. This comprehensive service covers a myriad of subjects, software, and learning paths toward careers in business, creative, and technology fields. It will cost you, but the first month is free. Why not give it a try!

The world has changed. The days of mailing a resume are long gone. In fact, a resume alone will not suffice for your job search today. Your online presence, especially that on LinkedIn, is now vital in developing and advancing your career. Put LinkedIn to work for you and watch the opportunities it brings.

Did you know … ? When you purchase a professional resume writing package from us, you can also add a search-optimized LinkedIn profile that is consistent with your new resume. Contact us for more information!

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