5 Steps to Use LinkedIn Effectively

Skylar Wooden and Katie Butler

January 16, 2017

Unlike face-to-face networking events, LinkedIn lets you make connections with the click of a button. Not only can you quickly make connections, but you can craft your profile to make the perfect first impression. For those reasons, LinkedIn is the most useful tool for young professionals who want to build a network.

LinkedIn is unique because users are able to put in a very small amount of effort for a big return. The basic idea of using the site to connect with other professionals is clear, but the strategy is anything but. Just like any other platform, there are good and bad ways to use it.

Many people make a profile with the minimum information, connect with a few people they know, and then leave the account to die. With a surprisingly small amount of effort, you will be able to present your professional brand to potential connections, employers, and volunteer opportunities.

Step 1: Add Your Photo

You are considerably more likely to connect with others if they can see your face and instantly recognize you. It’s time to ask someone to take a nice photo of you. Be professional, but still represent your personality. It’s one thing to take a nice, professional photo, it’s an entirely different thing to be one in a million in a sea of corporate headshots.

LinkedIn photo sins:

  • Do not crop a friend or family member out of your photo and use this for your profile. Nothing says “I don’t care” quite like a photo of your face with a piece of aunt Helen’s head cut off on the side. Take the time to get a headshot taken, professional or otherwise.
  • This is not Facebook. Using photos of your kids, nieces and nephews, or pets screams unprofessional.
  • Above all, make sure that you have a photo. If you’ve browsed through possible connections on LinkedIn, you know how little you want to click on the profile with the white outline of a head.

Step 2: Get Your Summary Right

Your summary is telling your professional story. It needs enough information to let someone know what you do, how you got there, and what your strengths are. You also have the opportunity to let others know you are looking for an internship, volunteer opportunities, freelance opportunities, etc. Be genuine, be original—this is not the time for copy and paste.

The summary largely depends on your experience and goals. When you’re a kid and you learn to write a “hook” for a story…here’s your chance to use that lesson. Consider what makes you stand out. Talk about what makes you tick. Again, there are millions of corporate robots out there. They all have stories too, they just aren’t telling them. Don’t be another face in the crowd.

Step 3: Update Your Contact Information

There’s a certain level of privacy you should keep when providing your contact information. As true as that is, connecting with people is all about knowing how to contact them. Sure, they can message you on LinkedIn, but you’ll seem more like a real person if you add an email address and phone number. Keep your information updated! If you’re worried about the general public having your phone number, you can easily create a business number via Google Voice.

Step 4: Publish & Share Articles

Do you ever read an article on LinkedIn and think “wow, they know what they’re talking about; I can really relate”? The secret is, you also have insight that others would find useful. Publishing and sharing articles is the fastest way to help people find you. It’s also a great way to make a good first impression.

Actively participating in sharing information shows people that you are a proactive person who’s not afraid to take the lead. Of course, be sure that your article is well written with no blatant grammar errors or typos. Have a friend read over it before you send it out!

Step 5: Connect With People You Know

Now that your LinkedIn is ready to impress, connect with everyone you know! Never underestimate connections. Once you start connecting, those connections can introduce you to others. Your increased presence on LinkedIn will make others want to connect with or follow you. Use that opportunity to become a leader in your field.

Building your connections is a good way to stay up to date on your industry’s latest news and events. With respect comes responsibility; now that you’ve grown your network, be mindful of the message you’re sending. Only like and share information that supports the image, or brand, you’re creating.

Spend a few minutes a day on your LinkedIn app. You’ll be surprised how quickly you start building a meaningful network of people who have relevant insight to share. Check out our Networking Challenge for other ways to expand your network. Look for our next post about men’s reactions to our most recent workplace sexism article.

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