Thursday, February 26, 2009

Marketing Yourself: Your Online Collateral - LinkedIn

There are currently so many ways to Market yourself online that I decided to address them one at a time. The first, and for people in business the most important, is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a free online service that allows you to build a resume online. Once the resume is built you can begin to connect with everyone you've ever worked with, gone to school with, etc. This is the ultimate networking tool.

Once you begin to connect with people you can see the lists of people they are connected to and continue to expand your network. In my LinkedIn account - which is currently at 366 connections - I am connected to people from both undergrad and grad school and almost every job I've ever had. But LinkedIn is about more than networking, it is a job hunting tool.

Here is a simple example. If I am looking for a job and I see that company has posted a position for a Director of Marketing - I can search my connections to see who I know that either works at that company or who knows someone at that company who can introduce me. When I find someone I can send them my resume and ask them to forward it or I can request an introduction to the person they know. With that often comes the opportunity for my connection to recommend me for the position. It's that simple.

LinkedIn is also expanding its features to include groups - interest groups, ex-company groups, college groups, I'm even in my high school alum group.

Is it worth the time? Absolutely. You can use LinkedIn to promote events, get general questions answered, make connections, keep up with old friends and find jobs.

So what are my suggestions to make LinkedIn work for you:

1. List every job you've ever had in Linked In with the correct company name. You'll get suggestions of others who worked at the company available so you can re-connect with even more of your past networks.

2. Get recommendations. You can have co-workers, customers, bosses (old and new), friends, etc write you recommendations on LinkedIn. I currently have 19. I wasn't sure if it was worth it until a current co-worker told me that when she was checking my references she looked at my LinkedIn references as well. The fact that so many of my references talked about high energy, cheerful, team player and got things done - all helped me get the job.

3. When you meet someone new - Link with them.

4. Spend 10-15 minutes a week scanning the contacts from past companies and sending invites. You don't need to spend days on LinkedIn. Once you do connect try and drop notes to check in on people once in a while.

5. Never write a recommendation for somone you don't recommend. Your reputation becomes tied to the reputations of people you recommend. If you're put in the awkward position of having to do a recommendation because the person is a current co-worker or even a friend that you love but would never want to work with - make the recommendation very specific. Everyone has their strengths - focus on those. For example if someone is a terrible manager but an excellent writer - only talk about their writing. If someone is great at people skills but terrible at delivering on projects - then talk about their ability to connect with people. Never give a strong broad endorsement unless you truly mean it.

6. Do fill out the profile completely. Some people only put their current job on LinkedIn. That's not using the service to its fullest extent.

7. Do help other people get jobs. You never know when you'll be the one out looking.

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