Learn how to use LinkedIn properly as a job search tool.

join my network cartoonThis is a guest post by Elliot D. Lasson. If you’d also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.

By now, most people know that LinkedIn is the world’s most popular professional networking site. Yes, I have drunk the Kool-Aid and am a big fan.

However, while LinkedIn has many useful capabilities, many people do not use it properly. This ranges from not having an account/profile at all or overusing it. If LinkedIn is not appropriately utilized it will be ineffective or even counterproductive. Also, given the fact that recruiters will often check out your LinkedIn profile, it is critical to have a positive LinkedIn presence.

In this piece, the top 5 mistakes which job seekers and other professionals make on LinkedIn are presented:

1. Incomplete, underwhelming or multiple profiles

An essential step in developing your network is by inviting potential connections to join it. Connections might be colleagues, friends, or relatives.

This must be done one person at a time.

A prerequisite to sending invitations is starting with a complete Profile. This means developing your Profile in a manner that includes relevant information from your resume and having one or two professional recommendations. LinkedIn will walk you through the steps involved and provide a progress bar as to how close you are to “Profile completion”.

2. Insufficient number of connections and weak invitations

Simply creating a profile and not developing a network is not good form.

Inviting connections can be done through entering the person’s email address, through a preexisting organizational affiliation, through an alumni group, or through a niche group. While there is no magic number as to the optimal number of 1st degree LinkedIn connections, it is certainly greater than 0 or 1.

Make sure that you do not somehow have multiple profiles, as you don’t want people confusing the “old” you with the “new” you.

When inviting people whom you do not know, you must provide some context. Do not simply use the impersonal default message. Having a phone or in-person conversation or sending an email before the fact is often helpful before requesting the person to join your network.

If too many people whom you invite click “I don’ know this person”, you will be put into the equivalent of “LinkedIn timeout”, which will then require you to always have the email address of future invitees and you will not be able to simply connect through some other LinkedIn relationship.

3. Failing to proofread for mistakes

One turnoff to consumers of your Profile is seeing spelling or spacing mistakes either in your profile or in requests to connect.

You should definitely proofread your information before going “live”. If you identify yourself in your Profile as a “Profesional Profreader”, a writing job at the local newspaper is unlikely to be in your future. This also includes those for whom English is not a first language.

Since we often miss mistakes in our own profile, it would be a good idea to have your Profile proofed by someone else and you return the favor for his/hers.

4. Not leveraging Groups

One of the most powerful features on LinkedIn are the LinkedIn Groups. Get involved!

Join groups, specifically those which are relevantly niche to you area, are local, and have many members.

Groups connect like-minded professionals. For example, if you are a Financial Analyst, chances are that there is a (local) group for you.

By joining groups, you will receive regular correspondence from the group through email announcements and discussions, as well as job postings.

If you are bold job seeker, you might want to use the group as a means of self-promotion by posting a concise few lines of who you are and what you are looking for.

Please keep in mind that the position which you seek is consistent with the focus of the group. Groups are sometimes moderated and the group manager has the prerogative to screen posts which might not be consistent with the group’s focus.

Many groups are open, but some require a preexisting organizational membership. There is also an often underused Jobs feature, through which postings on LinkedIn can be searched by keyword and geographic area.

5. Not being a good LinkedIn citizen

While you should be selective in terms of whose requests to connect that you will accept, if someone appears to be reasonable, give the person the benefit of the doubt.

Being a good citizen might also mean responding to a question or posting a positive comment to someone else. You don’t want to be too loose though either. If someone sketchy asks for the email address of one of your 1st Degree connections, you might want to either forward the request or ask the target person for permission to share his/her email address. There are stalkers out there after all.

Share congratulatory remarks when you hear of one of your 1st degree connections “announcing” a new position (often by way of the person simply updating his/her LinkedIn Profile).

When a LinkedIn request of some sort comes to your email account, see what it is and act on it in whatever appropriate way is warranted. All of this presumes that you check your LinkedIn page on a regular basis to keep in-the-loop.

All in all, LinkedIn is a not only a great tool if used properly and used often. But, it is an essential one to be in-the-game.

About the Author

Elliot D. Lasson, Ph.D. has been a Human Resource professional for over 20 years, as a Recruiter, Consultant, HR Manager, HR Director and Academic. He is a graduate of a Jewish day school and studied in a yeshiva. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from UMBC and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from Wayne State University in Michigan. Elliot was appointed by the Governor of Maryland to the Workforce Investment Board on which he has served for 3 years addressing issues of policy and training. He also is the Founder and Chairman of the Jewish Community Job Placement Consortium.

Elliot is the Executive Director of Joblink, a community-based nonprofit organization which supports the employment objectives of active and passive job seekers. Services include career counseling, professional networking, interview preparation, and free job search workshops to the community.

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--Jacob Share