I'm getting more invitations these days to connect with people on LinkedIn. I think it's a good thing mostly because it lets me know that more professionals understand the value of extending their networks. You may have noticed that we may be in something of a down economy. Executives and business owners seem to think that relationships may become increasingly important to them as they look for ways to find new customers and partners in their business. I've found LinkedIn to be a powerful tool for enhancing exiting relationships and re-establishing others I may have let languish. More importantly, LinkedIn is a powerful source of inbound connections for people who would like to engage my business.
1) Get found on Google via LinkedIn
Many times I go looking for contact info for someone I don't know on Google. I just pull up the Google Search box, type the name in quotes and press enter. In times past, I'd usually find an article that someone has been quoted for or possibly some place they had been tagged in a photo. Increasingly, I find their LinkedIn profile. This is good for me and them. If you'd like a prospect to be able to find you even when they don't have your business card, why not make sure you've got a complete profile on LinkedIn? Be sure to fill in your past employers, social organizations you've been connected with and even your college alma mater. You'd be surprised what factoid someone might be trying to use to find you. LinkedIn presents them in what is essentially a structured database.
2) Use LinkedIn to Research Companies
Sometimes, I am referred to a company name instead of a person's name. I'll be told, you need to talk to that guy at Widgetzone. Using that one piece of information, Widgetzone, you can go to LinkedIn and potentially find the current executives, past employees, and those who have recommended the company or otherwise done business with them in the past. This is a powerful way to get a sense of who knows who is in the space and also find out who you may already know that is connected to the organization. Once you decide on a particular person you might like to contact, simply click on their name and see how you may already be connected to them.
3) Use LinkedIn for Interview Preparation
Using LinkedIn to prepare for interviews works for both the interviewer and interviewee. If you are looking to hire a new employee it might make sense to see what they say about themselves in a public forum like LinkedIn. Information there may fill in holes that you see on the resume or clue you in to other people who may have worked with the candidate in the past.
If you are the applicant for a job, I'd think having your past work experience along with all of those recommendations from previous employers in place like LinkedIn would act as a powerful third party endorsement. It's the kind of information you might let a prospective employer find on his own or you may draw to his attention by including a link in your cover letter or even on your resume. If you are looking for a job right now, or think you might be looking for one in the future, it makes sense now to find a few professionals who are happy with your work and get them to write an endorsement for you on your LinkedIn Profile. You never know when you might need it.
If you need an action list to get LinkedIn working for you, I might suggest the following items as a good place to start. First, get your profile complete. Put your past work experience, college, and associations in your profile so that others with similar backgrounds or interests can find you. Two, ask for some endorsements from other people who know you well and are already on Linked In. Once you've got your profile complete, reach out to others who are on LinkedIn or should be and ask them if they would like to share networks and connections on the service.