How to make the most of LinkedIn

5 ways to build your career using the world's top professional networking site

Last December, Microsoft bought LinkedIn for a stunning $26.2 billion, the biggest acquisition in the tech giant’s history. But for the majority of us who had no shares in the professional networking website (the stock spiked about 50% to nearly $200 when Microsoft announced its intention to buy), that hefty price tag isn’t the best indicator of the platform’s value.

For that, you need to look at how most people get jobs today. According to a 2016 survey, most candidates – 85%, in fact – land new positions through connections rather than applications. With LinkedIn surpassing 500 million users in 2017, Shannon Neighbour (Marketing ’00) sees no shortage of connections that can contribute to career advancement.

“It is a very powerful tool and I think it will become an even more powerful tool,” says the founder of Edmonton-based Svensen-Neighbour Recruiting.

How do you get the most out of it? LinkedIn’s value may not be measured in billions for the rest of us, but Neighbour has ideas about how to maximize the value of the social network in your job search.

Get found more often

“The more information you have in your profile, the more searchable you’ll be,” says Neighbour. When she uses the site to search for suitable candidates for her clients, LinkedIn first shows her profiles that contain the most information.

Leave no field unfilled: include past work experience (start with your first, post-graduation “real job,” says Neighbour) accomplishments and achievements, volunteer work, and so on. “Your history tells the story of who you are and how you got to where you are today – include all of it.”

After all, says Neighbour, “You don’t know what keywords people will be using to search.”

Build your network

Likewise, you never know who you’ll need to reach out to as your career changes. Use the site to reconnect with people you meet in person or use it for cold calls – just be warm and friendly about them.

“I’m totally receptive to people I don’t know wanting to be part of my network,” says Neighbour. While it’s good for her business, she knows other people won’t feel the same way. Include a message with your request to connect to say why you’d like to do so. If you don't get a response, don’t push it.

If you don't get a response, don’t push it.

Ask for recommendations

A LinkedIn recommendation isn’t a reference, says Neighbour, but it's a great way to highlight your skills and connections. Keep your recommendations current and try to get a new one each year. Don’t be afraid to ask for them – and consider paying it forward by writing them for others.

Explore and share

There’s more to LinkedIn than connections and job postings. “There are a lot of really good influencers on there,” says Neighbour.

Check your homepage for articles people in your network are reading and sharing, and that might present new ideas you can put to use in your current job or as you look for a new one. Be visible by liking or commenting on content, or post something of your own.

“If you want to get engaged with other business professionals, everyone can find a way to get involved,” says Neighbour.

Put your best foot forward

Browse casually through LinkedIn and you’ll see how often users disregard what Neighbour considers common sense: “Keep it professional.”

“Keep it professional.”

Stick to tasteful headshots and posts that your network – or potential recruiters – might find useful. LinkedIn may be a form of social media, but it’s also likely a steppingstone to the next phase of your career. “People sometimes forget this is a business professional network,” says Neighbour, “not Facebook.”

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