Folks seem to have a love\meh relationship with LinkedIn. It is certainly a powerful networking tool, but a lot of folks only use it heavily when they are looking for a job. While I could probably write a whole article on why I’ve come to realize that’s a mistake, let’s stick to the topic and get you started. This is dedicated a great group of folks, you know who you are. Here’s the scenario:

You travel down a dark, tree-lined path. A toolbox is up ahead. You bust open the lock and LinkedIn is inside. You pick it up and turn it over. There’s a note attached that says, “I can help you get a job.” You stare at it blankly and wonder what to do next.

Step 1: Your Profile
Your profile should get sorted out first. There are a million great sites with tips on getting your profile rocking, but it comes down to content. LinkedIn makes it easy to update your profile through wizards that take you through each section. Make sure you fill out relevant sections with data and upload a good picture (don’t crop others out of your picture, people can tell and avoid tuxedo pictures).

I used each section to tell the story of my career, rather than just copying and pasting my resume. It makes for a more engaging read.

Like Donna Serdula mentions on her excellent site, LinkedIn Makeover, try to get the All Star status on your profile. I encourage you to follow her blog and learn other tips. Her site also offers paid services to get your profile updated. If you are not a wordsmith, this could be a great investment.

Please note: I have not used Donna’s paid services, but her site is a wealth of information and definitely worth checking out!

If you are looking for a new job, update your Headline to reflect it. The Headline appears under your name on your profile. It doesn’t/shouldn’t reflect your current title. For example, mine says:

★Creative IT Leader ➡ Up for the next challenge

I considered “Seeking the next challenge,” but I thought it was too obvious. If you want it to be obvious, ‘seeking’ or ‘looking’ are good terms to use.

Next, customize your public profile link. It appears below your picture, just click Edit. Make it something memorable, like your name. Mine is http://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewsekol for example (shameless plug).

Step 2: Connect with the People You Know
This is probably the no-brainer of this write-up, but is worth mentioning. Start by connecting with fellow employees, vendors, and partners. Keep LinkedIn on your mind as you network with people. If you need help learning how to network in real life (*gasp), go read Pam Ross’ article – How I Stopped Sucking at Networking. She has a lot of great tips, particularly the Rule of Three.

Step 3: Get in a Group and Start Commenting
You obviously have some wisdom to impart, whether from education or career experience. Why not help someone out? The Groups on LinkedIn can be a great way to get your name out there and get people looking at your profile all while being (somewhat) altruistic.

On LinkedIn, go to Interests and then Groups.  Click the Find a Group button and start looking. Try searching for terms from your industry or job titles to start. For example, I am in IT and focused on Microsoft. There are groups for Microsoft Exchange and Office 365. Since I am a manager, you can also find me in the Information Technology Managers (IT) group. There are also geographically based Groups you can join. Watch your Updates (the LinkedIn default page) for Groups that your peers join and join those too if they are relevant.

There are two great ways to get going in Groups. First, start commenting and liking interesting threads. Second, post a link to an interesting (and relevant) internet article and make a meaningful comment in the text.

One tip on Groups – if you join a Group and see a lot of spam, you could try reaching out to the Group moderator to see if you can help control it, but it might just be better to leave the Group.

Step 4: Customize your Pulse Feed to Comment and Share
LinkedIn has a robust publishing platform that allows any member to write articles. These articles appear on your LinkedIn Pulse. You can customize it to get specific articles that are relevant to your interests. Each article is curated to a specific Channel.

You can change or update your Channels by clicking on the In: within the article square.
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Next, click the See More link under Other Channels and start clicking areas of interest.
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Once you’ve done that, go back to Pulse and you will see a new set of interesting articles. Like, Share, and Comment away to get noticed! Shares are particularly useful in generating interest within your circle.

One tip on commenting – think before you comment and leave politics or other controversial topics alone. Don’t get into a flame war on LinkedIn (or any social network site).

Step 5: All this Action is Getting Attention, Get Some More!
You should see your profile views start going up now that you’ve stirred the LinkedIn pot. If you’re interested, click back to the folks who have looked at you. 

If you are looking to get hired at a particular company, go search for folks that might be the hiring manager. You could either send them a pain letter (I’ll get to Liz Ryan in a minute) or just click on their profile. They will get the same profile view notice that you got. It might lead them to click on you!

One tip on contacting individuals – if you don’t have LinkedIn Premium, you can only receive InMails, but you can’t send them. This could hinder you sending any communication to an unknown person. If you are job hunting, you might want to consider a subscription to LinkedIn Premium. If not, send them a note the old fashioned way or try to see if you have a connection that can facilitate an introduction.

Another way to see a company’s activity is to search for the company on LinkedIn and click Follow. Some companies will post jobs or relevant articles that will now appear in your Updates.

You can also get more attention by searching through the LinkedIn Jobs. Recruiters will see your clicks as you look and can then reach out to you.

Step 6: Find Good People to Follow
With so many people writing articles on Pulse, you have your choice on who to follow. If you are job hunting, I recommend following Liz Ryan. You can follow someone by clicking the Follow button in the upper right of their profile or below their name on the Pulse article you are reading.

Getting Out of the Woods
You’ve taken your first steps out of the woods with your LinkedIn nestled in your pack. You look behind you and see a small group of people peeking at you from behind the trees. Ahead of you lies a sunrise just over a massive briar patch.

Hopefully, this advice will get you started on using LinkedIn to get your next job. This advice is just the beginning. Start checking around in LinkedIn and see what else you can find!