Leveraging the Potential of LinkedIn

If used correctly, LinkedIn can be a great way to advance your business and career prospects.

By Jane Hosking

While most professionals have a LinkedIn profile, few are aware of the networking website’s full potential to advance their career.

Maria Fafard, a LinkedIn coach, trainer, and speaker believes that everyone who has professional aspirations should maintain an active presence on the site, which has around 300 million users. “LinkedIn is much more than a social media platform, it’s a powerful mechanism for reaching your goals. If you’re not on LinkedIn, you are invisible in the professional universe,” she said. Fafard added that companies can also use the website to engage customers and attract top talent.

With Fafard’s help we’ve come up with these six top tips for getting the most out of LinkedIn:

1. Have a goal

Before you begin making your presence known on LinkedIn, it’s important to establish a goal and be clear about what you want to accomplish. You may want to think about branding yourself as an expert in a certain field, positioning yourself as a thought leader, or finding a new job with your dream company. Your profile and your LinkedIn interactions should then be directed towards this goal.

 2. Create a killer profile

Your LinkedIn profile shouldn’t simply be a boring replica of your resume. Fafard believes developing a strong profile entails so much more. “It needs to include a portfolio of your work, a meaningful summary, and a headline that lets your brand and personality shine,” she said, adding that it’s important not to just tell people what you were responsible for in a role, but to tell them about the results of your work. You should also include a professional picture of yourself and update your profile regularly.

3. Engage

While many people might have a profile on LinkedIn, they often fail to use it to engage others. Fafard said it’s important to post status updates, participating in relevant LinkedIn groups, comment on other people’s articles and status updates, and post content on LinkedIn’s publishing platform.

4. Network

This might sound obvious, but growing and nurturing your network really is one of the most important things you can do on LinkedIn. Fafard advises that you use the networking site to connect, not only with all the people you are currently meeting through your work, but also those from your past as well, because you never know when one of these contacts might come in handy.

5. Publish

One of the most useful features on LinkedIn, according to Fafard, is the publishing platform, which has the power to reach many people through your network. If you’re lucky enough, your article could even be featured on LinkedIn Pulse, meaning the site will recommend it to other professionals interested in the same topic. “This is an amazing opportunity to gain visibility, to position yourself as an expert, to add value to a broad audience, and even to take a first step towards thought leadership,” said Fafard. She also advised using Twitter and other social media platforms to promote LinkedIn articles so as to expand their reach even further.

 6. Insure your career

LinkedIn should be used to market yourself, not only when you’re looking for work but also when you’re in a stable job. “The biggest mistake you can make is to start working on your profile only after a negative event in your professional life has occurred,” said Fafard, explaining that it’s difficult to build a personal brand quickly and that it’s something that should be done over time.

She believes that LinkedIn is like a career insurance policy. “When you need to look for a job, it is easier to kick off and lead a successful job search if you are on LinkedIn,” she said, adding that approximately 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to help select employees. What’s more, with a powerful LinkedIn presence, Fafard believes that instead of having to approach employers, you may find they instead begin to approach you.

Maria Fafard blogs about LinkedIn at linkedintellect.wordpress.com and specializes in LinkedIn strategy, thought leadership, brand ambassadorship, and career management.