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The Ultimate Guide To Maximizing LinkedIn For Career Success

Most career-minded professionals have a LinkedIn profile (there are over 400 million members), but having a profile is not enough. It needs to be a stellar profile, and you need to have a strategy for using LinkedIn to advance you career and deliver greater value to your employer. In this post, I share the three-step process for getting the most from LinkedIn. Because LinkedIn is so vast with copious opportunities for personal branding, I only focus on the features I think will have the greatest impact on your success.
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But before you get all excited about having the perfect LinkedIn profile and strategy, you need to get clear about your personal brand. Your LinkedIn profile is the electronic version of you. So you need to know who you are, what separates you from your peers and what makes you relevant and compelling to stakeholders. This will ensure you build an accurate impression of you in the virtual world that’s congruent with the real-world you.
Once you have clarity about your brand positioning, focus on the first step of the process, crafting a brilliant profile:
1. Profile
Before you start using all the fun and valuable networking features of LinkedIn, like reaching out to connections or posting blogs and interacting with members of groups, you need to make sure your profile is accurate, current and engaging. Here are the six most important elements of your profile that will attract people to you and make them want to get to know you better:
Headshot: People want to connect a face with a name, and your headshot does that. Use a professional photographer and face forward in the picture, or face the direction of your content (don’t gaze off the page). Selfies, strangely cropped photos, images that aren’t you and low-quality images will tarnish your brand.
Headline: You have 120 characters to entice people to learn more about you. Use as many as you need to tell people what you do. The formula I use is: Job title plus keywords plus zing. Keywords are all the words you want to be known for — the words people would use to find you. Zing is something interesting that creates intrigue or interest.
Summary: This is where you tell your story. Include a combination of accomplishments, values, passions, credentials, strengths, differentiation, etc. And write it with your personality. I prefer the first person to create a conversation between you and the reader. You have just 2,000 characters to tell the story of the brand called you, so use them wisely. I share all you need to know to create a stellar LinkedIn summary in this Forbes post.
Experience: This is where you tell people what you have done and for whom and what results you delivered. It provides more details behind what your summary says. Remember to choose the company you worked for from LinkedIn’s electronic list. It will automatically import the company logo, adding it to your experience element.
Skills: Although most of us are dubious about the Endorsements feature, we make decisions about people based on the skills for which they are endorsed. Strive to emphasize your top 10, arranging them in order of importance. They take up a lot of your profile’s real estate and have the biggest impact on influencing readers.
Recommendations: These are critical because they back up what you say about yourself. There are three things to consider: Who writes the recommendation (their job title and prominence in your field will impact the value of the recommendation). Where they work (through brand association, you can enhance the quality of your brand). What they say (you want them to reinforce your most compelling and differentiating characteristics).
The other elements of your profile are also valuable, so don’t leave anything out. Complete all sections, from Education to Awards. That will make you a LinkedIn “All Star.”
2. People
Once you have built the perfect profile, it’s time to build and nurture your professional network. There are many ways to do this, but I focus on the three most important:
Connections: LinkedIn provides one of the best opportunities to build a solid and diverse network. Getting to the 500+ connections level tells people you are someone they should get to know. Reach out to people from your past, connect your email addresses and accept most connection requests you receive. The more connections you have, the more frequently you show up in searches and the more access you have to others’ profiles.
Groups: This is my favorite feature in LinkedIn. Groups connect you with large numbers of like-minded individuals around a topic. It’s a great way to build your network and acknowledge others. You can post your own thoughts and engage in conversations around your fellow group members’ postings.
Alumni: This less talked about feature of LinkedIn allows you to easily find and connect with people who went to your alma mater. If you want to get in to see a specific client or source staff, the Alumni feature can provide a direct route.
3. Performance
You have a profile you’re proud of and a strategy for growing your network and maintaining those relationships. Now it’s time to drive greater value for your career, your team and your company. Thanks to all the feature enhancements from LinkedIn, there are number ways to do this. Here are the three most important activities:
Be A Brand Ambassador: Having an impressive profile provides some brand value to your employer – especially when everyone in your company does it. When you choose your company from the LinkedIn list for your current experience element, you automatically become a follower of your company page. As a brand ambassador, your job is to share relevant content, such the posts made by your company’s communications team on the company page. Pass along these posts to your connections and appropriate groups. You amplify the visibility of those messages and show your commitment to your employer.
Demonstrate Thought-Leadership: The LinkedIn long-form publishing platform is your personal blog – replete with everything you need to influence a subset of 400 million people. It’s the place to share your point of view so you can build a following. Learn everything you need to know about blogging here.
Learn And Grow: Learning is your responsibility. Sure, your company has an L&D organization that provides formal training, but you need to augment that with on-the-go-learning that happens every day. Through groups and LinkedIn thought leaders (Pulse), you can benchmark processes, learn best practices, keep the saw sharp and remain relevant.
LinkedIn is any career-minded professional’s best friend. There are dozens of valuable LinkedIn features, but focus on these first. Then take it up a notch with the more advanced ones.

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