I had the honor of teaching networking skills to South Seattle Community College students who enrolled in the Career Smarts program. Career Smarts, part of the Seattle Jobs Initiative, is a program that connects students with HR professionals to teach job related skills.
I taught four 30 minute classes on networking. Each time, I asked how many of the students were using LinkedIn. Usually only about one or two students raised their hand. And most of the participants had never heard of LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is 10 years old this year and has over 200 million users. Two new users join LinkedIn every second. And, most compelling, 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet job candidates.* Wow! As I shared with the students, it’s so important to have a profile on LinkedIn to grow your network and find jobs.
For those of you not looking for jobs, the site has many other uses that make it worth setting up a profile.
I use the site to conduct research before meeting with colleagues and prospective clients. By looking at someone’s profile I can learn where they went to school, what they studied, their work history, any awards they’ve won, and sometimes, hobbies and interests. These facts give me things to talk about when we meet.
LinkedIn also serves as my rolodex. After meeting with people I will invite them to connect with me on the site. I usually always personalize the message so that I can state where we met and maybe what we talked about to help them remember who I am.
I belong to many LinkedIn groups both in similar industries and in industries that typically hire business etiquette consultants. The groups are a place where I can share and learn best practices with others in my industry and also to learn more about the industries that I’m interested in working with. I can post interesting articles, ask questions and join in on discussions. All of which keep me relevant and visible.
For job seekers there is a wealth of information to be found by following companies you are interested in. Many companies post job openings on their company page. You can also see which of your connections currently or used to work for the company. Great information when you are looking for a foot in the door.
Needless to say LinkedIn is a very useful site for everyone and everyone should be using it.
Whether you’re a power LinkedIn user or are ready to set-up your profile be sure you are practicing good etiquette for the site. Here are some tips.
Post a professional photo. It’s essential to have a photo on your profile and that it’s a professional looking headshot. Avoid an image of you and your kids or your friends or anything that is blurry or hard to see. This is the image recruiters, hiring managers and prospective clients are seeing, so make sure it reflects professionally on you.
Do I know you? Don’t ask someone you haven’t met to connect with you and don’t connect with someone you haven’t met or who you don’t respect. If you don’t know them or aren’t sure about their work or integrity, it’s awkward to have to decline their request for help. You also risk your professional reputation by making the introduction or recommendation. It’s okay to click “ignore” on the request, they won’t get a notification.
Don’t default. Be sure when you are asking for a connection that you personalize your connection message. Don’t use the default message. This is an opportunity to deepen a relationship with someone. That said, depending on how you’re asking for the connection you may not get the option to personalize the message. This is so frustrating to me. I have found the only way you have the option is if you go to the person’s profile and click on “Connect”. If you do it any other way, you don’t have the opportunity to write a message.
Another reason for personalizing the connection request is many people, I included, usually will not connect with someone that hasn’t taken the time to personalize the request, especially if it’s someone I don’t know. Be sure to personalize recommendation requests for the same reasons.
Be professional. Just as you would at an in-person networking event, avoid talking about controversial topics such as religion and politics or making hurtful or rude remarks. What you post in your updates should be of a professional nature, such as a project you’re working on, a conference you’re attending, an interesting article you read, etc.
If you make comments in group discussions, be nice even if you disagree with someone. Leave people thinking what a professional, kind person you are even when others around you are being rude or nasty.
Thank people. If you ask someone for a recommendation or introduction and they provide one, be sure to thank them. It’s best to send a handwritten note, especially if the person really helped you out. It’s surprising to me how many people do not say thank you. After a while folks stop wanting to help when they never hear “thank you.”
Don’t spam. You would never walk into a networking event or party and shout over and over “buy my product!” or “Hire me!” People would shun you immediately.
LinkedIn, and really all social media, is the same way. You need to build relationships with people, get to know them, help them, comment on their updates, share helpful information and links to interesting articles. Typically you should only post updates about your company, blog, book, etc. about 20% of the time.
Do you use LinkedIn? Why or why not? Is there a particular feature you really like? Do you see people doing things that should be on my etiquette list? Please share.
*As of September 2013