LinkedIn is a valuable tool for any professional, but for military families, whose face-to-face networks are changing every few years, it can be a career-saver, allowing you to maintain your network in a city or community after you leave, or start one before you move.
Make the most of your LinkedIn networking by avoiding these 10 common mistakes.
- Don’t dismiss LinkedIn as something only for people who are looking for a new job. The best time to build your LinkedIn profile, connect with people, and participate on LinkedIn is now — before you need it. If you find yourself suddenly unemployed and decide that now is the time to start using LinkedIn, you are going to be playing catch up.
- Don’t “set it and forget it.” Your LinkedIn profile is an evolving snapshot of you. You should be updating it regularly with new connections, status updates, and activity (especially within LinkedIn Groups or Publisher).
- Don’t ignore it. Check in on LinkedIn regularly — every other day if you are in active job search mode; once a week for passive job seekers. Plan on adding a new status update each time you log in.
- Don’t be a wallflower. LinkedIn is most effective when you engage with it. Seek out opportunities to connect with thought leaders in your industry. Join 3-5 Groups and participate in conversations.
- Don’t be selfish. You will get more out of LinkedIn if you focus on how you can help others, not how they can help you. The phrase “give to get” is very powerful on LinkedIn. You can earn the respect of your peers and people of influence if you share your knowledge and connections to assist others.
- Don’t wait for others to find you. Use the LinkedIn search function to look for people you know and invite them to connect with you. Set a goal: aim to add 1-3 new connections each week if you are a passive job seeker, and 2-5 connections a week if you are actively searching for a new job.
- Don’t indiscriminately try to connect with people. Yes, I know what I just said about adding new connections all the time. One of the strengths of LinkedIn is the connections you make, but keep in mind it’s not a race to get to 500 connections. Have a reason for each of the people you connect with — either it’s someone you already know or are related to or someone it would be beneficial to connect with. If you don’t know someone, get to know them a bit before sending a personalized connection request. (You can do so by seeing who you have in common — or who they are connected to, checking out their LinkedIn Summary and work history, visiting their website or blog, and seeing what Groups they belong to).
- Don’t forget to explore the people your connections know. One of the most powerful functions of LinkedIn is the ability to connect you with people who are connections of the people you know. Follow LinkedIn’s guidelines on connecting with these folks (using InMail or requesting connections through your mutual friend), so that your account is not flagged for spam.
- Don’t forget to give recommendations. Acknowledge and recognize the contributions of people you know by providing unsolicited, genuine Recommendations for them.
- Don’t restrict your LinkedIn networking to online only. Use LinkedIn to connect with people — but then request in-person get-togethers, when possible. Meet for coffee, or lunch, to catch up.