LinkedIn is far and away the single most valuable career-related tool in existence today. A surprising number of my clients know about LinkedIn but really don't know how to use it. Searching online, I discovered that there is no up-to-date, simple, brief (i.e. less than 1000 words) "primer" on the value and proper use of LinkedIn. So, here are 999 words on it.
THE MANY BENEFITS OF LINKEDIN:
1. It allows you to exhibit to the world (but most importantly to recruiters and potential employers) your professional credentials in a professional setting that is not a job site.
2. It is a primary source of job leads - based on the data that you choose to include in your LinkedIn profile, plus your viewing and search patterns. LinkedIn algorithms select available jobs that seem to suit your background, skills, and interests and alerts you to them. It also identifies the people within your network that can increase your chances of landing an interview at the particular organization with that job opening (more on that in a moment). And It allows recruiters to alert you to openings.
3. LinkedIn has a feature known as Influencers, which gives you access to the thinking of leading business titans and public figures (ranging from Richard Branson to President Obama to Tony Robbins to Ariana Huffington) through their postings unique to LinkedIn.
4. Through its many virtual "associations" (e.g. the Intelligence-based Cybersecurity group, the Creative Writers and Designers group) you can gain valuable information from peers, join threaded conversations with them, and perhaps even strike up new connections.
5. Most importantly, it provides you a means of easily contacting thousands of people in a myriad of industries, organizations, and professional associations who can be sources of "inside information" on their fields, their companies, how they came to land their jobs, what a potential boss is like, skills necessary to succeed, etc. Depending on the strength of your connection, these contacts may be able to open doors for you that the average outsider could never access.
HERE'S HOW TO GET STARTED, AND HOW IT WORKS:
Say that Bob Jones is one of your contacts. You see that he is connected to Betty Smith, the HR manager at a company to which you want to apply. You simply contact Bob and ask him to facilitate a connection with Betty ("Bob, I see you know Betty Smith. I want to learn more about her organization. Would you do me the favor of e-mailing her and asking her if she'd be willing to chat with me for a few minutes?" OR "Would you tell her I'm interested in applying for a position there and that you're vouching for me; would you put in a good word?").
That's why, in thinking about the people you can add to invite, limit it to PEOPLE WHO HAVE A POSITIVE IMPRESSION OF YOU AND WOULD BE WILLING TO SUGGEST TO A COLLEAGUE THAT HE/SHE SPEAK TO YOU. But think broadly - many people mistakenly limit their LinkedIn network to professional contacts, thereby overlooking other groups: friends, neighbors, classmates.