If you are a business person and you are online, you have surely heard of LinkedIn. In fact, with 19 million users around the globe, the odds are good that you have already created your own LinkedIn account.
What exactly is LinkedIn? It is an online network of people all over the world. While technically, it is one of many social networking sites on the web, LinkedIn is probably the best know and most widely used business networking site. Additionally, while it has similarities to well-known social networking sites such as MySpace, there are also fundamental differences that make it much more useful for business purposes.
So, the next question, of course, might reasonably be, “What exactly is a business networking site?” And more precisely, “Why should I even care and how can it benefit me?” If you are asking these questions, you are definitely not alone! While there are huge numbers of people creating LinkedIn accounts and building their networks, there are relatively few who are getting the optimal benefit out of their effort.
According to LinkedIn’s own explanation, the mission of LinkedIn is “to help you be more effective in your daily work and open doors to opportunities using the professional relationships you already have.”
Even if you are not conducting a current job search, for ongoing career management and personal branding efforts, any tool that can help you network more effectively and efficiently should be of great interest. Again, in LinkedIn’s own words:
“When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional accomplishments. Your profile helps you find and be found by former colleagues, clients, and partners. You can add more connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you.
Your network consists of your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know, linking you to thousands of qualified professionals.”
Through LinkedIn, then, you can search for jobs, you can easily make personal “inside” connections in relation to job opportunities, you can promote your personal brand and qualifications and be found and pursued for job opportunities, and you can form relationships that are critical to your career success and progression.
But remember, effective networking requires reciprocity through developing and nurturing win-win relationships. Through LinkedIn, you will also have the opportunity to help out those in your own network, answering questions, providing relevant leads, and helping them make connections to further whatever their goals are.
In the definitive guide to using LinkedIn for business and career management purposes, “I’m On LinkedIn: Now What?” Jason Alba explains that there are six major benefits to using LinkedIn:
1) The ability to be known and enhance your personal brand
2) The ability to be found by recruiters or other hiring authorities
3) The ability to find others and make important connections
4) The opportunity to learn and share
5) The ability to connect with group members
6) The opportunity to show you are plugged in to current technology
If you already have a LinkedIn account and have an established network in place. Let me urge you to take a closer look at how you are using it. Have you fully explored the features and benefits? Have you enhanced your profile? Have you joined any Groups? Participated by answering the questions of those in your network? LinkedIn is an excellent and very effective networking tool, but only if you use it!
If you have an established a LinkedIn account, but have just let it sit, unused, now is the time to log on and learn how to get the maximum benefit from it. Now-before you are actively job searching-is the best time to work on building up and cultivating your network. And, if you are new to LinkedIn and haven’t yet created an account, there is no better time than the present! The more professionals that use LinkedIn, the more effective it will be.