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LinkedIn isn't just a way to keep track of where old coworkers are working nowadays -- it's a tool that can help you navigate your job search, build up your network and stay informed in your industry. Knowing how to maximize the benefits of LinkedIn can help you throughout your career, not just when you need a job.
To start, be active on the social network and optimize your LinkedIn profile, says Craig Fisher, vice president of sales at Ajax Social Media. "The top misconception is that if you just create a LinkedIn profile, then you should get calls from employers or recruiters," he says.
Not sure how to build your LinkedIn presence? Here are six ways to make the most of LinkedIn:
Include detailed job descriptions
Don't simply list your current job in your LinkedIn profile. When recruiters browse the site to seek out potential candidates, they are interested in seeing a detailed version of your past experience going back about 10 years. Take the time to fill out your job history just as you would on a résumé, highlighting specific accomplishments under each role. "The more relevant detail and specific keywords that you include in your profile, the easier it will be for recruiters and employers to find you when they search for appropriate candidates for their openings," Fisher says.
Keep it professional
Checking the tone of your LinkedIn profile is key. While it's tempting to make it conversational, remember that it's not as casual as Facebook or any other social network that you use in your spare time. Over-sharing or using slang terms versus professional language may prevent recruiters from reaching out. Also be careful about including everything you post to Twitter on your LinkedIn profile," Fisher says. Additionally he suggests providing an e-mail or phone number to make it easier for perspective employers to get in touch.
Import content into your page
Use LinkedIn's other features to showcase work directly in your profile. For example, if you often create presentations or design websites, be sure to integrate those work samples in your profile. "Use the apps available on your profile page to import content into your page," Fisher says. Additionally, use the status to convey relevant industry information or point out news articles or research to your network.
Join industry or alumni groups
Even if you're not currently job hunting, participating in LinkedIn forums or groups can help you keep up with industry news. Stay active in the groups you join. Answer questions where you have expertise, share job tips or post new info to the group page. If others see you're an asset, they'll be more likely to connect with you and inform you about opportunities that come their way.
Keep making connections
The secret to LinkedIn is simple -- the more connections you make, the greater the chances that it can help in your job search. "Grow your network -- the more active you are, and the more people you connect with, the more people will see your profile," Fisher suggests. "After all, any of your friends or colleagues might know someone who could be a great lead for you." Take a systematic approach and re-evaluate your connections every month, or after you've completed a large project or started working with new clients.
Reach out for in-person meetings
Just because your connections are online doesn't mean it's not necessary to meet in person. Use LinkedIn to garner face-to-face communication such as happy hours, lunches or just a quick phone call with connections in your area. Meeting those in your network can help you cement online connections down the road.
Alina Dizik researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.com. Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.
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