Linked InEstablishing your network. Once you have a solid LinkedIn profile, you can start networking by expanding your connections and joining LinkedIn Groups. Connections are similar to “friends” on Facebook. They are generally people you know or have at least heard of through your professional network. Using LinkedIn connections, users can both passively and actively look for jobs by learning about jobs posted by their connections and advertising their skills to a diverse professional network.

There are three types of connections: first-degree (or primary), second-degree (or secondary) and third-degree connections.

Primary connections are people you know personally or professionally.  They have sent you an invitation to connect or you have sent them an invitation to connect and they have accepted.  To build your primary connections, you can upload your email address book and LinkedIn will search for people you may know and suggest connections.

Secondary connections are people who are connected to your primary, or first degree connections.  For example, if you are friends with Sally and Sally is friends with Hal, Hal is a potential secondary connection.  You can send secondary connections an invitation to become primary connections, but it is best to do so with a personalized and friendly message that explains the context of the request (For example: “I see you work with Sally at X company and I am interested in networking with you” or “I met you at Sally’s birthday party and I am interested in hearing more about what you do at X company”).

Third-degree connections are people who are connected to your secondary connections.  LinkedIn users can modify their security settings to determine what their third-degree connections see.  Users may see the full first and last name of a 3rd degree connection with an option to directly connect with them or they may only see their full first name with a last initial and options to connect with them via InMail – LinkedIn’s direct messaging service.   You can connect with anyone else not connected to you via a first, second or third degree connection using InMail.

LinkedIn Groups “provide a place for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share content, find answers, post and view jobs, make business contacts, and establish themselves as industry experts” (LinkedIn, 2015).  School and alumni groups are good places to start building your group networks. You can find groups applicable to your profession, industry, skills, or volunteer activities by using the search feature on your profile page or by viewing suggestions of relevant groups.  Click on this link to find more information on LinkedIn about getting started in Groups.

Establishing primary connections, investigating potential secondary connections to expand your network, and joining relevant groups are good ways to create a strong professional network.

Maintaining your network. Now that you have created a LinkedIn network, you need to maintain it.  For example, consider how you can support the people in your network.  If someone posts they are interested in creating a non-profit, can you connect them to someone who has done that before?  If someone posts about a promotion, send them a hearty congratulations.

Plan on updating your LinkedIn community regularly.  You can post updates on what you are doing at work, what you are interested in learning more about, or relevant articles you have come across.

Using your network. Don’t let the time and energy you have spent cultivating your network go to waste.  Here are a few ways to use your LinkedIn network:

  • Request informational interviews with people knowledgeable about a topic of interest. For example, interview people who have experience in a field you would like to pursue.  Be respectful of their time (ask to chat for 15 minutes and then end the conversation after 15 minutes) and send a thank you note after the interview.
  • Research a company you are interested in working for. For example, if you want to work for Apple, see if there are any people in your network who work for Apple or are connected to people who work for Apple.  If there are, ask to talk to them about their employer or see if they can introduce you to people with influence in the company or to learn more about company culture.

Further reading on Connections and Networking:

Using Endorsements to Highlight your Skills

After you have created a basic profile, complete the skills and endorsements section by adding keywords that describe your skills. LinkedIn will suggest skills pulled from your work history, but you can enter keywords which will autofill with skills recognized by LinkedIn.  For example, if you enter “management,” 9 sub-categories pop up and you can select the one that best describes your skills (project management, sales management, change management, account management, program management, etc.).  Think broadly. The skills you list do not need to be confined to your profession.  Pick at least 10 skills (the top 10 will show up on your profile), but feel free to add more.

Once you have created your Skills and Endorsements section, your connections (people you have connected with on LinkedIn, see section above) can endorse your skills and strengths.

LinkedIn endorsements are useful for highlighting the job-related skills you want to promote and are your connection’s way of confirming you have the skills you say you have.   Endorsements build your professional brand and are a way to engage your network.   They can also increase your LinkedIn ranking, which is determined by how many people view your profile and influences where it comes up in their feed (what shows up when they log into LinkedIn (French, 2015).

Endorsements can be a good way to evaluate if someone who “endorses” you for a skill might be interested in “recommending” you for a skill as well.  (See recommendation section below).  Keep in mind it is helpful to acknowledge and thank people for their endorsements (Adams, 2015).

Be aware that you can be endorsed for skills that are not applicable or even harmful to your job search such as “trapeze”, “prison ministry” or “kidnap and ransom”.  Click on the link to learn how to hide or unhide skill endorsements.

Finally, keep in mind the following things about endorsements:

  • You have the option to re-order skills in any order you want.
  • You can hide all endorsements by opting out. Hiding individual endorsements can alter the display order of your skills. If you hide all of a skill’s endorsements, it may move skills to the bottom of the list.
  • If you don’t want a specific person to endorse you, you can remove the connection between the two of you. They won’t be notified if you break the connection.

The LinkedIn website offers more advice and instruction on endorsements, including how to endorse the skills of other LinkedIn users within your network.

Further reading on Endorsements:

Recommendations on LinkedIn

A LinkedIn recommendation is a personalized comment or testimonial written by a manager, co-worker, client, or customer about the skills you have or the quality of services you provide. Recommendations carry more weight than endorsements because they are personalized.  The recommendations people write are viewed as part of your LinkedIn profile as well as part of the profile of the person who wrote the recommendation. Writing recommendations for others can extend your networking reach.

When you are ready to ask for a recommendation, you can use LinkedIn to reach out to an individual, but most people ignore this type of request. Making a phone call or asking in person makes it more likely your connection will write you a recommendation (Arruda, 2015).

Whenever you contact someone for a recommendation, be sure to personalize the request and make the interaction sincere and heart-felt. People are more likely to respond positively when they can see you have put some effort into the request.

When you contact someone, explain why their recommendation would be helpful for you and share points they might want to include.  For example:  “I really appreciated the opportunity to work with you on the X project because it gave me an opportunity to apply my leadership and public speaking skills as well as develop and maintain corporative relationships with key members of the team.”

When asking for a recommendation, you may want to include a draft.  The person writing the recommendation might not use it, but they may include your points in what they write.  Be sure to consider the voice of the person writing the recommendation as it should sound like they wrote it.

When someone has taken the time to craft and post a recommendation, be sure to send a sincere thank you message to acknowledge their time and effort involved in making a recommendation post.

Once you have several recommendations, you can manage how recommendations show on your profile and hide submitted recommendations.  Check out the LinkedIn’s website for an overview of what you can do with recommendations.

Further reading on Recommendations: