Entertaining guest blog on three important ways on how to use LinkedIn for professional development. – Coach Wolfgang
In the summer of 1994, I was working at a gym, making $10/hour. I was having a good time but sitting on a 4-year degree from a Big 10 school.
So I went to work looking for a job.
My main strategy was printing resumes and cover letters and mailing them into local companies. The paper was very nice and had a cool texture to it. It was more than I wanted to spend on paper but my dad insisted it would help me stand out. I found addresses using a company directory from the library. Stamps were only 29 cents.
Do you get what I’m saying? 1994 was THE DARK AGES compared to today! I’m licking envelopes and buying stamps in bulk!
Today there are job boards, company websites and the ultimate tool… LinkedIn. Oh, and this thing called “the internet” made it all happen. So I’m not here to lecture (more than I already have), but I see a lot of young people not leveraging LinkedIn for professional development.
I wouldn’t wish the job search conditions of 1994 on my worst enemy so I’m here to tell you that you can’t pass this up: my 3 top tips on how to use LinkedIn for long-term professional development.
1. Find and build strong new connections
If you think LinkedIn is a volume game then you are right! If you think it is only about volume then you are wrong. It’s about making sincere connections. So don’t just find new connections and send a request. LinkedIn makes it easy but that’s just a trap – a trap to separate those who are worth connecting with from those who aren’t.
Don’t be one of those who sends connection requests without a note.
If you aren’t willing to invest in starting a relationship then with this connection, then you won’t really be building a network of people who you can count on. A network is as powerful as the number of connections made but only if the connections are strong.
There are a few things I do to form a bond, create rapport and establish a relationship. These are extra but important for how to use LinkedIn:
Write a personalized note about why you want to connect with someone. If you don’t know them, then state why they will want to connect with you.
Comment on their articles, items they share and post in their feed, even items they “like”.
Drop a personal note after making the connection sharing a story or talking about mutual interests.
Ask someone for a phone call to talk about their job, company or a post they made. 5 minutes to understand who you are and who they are.
2. Engage with news and posts
Please note the use of the word “engage” over “read”. Reading is good; learning is better; engaging is best. LinkedIn is a phenomenal source of user aggregated information. Your network is learning and sharing and you can leverage the work that they are doing.
Plus, it helps to make stronger network connections when you find that you have a similar opinion and similar interests with others. Here are a few ideas:
Do you like sharing stories on sales techniques?
Do you have an opinion about recent mergers?
What are your feelings on industry news?
How are your experiences different from what others are saying?
Paying attention to your news feed is an important part of how to use LinkedIn. Not only are the posts helpful as a news feed but you’ll also find out a lot about your network. When you see an opportunity to support, share an opinion or help out… jump on it!
3. Share your own interests and opinions
I saved the most powerful step for last. Professional development is about establishing your personal brand. When you do that, you are also establishing your expertise. Others will appreciate this and quickly associate your personal brand with expertise.
Share your opinion through article comments, forum discussions, activity feed and so on. Don’t just aggregate information but share what YOU think! If you want to share an article, then preface the link in your post with your opinion.
The ultimate way on how to use LinkedIn to establish your brand is to publish. If you blog, publish your articles on LinkedIn through their “publisher” tool. If you don’t have a blog, that’s fine, then just use the publisher as your main platform.
When you have a few (or more) articles that you’ve published then you can link to those in relevant comments on other people’s posts. This is an easy way to not only network with influential people but also to show that YOU are in influential person worth connecting with. Others will see this and want to connect with you.
Benefits of knowing how to use LinkedIn
If you do these 3 items on a regular basis then you will be well on your way to having a solid group of professional connections that can help when you are looking for a new job, need to gather some opinions, or want to talk about business. Here’s what else you get from a solid network and established personal brand: peace of mind. You don’t worry as much about layoffs and economic downturns. Instead, you get excited about learning new things and feel confident that 10 really good opportunities are waiting for you at any time you need them.
Last thing, please share your insights on how to use LinkedIn to friends and co-workers. Us old folks have to pass our stories on to the next generation!