Until recently my professional social media presence was exclusively on Twitter (@matthewxjoseph). That was until I had a conversation with a successful and reputable professional—Rita Oates—who told me I was missing out by not being on LinkedIn. I knew of the site but had never joined. When I started to investigate, I realized LinkedIn is the top online site for professional, social, and career networking; it has millions of members in more than 200 countries. Once I signed up, I quickly recognized that LinkedIn functions as an online directory of professionals and organizations and facilitates the process of professional networking.
I joined to grow my professional network as I expand my reach and excitement for writing and presenting. Because I was a little late to the party, I spent a great deal of time getting started. LinkedIn can be intimidating for new users, so I’d like to share strategies to encourage others to join and grow their professional networks. Here are a few steps to help you grow your professional learning network (PLN).
Create a strong profile
People will check out your profile as the first step in connecting. That’s their first impression, so make it a good one. A professional-looking picture is a must-have. Next, create a summary statement to serve as an “elevator pitch” that speaks to your skills, motivation, and interests. People want a quick sample of who you are so get to the point and make it memorable. Once that’s complete, add your education, certifications, and publications. You are building your online cover letter and resume, not just for a job but for all the opportunities out there. Think of your LinkedIn profile as your professional brochure.
Keep your profile active
The advantage of an online profile is that it can change or expand daily. If you want to stand out, add to your profile as often as you can with examples of your work. Blogs or reports you’ve written, presentations you’ve delivered, and any publications are all good options.
Similar to other social networks, LinkedIn lets you publish regular posts and even write articles. If you want to build your portfolio and reach your target community, make sure your posts are closely related to your skills and profile summary. This will give you a well-rounded summary and a more detailed and complete profile that shows your “professional” best and is focused on what you can offer the community and are willing to share.
As Kevin Costner said in Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come.” When your profile is complete, connect your emails and other social accounts and grow your existing network. Adding content increases your ability to reach out to former colleagues, college connections, professors, and individuals you’ve met at conferences.
LinkedIn provides a “group” feature to interact with people with a common focus or passion. In groups, you can comment on discussions, share topics on your own feed, mention other individuals you have found as a valuable source of knowledge—just be mindful to not overwhelm the conversations and make it your personal soapbox. Try to bring value with every post. I discovered that if a group includes LION in its title, it is trying to maximize its connections. LION stands for LinkedIn Open Networkers.
Check out the connection recommendations
LinkedIn uses high-level meta tagging that enhances recommendations for people to connect with. In growing your network, you want it to be both diverse and concentrated. However, if you accept a request and find out later it is someone you don’t want to be connected with, you have the ability to disconnect.
In my brief time on LinkedIn I can already see the power of this free networking tool. My goal in the first month is to dedicate time and effort to make the most of my connections and create an online presence. Another goal is to send a personal note to connections I accept as well as when I send a request. My final goal is to not be discouraged by my small number of connections in the first month. The more I post and connect with others, the more the number will grow.
Setting realistic goals will help keep the focus on the steps to grow my PLN with real connections and not just numbers. My network is still growing and I’d love your feedback on this piece, so feel free to connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/Drmxj.