Kay Luo, director of corporate communications for LinkedIn, just came to our offices for an in-house tutorial. It was geared toward journalists, but I thought many of the tips were helpful to anyone with or looking for a job.
1. Get to know the “advanced search” function.
This is a great and probably underused tool. The page allows you to narrow a search with industry categories and titles, but the most handy search weapon is the keyword search. Say you’re looking for a new job in your industry and you want to find out about corporate culture at Apple. Type in “‘IT consultant’ and Apple” (you can use quote marks to search for a phrase and the connectors “and” and “or”), and you’ll get two categories of people who define themselves as such: those in your network of connections, and those in the wider LinkedIn universe.
2. Scale the six degrees of separation.
Whenever you view someone’s profile, LinkedIn shows you in a handy chart on the right the degrees of separation between you and the person profiled. I, for one, respond more friendly-like to friends of friends, so if I’m going to say whazzup to Steve Jobs, I know it would help if I had an intro from his nephew, who went to school with my next-door neighbor. (That didn’t happen, btw. But you get my drift.)
3. Check out a person’s history.
You can learn a lot about someone on their profile page, if they let you (LinkedIn’s “accounts and settings” function lets you set privacy controls). For instance, a little dinky called the “one-click reference” at the top of the page tells you all the people on the network who worked with the person at the company. That’s hugely useful for journalists digging for sources, but also if you’re expanding your business contacts.
4. Seek some “answers.”
Members can ask questions of their network and/or the LinkedIn universe on the “answers” page. If you’re a freelance menu copywriter, you might want to know if someone asks, “Hey, anyone know any great freelance menu copywriters?” You can subscribe to the answers category that interests you on an RSS feed.
5. Raise your LinkedIn profile’s Google ranking.
Have a web site that touts all your professional accomplishments along with your reality-defying bust-waist-hip measurements? Goody for you. For those of you who don’t, you could use your LinkedIn profile as your professional home page. If you do, you’ll want it to show up high in the rankings if a potential employer Googles your name. Go to “edit my public profile” and claim your name–in other words, name your site after yourself. Without this step, your LinkedIn profile simply shows up as the URL, and tain’t no boss person Googling that. (Don’t forget to allow the public to see your profile by selecting “full view.”)
6. Fuse your e-mail network with LinkedIn’s.
Under “my contacts,” there’s a tool on the right that allows LinkedIn to search your Gmail or Yahoo accounts to see if anybody you’ve ever e-mailed is also a member. That’s an easy way to build up your network without tediously typing in everybody’s e-mail addy.