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  1. Blog
  2. Networking
  3. April 5, 2021

What LinkedIn Is & How to Use It to Your Advantage

Is everyone virtual networking without me?

Computer with a LinkedIn sticker on it
Photo courtesy of LinkedIn Analytics Tool

LinkedIn has almost 740 million members across 200 countries, making it the world’s largest professional social media network. The platform was first created in 2002 by Reid Hoffman and is now a must-have for professionals and businesses across industries.

If you’re new to the platform, this is your guide to everything LinkedIn. We’ll cover what it is, why you should use it, key features, and best practices.

What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is an online platform that was created solely for making professional connections. It’s also a place for individuals to find jobs and internships, and for businesses to post any open positions. As with other social media sites, LinkedIn can be accessed in a mobile app or web browser. 

Aside from giving you the power to connect with colleagues and others in your industry, known as your “Connections,” you can join professional groups and events and write and post original articles. It’s also a great place to showcase news, photos, and videos. 

The mere breadth of LinkedIn makes it a must-have for most professionals. If you’re a founder of a startup or own a business, it can also be a great place to showcase your company and make new connections. 

Because many job seekers use LinkedIn’s tools to find positions, it’s also important for companies to create listings on the platform, helping them expand their reach and visibility. 

LinkedIn’s key features

Let’s walk through the site’s features for both Basic and Premium plans:

Basic

Users can create a Basic account that’s totally free. You can search for other professionals and instantly request to become a connection with them. Basic members can also create a complete, detailed profile.

The downsides of Basic are missing out on additional features for job seekers, recruitment tools, business insights, and visibility options on the platform.

Premium

If you decide to sign up for a Premium subscription, you’ll get a few more benefits, including the ability to see who has looked at your profile. LinkedIn has Premium options for personal users, job seekers, and businesses:

  • Premium Career is geared toward job seekers and helps users connect with hiring managers, view qualifications of other applications, and find out new skills they should learn. 

  • Premium Business helps businesses connect with more people, take advantage of LinkedIn promotional options, and enhance their brand.

  • Premium Sales Navigator unlocks even more outreach tools so that business owners can find leads and reach people in their target audience.

  • Premium Recruiter Lite is for recruiters who are seeking better candidates. They can send InMail messages to potential candidates, and they have unlimited browsing capabilities.

To get the most out of LinkedIn, especially if you have a specific goal right now, a Premium plan may be the right option to get those extra features.

Tips for your LinkedIn profile

There are several key components to pay attention to on your profile. Here’s an overview of each:

Profile photo

A photo will increase profile views and help people put a face to a name. It’s best to get a professional headshot taken where you can clearly see your face. Try to avoid taking a selfie on your smartphone. Remember that your photo will give a first impression to a potential employer or hiring manager.

Read more: 6 Ideas for Picking a LinkedIn Cover Photo

Name and headline

Next up: your name and headline. These are the first two bits of information, aside from your photo, that profile visitors will see. You can add a recording of your name pronunciation if desired. Your headline should summarize what you do and shouldn’t be too long. Include a keyword so you’ll show up on search engines, and keep it tight and punchy. Here’s an example: 

Digital Marketing Manager & Strategist

Sometimes you may want to include your current employer’s name or multiple roles if you want to showcase a few points of expertise. The headline has a 120 character limit.

Read more: How To Write a LinkedIn Headline That Performs Like a Pro

About section/summary

The About section is a summary of who you are and what you do. You should outline in a clear and concise way your years of experience, any pertinent tools you are an expert in, and what makes you unique. If you run a brand, make sure that this section connects with your tone across your channels. This is a place you want to also include keywords for searchability, and try to engage the reader right away with a hook at the beginning of your summary. Think about how your desired audience communicates and what they’re looking for. Remember that your summary must be 2,000 characters or less.

Read more: How to Write a Stellar LinkedIn Summary [+ Examples]

Experience and education

The experience and education sections list your professional positions and your degrees, similar to your resume. Try to keep descriptions of each clear and simple. Highlight your biggest accomplishments in past roles and any awards or achievements you received in college. Position descriptions have a maximum of 2,000 characters.

Skills and endorsements

Make sure you list professional skills on your profile, and you can add up to 50. The endorsement section then allows your network to endorse you for certain skills. For example, if you list Technical Writing as a skill, someone you’ve worked with can visit your profile and back you up, and their name and company will show up on your profile. This is a great way to showcase your experience and expertise and connect with your community. (Make sure you return the favor!)

Featured and activity sections

LinkedIn has a Featured section on your profile where you can highlight your articles or posts, documents you’d like available to your connections, or videos or images. The activity section similarly shows anything you’ve done on LinkedIn in the last 90 days, like created a post or commented on someone else’s update.

Other LinkedIn best practices

Let’s cover a few other best practices for LinkedIn:

  • Customize your URL: On your profile, click “Edit public profile & URL” to customize your personal link so it’s easy to share.

  • Use short paragraphs and bullets: break up your content and make it easy to read.

  • Stay active and engage with others regularly. Don’t wait for all your connections to come to you.

  • Write posts to share with your network that help establish you as a thought leader.

  • Learn how to search: use LinkedIn’s easy search function to find people, jobs, services, or groups.

  • Turn on the “Let recruiters know you’re open” function under “Jobs” and then “Career Interests” when you’re looking for a new opportunity.

Bonus tip: Remember to use keywords. Your profile is a website, after all, and searchability is a must on LinkedIn.

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: How Can I Make the Most of Virtual Networking During the Pandemic?

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Photo of Meredith Boe

Meredith Boe

Contributor

Meredith Boe is a writer, editor, and grant writer, and a regular contributor to InHerSight. Her writing focuses on working women, self-employment, small businesses, finance, and legal, in addition to her literary criticism, poetry, and creative prose. She holds a master's degree in writing and publishing from DePaul University, and her bylines include the GoDaddy Garage, The Chicago Reader, and the Chicago Review of Books.

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