Now that you have a lovely profile built for yourself, you can start using it to help you in your job-search. If you’re actively looking for something new and aren’t going to get grief from a current employer, you can easily add an “open to work” banner to your photo. To do that, just click on your name on the left-hand side of your home page. This is where you can edit your info. Under your photo and headline, you’ll see a little blue box that says “open to,” and under that you can select the one that show you’re looking for work or the one that says you’re hiring.
You can also start connecting with people to build your network. Start with the easy stuff—friends, family, coworkers you enjoy, former college professors, etc. Once the algorithm can make sense of who you are, it will also start recommending connections for you. If you know people well, you can simply send a connection invitation, but if you have only met once or twice, or if you connected virtually, send a short note reminding the other person of your connection: “Hi Sue, and thanks for chatting with me at the project management conference on Friday! I’d love to connect.” At some point, you will be reaching out to strangers to connect, so the more in the habit of writing these short notes you can get, the easier that process will become.
So how do you connect with strangers? Well, if you’re a little on the shy side, it will feel awkward at first, but the truth is, all you need to do is find them and connect. For instance, if you think you might want to join the Foreign Service but you’re not really sure, search on LinkedIn for “Foreign Service officer” under people. If you get some hits, click on connect and add a note: “Hi Jeff. I’m thinking about a possible Foreign Service career but I’m not really sure what that would look like. I would like to connect with you and learn more about your experiences.”
Something people ask me fairly often is how big their LinkedIn network should be. What I always say is that it should be as big as you want it to be. Don’t stress yourself out unduly aiming for an arbitrary number. As you encounter interesting people, your network will naturally grow. And use your best judgment when people reach out to connect with you. I’ve gotten a few… interesting photos of things I didn’t especially want to see via other social media platforms, so I generally won’t connect with a random dude whose note is just “I’d like to connect,” unless we have something in common like a former workplace.
You can also apply for jobs posted on LinkedIn, which is one of the biggest benefits to keeping your account active. Follow companies and organizations that seem like a good fit for you, and make sure you’re checking the site at least a few times a week—more if you’re really actively searching. When you see something appealing posted, you can often apply directly from the site, which makes things easy and fast. You can also see how many other people have applied from the site, so at least you have a general idea of your competition.
Finally, if you’re really dedicated and having good luck on the site, consider the mobile app so you can keep an eye on things even when you’re on the move. It works much like other social media sites on your phone, and it’s worth spending a little time on it so you’re familiar with the differences in its look and contents.
Regardless of how you’re using the site, be sure to keep it updated and fresh! Your email address should be current so you get notified when people connect with you or message you. Engage with others, ask questions, post articles, celebrate your connections’ successes and you’ll be linkin’ in like a pro.