What is LinkedIn, and Why Should I Care?

Last week, I talked about why I hate the LinkedIn “recommend” feature.  I got a couple of emails from people who asked what LinkedIn was, and a couple more who asked if they should really be on LinkedIn if they’re not actively looking for a job.

First, the basics:  LinkedIn is, essentially, a networking site for business people.  You post a profile, but it’s not really like your Facebook profile…this is about your work life.  It’s usually a somewhat shorter version of your resume (although you can choose how much or how little you want to share).  You then connect to other people in your “network.”  You can look them up by name, by company, or by location, and once you’ve entered your former companies, it will also recommend people you might know.  I’ve found quite a few long-lost work friends this way.  Once you’ve built your network, you can use it to ask questions (where’s the best place to find engineers in Minneapolis?) or ask for help (I’m looking for a job in San Diego), or find other contacts (does anyone know who the head of HR is for Skyway?).  You can also join groups-industry groups, groups based on your geographic location, alumni groups for both schools and companies, and many more.

Others can also find you on LinkedIn, and that’s good, because lots of companies are now using LinkedIn instead of, or at least in addition to, traditional job boards like Monster.   In fact, if you’re nervous about putting your resume on a job board because you think you might get in trouble with your current employer, LinkedIn is a great alternative.  It’s a respectable place to be seen, without being overt about your job hunting.  It’s kind of like hanging out at the bookstore instead of a bar when you’re single.

The best time to network is BEFORE you actually need a job.  Even if you’re in a fairly comfortable spot, you should be on LinkedIn.  Connecting with colleagues can make you smarter and more successful in your current job…and if the worst happens down the road, you’ll be ready.

You can view my LinkedIn profile here.

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