1. New to the workforce or changing careers. LinkedIn's "Skills & Expertise" is a real-time research tool. Enter one of your top skills or areas of expertise in the search box. The results include other key skills associated with the one you entered. Do you have these too? If you're lacking some of them, it would be wise for you to schedule an informational meeting with someone in that occupation to learn how important your missing skills might be. While you're on this results page, note the growth (or decline) of that skill, the professionals who are listed, the related groups on LinkedIn, the related companies and related jobs. This function is rich in data to help you do more and find people to network with to learn even more.
2. Two ways to get problems solved quickly. LinkedIn's Groups and Answers are under-utilized resources for finding answers to your business challenge. You can search the questions previously posed in the Answers section or submit your own. The other way you can get answers to your work problems is to submit your question as a discussion in a related industry group. Belonging to groups is a great way to stay up on trends and issues impacting what you do. One example is sourcing a new software provider or solution. If you post your question to an active industry group, see how long it takes to get responses. And not only will you get a wide variety of answers, you also have the opportunity to build new relationships.
3. Keep up with industry news. What publications or news sources do you regularly read? This can sometime be overwhelming. You can use LinkedIn Today's news settings to keep up with what's happening in your industry. The top stories are right there when you log in. Armed with current industry news, you can share it among your peers and connections.
4. Who's influencing you. One of LinkedIn's newest features, called "Influencers," allows you to follow key industry movers and shakers to keep up with what they're saying and sharing. You don't need to be connected with them for their news to hit your home page on LinkedIn. Consider commenting on their updates to show your own thought-leadership.
5. Connect with people. People define their LinkedIn connections differently. LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) connect with anyone. At the other end of the spectrum are LinkedIn users who only connect with people they know well. And then there are those who fall in between. Your connections should represent your real-life network. Grow your connections purposefully by inviting people you know first. When you reach out to people you would like to know, personalize the invitations you send and provide a reason for them to want to connect with you.
Be aware of whom you're connected to on LinkedIn. For example, if you're thinking of changing jobs and are connected to your manager and current work colleagues, be aware that they can see your activities and updates. Each time you connect with someone new or make changes to your LinkedIn profile, these activity updates are visible to your network (unless you chose to turn this off in your settings).
6. Keep in touch. We move around from job to job more often today. LinkedIn makes it much easier to find past colleagues and stay in touch. Make sure you have listed each of your previous employers so that you can connect with past colleagues on LinkedIn. Don't just stop there. You can like or comment on their status update. Or better yet, connect with them in-person or by phone once in awhile.
7. Endorse and recommend others. The Endorsements are another new feature. It allows you to endorse people in your network for their skills and expertise. The verdict is still out by many LinkedIn gurus on this feature's legitimacy and usefulness, but you should know about it. The site's blog has an overview of the way endorsements work.
If you prefer, you can recommend people in your network for their performance using recommendations. When you write a recommendation (either solicited or unsolicited), it shows your support for their work as well as demonstrates your abilities as a self leader.
8. Reconsider how you use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a multifaceted tool; one that provides you the opportunity to create a positive self-image, keeps you connected, and helps you stay up-to-date on current trends. Rethink how you use it or expand how you are using it. Think about its long term value to you and your career. Keep building your network and for the best results, make it mutually beneficial.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.