LinkedIn provides an important outlet where work-at-home professionals can stay connected with the outside world, which is always a big challenge when you work from home. It doesn’t matter whether you freelance or put in a full 40 telecommuting as an on-staff employee for a company, the isolation can pose a real problem. So, how can work-at-home pros make sure they stay connected with contacts and keep their names and reputations circulating in the business world? For more than 65 million people worldwide, the answer is found in learning how to use LinkedIn.
What Is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is sort of the professional person’s answer to “Six Degrees of Separation.” In fact, it even operates on a similar theory, providing people a way to use their own connections to gain new ones.
How Hard Is It To Learn How To Use LinkedIn?
Learning how to use LinkedIn is no more difficult than learning how to use any other social networking site – with a few caveats. Since LinkedIn is designed for professionals, a businesslike mentality is wise to keep in mind when working on a profile, adding updates, seeking introductions to new contacts and so on. Rather than offer cutesy games and tons of spam, those who learn how to use LinkedIn will find this particular site is geared specifically to professionals.
The site gains a new member almost every second around the clock and boasts members from just about every industry and country imaginable. Many Fortune 500 executives, in fact, are on LinkedIn. Many companies are too, and you can add your company profile to LinkedIn just like them, once you've set up your personal LinkedIn account and profile.
Creating Your LinkedIn Profile
Signing up for and using LinkedIn is completely free to users if they so choose. The site does have some advertising, but it’s not as invasive as other networking sites out there. All you need to get going and start learning how to use LinkedIn is to create a LinkedIn login to sign up for a free account. You can also upgrade to a paid LinkedIn membership. If you decide to do that, you'll be able to a few things you can't otherwise do with a free membership, including:
- Search profiles of LinkedIn’s 65 million members faster
- Directly message people without receiving an introduction (generally from another member that you already know)
- Better organize profiles
Once you sign up for a LinkedIn account, either free or paid, you can create your own professional profile. Remember, since this is a more serious-minded website, it’s important that information in your profile represents your business or working side. LinkedIn is not the place to share cute baby photos or show how drunk you got at last week's party.
Once your profile is tweaked and ready for viewing, you can publish it and start looking for “connections.” A connection is a person that you know or would like to know more about on LinkedIn. Essentially, the idea is to create as many direct connections as you can by adding people within your own professional circle and branching out to include their connections. Your connections can also provide introductions to other professionals you might be interested in meeting. Connections can also provide you with standing recommendations for employment.
If you’re in the market for professionals connections for freelance work, to build your business' customer base or just want to keep your job prospects open, learning how to use LinkedIn can be especially important.
How LinkedIn Can Help You
LinkedIn allows you to:
- Get online recommendations for your professional abilities and your character
- Get introductions to potential employers or colleagues in your field
- Search available job postings placed on the LinkedIn website by members. While you can also search the web for jobs through LinkedIn, the big benefit is that many job posts are exclusive to LinkedIn: They aren't advertised elsewhere. Those postings often have a requirement that you have one or more LinkedIn recommendations. Additionally, there is a chance that someone within your LinkedIn network already works there or knows someone who does, giving you a big foot in the door for an interview.
- Join various groups that align with your interests and participate in discussions. Having a group in common with another LinkedIn user is one way you can invite others into your network. Each group discussion contains its own job listings.
- Create an online resume that can work for you all the time. LinkedIn allows hiring companies and recruiters to search for professionals who might fit their criteria.
Staying connected with the outside world isn't the only benefit LinkedIn has to offer. Learn how to use LinkedIn and you might find yourself more connected than you could have ever imagined. You may even find out you’re separated from a company or hiring manager by fewer degrees of people than you could have imagined.
This article is part of The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn.