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Professional networking site LinkedIn has over 135 million members, and counting. Sunder Ramachandran shares a beginner's guide to making meaningful connections for career growth.
Social media strategist and trainer Prasant Naidu began using LinkedIn.com in 2008.
"The market was really bad. I connected with recruiters and managers not only from India but Singapore and UK. LinkedIn got me the job!" recalls the entrepreneur, who now uses the site to seek out business opportunities for his company Lighthouse Insights.
Students listen up!
While LinkedIn is commonly thought of as a network for professionals, students should take it seriously too.
Several employers are looking at LinkedIn profiles while hiring freshers. According to LinkedIn, students are the fastest growing demography on the site
Expand your network
The world's largest professional network enables you to connect with a large pool of people from many walks of life.
You can exchange knowledge, ideas, and seek out opportunities.
Simply put, it is the most successful and vibrant of all professional networking sites, used by members for various reasons -- finding a job, promoting products/services, attracting talent, connecting with experts in a chosen field.
The author, Sunder Ramachandran, is Training Academy Lead at Jardine Lloyd Thompson India and has 1500 first level connections and 60 recommendations on LinkedIn.
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Once you create an account (it is free of charge), get started on your profile with the summary which should be no longer than two paragraphs at best.
It must highlight your professional accomplishments and strengths.
If you have no work experience, then use this section to talk about areas of interest and what is your initial plan to build a career in the chosen field.
Choose a tagline that describes your line of work. It's best to avoid putting company specific designations as it's easier to find a 'Sales Manager' than an 'Associate Regional Sales Manager -- North India' when you are running a search.
Likewise, it's easier to find an 'IT Project Manager' than a 'Web 2.0 Platform Lead'. Keep it broad.
Add a pleasant but professional looking photo so that people can put a face to the name. Describe each job assignment and the key achievements in a single paragraph at best.
This is not a resume, so avoid the mundane details like the nuances of your job but for students, it's good to add details of any high impact or interesting projects that you may have done.
Add details about your education right at the end followed by your contact details. Remember that LinkedIn is professional networking, so don't use the 'Updates' section on the home page for posting personal things, such as which party you attended over the weekend.
Visit LinkedIn's 'Learning Resources' section and check out the tutorial and online session for ideas on improving your profile.
Keep an eye on LinkedIn's profile "completeness" widget.
Get a headstart by uploading your Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook or other databases where your contacts' email addresses are stored.
LinkedIn will throw up these contacts, if they are already on the network. Invite them to connect.
Search for specific individuals by typing their names on the 'Find People' section on the home page and send them an invitation.
Start by connecting with colleagues, supervisors, college mates, professors and alumni.
When connecting with a person you do not personally know, make sure that you add a short but personal note as it helps the other person understand your reasons for connecting.
Groups comprise members with similar interests.
For instance, most corporates have groups, where they post jobs, updates and members would include HR heads and employees.
You will find several relevant groups that interest you depending on your line of work or field of study. Start by signing up for these groups and participate in open discussions.
You may not have an expert opinion or a breakthrough idea, but you can start appreciating the ideas and discussions you like of others.
I usually drop a line 'Great views, very insightful, appreciate your opinion or just simply: Thanks for sharing this'.
You will be surprised, how even experts drop by your page to check you out and that gives you an opportunity to connect with them.
Remember it's only human to check out people appreciative of you.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier