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Learning how to make the most out of LinkedIn can be useful, even if you already have a job
Most of us look upon LinkedIn connection requests with the same disdain as email reminders about our next dental appointments – there's a necessary evil. However, few people actually know how to use LinkedIn to its full potential and remain oblivious to many of its most powerful functions. Here are ten ways to expand your horizons and enhance your career prospects without upgrading to the premium version of LinkedIn.
1. Contribute posts
One of the best ways to make LinkedIn work in your favor is to start contributing posts of your own. Surprisingly few people do this, even if they actively post on social media or write for their own blog or company website. Creating your own LinkedIn posts is one of the best ways to increase your visibility and encourage other people to connect with you. At the top of your news feed, click ‘Share an article, photo, video or idea’ and start contributing.
Stuck for ideas? You could link to some of your recent work, write a short piece about your industry or simply post a gallery of your ongoing work.
2. Start a group (or join an existing one)
One of the best ways to hunt for new roles or receive professional advice is via groups, yet few people bother to explore this aspect of LinkedIn. From the front page, click on ‘Work’ in the top right (under the grid of nine squares) and you’ll see ‘Groups’. Here, you can join private communities, get the latest news and enjoy conversations with like-minded people in your field.
You can search for recommended groups on the ‘Discover’ pane and then ask to join. Or, you can create a group from scratch. Every day, LinkedIn will automatically curate the most important conversations from your industry, interests, and passions. This personalized selection of conversations from your groups is one of the best ways to get LinkedIn to work for you.
3. Tweak your profile
Did you know that you can create a custom URL for your LinkedIn profile to display on your resume or business card? Shockingly few LinkedIn users take advantage of this function. From the front page, go to ‘Me’, ‘View profile’, and click on ‘Edit public profile & URL’. This will let you choose a unique, snappy URL that is easy for potential employers and business owners to remember.
There are plenty of other ways to tweak your profile and unlock the hidden potential of your LinkedIn account. For example, you can write a compelling up-to-date ‘headline’ (the small bio that shows up when someone searches for you), or you can make sure your summary paragraph accurately conveys your skills and reflects who you are. A strong, clear profile photo is another good way to improve your profile.
If you’ve already ticked all of these boxes, why not ask a trusted friend or colleague to give your profile their professional opinion. Which improvements would they suggest? There’s always room for improvement and sometimes a fresh set of eyes is just what you need.
4. Control your notifications
LinkedIn email notifications may seem like the bane of your professional experience, but that’s only because you haven’t tweaked the type of alerts you receive. Just like Snapchat and Facebook, LinkedIn gives you a huge amount of control over the type of alerts you receive. The reason that most LinkedIn alerts seem pointless or irrelevant is that people never bother to set them up properly!
Simply head to ‘Me’, ‘Settings & Privacy’, ‘Communications’, ‘Email frequency’, and select the options that are most relevant to you. Don’t want to receive network updates? Turn them off. Sick of direct messages or invitations? You can turn these notifications off, too. So, take control of your notifications and make sure that LinkedIn is only offering things that you truly value.
5. Update your career interests
If it seems that LinkedIn is constantly clogging up your inbox with useless messages when was the last time you updated your career interests? LinkedIn’s paid ‘Recruiter Tool’ can help bring your profile to the attention of recruiters. A word of warning though; it can also reveal to your current employer that you might be thinking about moving on. While LinkedIn promises to ‘take steps’ to avoid this it also warns that it cannot ‘guarantee’ total privacy. If you want to take the risk, head to ‘Me’, ‘Settings & Privacy’, and click ‘Privacy’. Here, you’ll find the section ‘Job seeking preferences’ and you can let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities.
While you’re there, click ‘Update career interests’ to make sure that you only receive the most relevant messages from recruiters and employers. You can select the type of jobs you’re interested in, your preferred start date and the size of the company you’d like to work for. This LinkedIn help page gives you plenty of tips for making sure that you are using this feature to its fullest potential.
6. Use your LinkedIn connections on whichever email or contact app you prefer
One of the best ways of making LinkedIn work for you is to export your LinkedIn contact data so you can use it with other programs and services. From your main page, click on ‘Me’, ‘Settings & Privacy’, ‘Privacy’, ‘Download your data’, ‘Pick and choose’ and tick the ‘Connections’ box. When you click on ‘Request archive’, after a few minutes, you'll receive an email that says your download is ready. Open this email and you'll see a CSV (comma-separated values) file. This has all of your LinkedIn contacts, with names, email addresses, and other information. You can then plug this file into Google Contacts or whichever service you prefer working with, and start making the most out of your LinkedIn connections.
7. Follow companies to receive the latest updates
One of the best (and least used) ways to use LinkedIn to learn more about an industry is to follow company pages, not just individuals. By simply clicking the ‘Follow’ button on any company’s page, you’ll receive all of their latest updates. These can be enormously useful in terms of advancing your career, learning about current employees or scoping out the competition.
8. Receive email alerts for your searches
LinkedIn’s search feature is far more powerful and useful than most people are aware of. For instance, did you know that you can save your searches? When a match appears, LinkedIn will email you an alert to let you know. This saved-search function is among the most useful features of LinkedIn yet only a minority of users are actually aware of it.
In the top right-hand side of the main page, you’ll find the search box. Simply enter a name, company or keyword that you’re interested in and hit enter. This will bring up a results page. From here, you can create your own ‘search alert’. You will then receive alerts for any new matches as they become available. You can also elect to receive job emails either daily or weekly.
9. Make yourself available to chat
As the old saying goes, life is a game and you miss 100 percent of the shots that you never take. In terms of networking, you can’t chat with people if they don’t know you’re available! Despite the obviousness of this, few people take the time to make themselves available to chat on LinkedIn. Managing your ‘active status’ is one of the best ways to increase your chances of successfully networking on the platform.
To avoid missing out on important connections, click on ‘Me’, ‘Settings & Privacy’, ‘Privacy’ and ‘Manage active status’. Here, you can pick either ‘Your Connections only’ or ‘All LinkedIn members’. This second option won’t suit those who prefer not to receive unsolicited chat requests. However, this will ensure you are available to chat whenever you are signed into the website or mobile app. Ultimately, being available is one of the best ways of making LinkedIn work in your favor.
10. Customize your news feed
Lastly, if your LinkedIn news feed seems irrelevant, why not customize it? It surprises most users to learn that LinkedIn actually has Facebook-like levels of customization, all hidden in plain sight. Simply click ‘View all recommendations’ on the top right of your main page. To ensure that your news feed only displays items that are relevant, click ‘Follow’ next to the ones you want to hear from. This will give you a ‘Premium-like’ experience without having to upgrade to a paid account.
Likewise, if any irrelevant posts show up in your feed, click the three dots in the top right corner of the post and click ‘Unfollow’.
At the end of the day, the old mantra that you only get out of LinkedIn what you put in holds true. Contributing posts, participating in groups and actively using the site’s features and functions are the best ways to make a free LinkedIn account work in your favor. However, we’re confident that these ten tips will help anyone get a ‘Premium’ style experience from a free account.