It's arguably the most effective online professional networking tool available. But are you taking full advantage of your LinkedIn account? LinkedIn can help you establish an online identity and build a professional network - both of which can be great for your career - but it's not just a case of signing up and adding your profile, you also have to be proactive if you want to make LinkedIn work for you.
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your LinkedIn presence:
It may seem obvious, but if you don't keep your CV up to date, you could miss out on potential job opportunities. So, if you're open to new job offers, review your CV regularly, especially whenever you have something to add that could give prospective employers, clients or customers a reason to consider you or get in touch with you.
To make it easier for more people to find you on LinkedIn, use keywords in your CV/profile. Think of keywords as the search terms people might use to find someone with your skills (imagine you are looking to recruit someone like you - what words would you use in a search to find them?). Make a list of the keywords - 'chartered accountant', 'corporate finance', 'finance manager' and so on. Then use those keywords frequently (but without overdoing it) in your CV/profile, including your summary and work experience.
Remember, LinkedIn is a professional networking website, so the photograph you use in your profile should be professional too. Think of the last time you went for a job interview or to meet a prospective client - that's the kind of image you want to project in your LinkedIn profile. In other words, a snap taken at a party or a photo of you when you were a child isn't going to give the right impression.
Most importantly, don't avoid uploading your photo. Not having one at all may make people wonder why you haven't done so, or even make you appear unprofessional or lazy. Indeed, some experts believe you're seven times more likely to have your profile viewed if you've added a photo, compared with someone who hasn't.
If you want to show that you're interested and willing to get involved with others in your industry, join a selection of LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your career and even your personal interests. Groups are an ideal way of meeting like-minded people, and the more you join, the better your chances of expanding your professional network and possibly furthering your career.
And don't forget, once you've joined, it's important to interact with your groups by taking part in group discussions regularly. Better still, why not consider creating your own group to discuss issues in your industry?
The 'recommend' feature on LinkedIn is very valuable, so don't be afraid to ask clients, colleagues and business partners to recommend you. Make a habit of asking your contacts to leave comments on your profile whenever you finish a project or a job for them, for instance. And don't forget to 'recommend' others who you value and trust, as it may encourage them to endorse you too.
If you have a professional presence elsewhere on the internet - a Twitter feed, blog, company website or even videos of business presentations on YouTube - don't forget to include the links in your LinkedIn profile. The more opportunities you give people to keep in contact with you via other websites and professional social media channels (but not personal social media websites such as Facebook), the better.
Finally, always remember that your LinkedIn profile is a professional tool. Be polite and positive at all times, and avoid leaving status updates that aren't relevant to your professional career. Imagine you're networking in person, and don't act any differently when you're interacting with someone on LinkedIn.
Take the time and trouble to 'like' comments or articles that others in your network have shared with you, or congratulate others when they achieve something, such as a new job or client. By supporting others - even in small ways - it's more likely they'll support you in return.