ATLANTA — LinkedIn is one of the most important breakthroughs in personal career brand management and job search process in the last 40 years.

LinkedInLinkedIn is a professional networking tool on steroids.

Unless you are a senior executive with a wonderful golden parachute that will take you comfortably to retirement, you should quickly master LinkedIn and harness its amazing power to assist you in building your brand and expand your network of contacts to advance your career.  You can pooh-pooh this tool, but you do so at your own peril.

As I travel across the country recruiting and speaking, I am amazed at how many people say they see my blogs and other postings on the internet.  There are also those who question why I “waste my time” but they are usually the old-school types who draw a weekly paycheck without regard to whether they brought in any business for the week or month and have their eyes squarely on retirement.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have an amazing assistant, Becky Pearce of Pearce Social, who helps me execute my strategy and provides support by selecting articles to post, both on LinkedIn and Facebook, which, incidentally, has become a powerful tool in directing traffic to our website.

That networking is critical to professional advancement is not in dispute.  So, why would you ignore or neglect one of the most muscular networking platforms ever developed.  LinkedIn redefines the term leverage when it comes to expanding your network and enhancing your brand.

One of the questions I am most frequently asked is why should anyone waste their time with LinkedIn if they are not in the job market.  The question seems to fly in the face of the turmoil and consolidation that is sweeping through so many industrial sectors, most especially healthcare.  Unless you are in the aforementioned senior executive class with a tidy severance plan and one step away from retirement, there are no guarantees in life, especially in job security.  Executives entering the job market without a robust network of contacts who can help with market intelligence on soon-to-be posted or recently posted jobs, or a well defined on-line “brand,” typically struggle more to find their next better job than those who expand their contacts and nurture their brand.  It is this latter piece of the pie that is frequently ignored.

LinkedIn is where a lot of recruiters live when mining talent for current or future searches.  They are looking for thought leaders who have an engaging profile that reflects a career of diverse experience and impressive accomplishments.  For someone who is working to enhance their brand, posting interesting news stories or thought provoking (as opposed to provocative) blogs puts their name, title, photograph and point of view front and center.  It creates opportunities to draw colleagues to your LinkedIn profile where you can monitor how many and who have looked at your profile.

An example of one of my recent LinkedIn posts:


However, like everything else in business, using this tool requires a strategy with a clearly defined goal, or set of goals, that you want to accomplish.  Without this approach you can waste time or, worse, possibly distort or harm your brand.

Here are some tips on how to maximize the experience without stumbling over your own two feet:

  1. Build an engaging profile that highlights your experience and your quantifiable accomplishments.  Just having a page with no photograph or a minimalist profile is not only not helpful, it detracts from your brand.
  2. Incorporate a professionally taken photograph.  A “selfie” taken by the wheel of a car or in a casual setting with a beer in hand or posing with a beloved pet might be acceptable for a personal Facebook page, but it is a bad idea for LinkedIn unless that is the image you want to project.  Hint:  if your goal is to move up the corporate ladder, that will, more than likely, hurt not help.  When you post an update your photo will appear next to the post.  Moreover, LinkedIn claims that profiles with photographs are eight times more likely to attract the attention of recruiters.
  3. Build your network of contacts based on your strategy, not because someone asks you to connect.  Early on, almost everyone connects with people who will have no relevant value to managing your career, unless you think a dancer from Eastern Europe or an analytics programmer in Bangalore, can provide beneficial support.  Target companies you would like to work for and then mine potential contacts who can help you with those organizations, an employee, a vendor or competitor, for example.
  4. Add recommendations from people you have worked with, or for.  Be sure to return the favor.  The endorsement feature is not as important as having recommendations that are, in essence, testimonials to who you are and what you know.

As you build your network, remember this is a two-way street.  The more you interact and help others, the more likely your colleagues will be willing to help you and the stronger your brand will become.