LinkedIn is THE professional networking site for job search. It’s an adjunct to your overall networking effort, adding to whatever you are doing face-to-face, via telephone and e-mail.

Make sure you have a complete profile:

  1. Fill in every section – at very least: Summary, Specialties, Experience, Education.
  2. Add a picture – head shot, neutral background, face forward or at least 3/4 view. The key is professionalism.
  3. Get three or more recommendations and you’ll be 100% done with your profile. Try for recommendations from people at several employers – colleagues, bosses, people on your team, staff, customers, clients.

Once your profile is complete, add connections! Your network is only as strong as the numbers you have. The point of having a big LinkedIn network is to give you some kind of reach into virtually any employer you might want to target or clients you want to reach (if you’re a consultant or business owner).

  • Run your email address through their system (click on Add Connections under the Connections tab), invite everyone unless you think there may be people you don’t want to connect to. If you go through the list manually, you also can select the people to whom you want to write a personal note (see below).
  • Look at the list of “you may know” that appears to the right on your main page. even if it’s a remote connection, invite them. Include a personal note – even a “nice to see you here on LinkedIn” or a reminder of where you know them from. Studies have shown that invitations to connect that include a personal note are more likely to be opened than a general invite.
  • Accept invitations to connect. You never know when someone might help you, and you can always say “I’m not comfortable reaching out to that person” if someone asks you for help.

Now you can use LinkedIn to aid your job search.

1.  Look at jobs that appear on LinkedIn, many of which are exclusively listed on LinkedIn. If you find one to which you want to apply, you can see if you have connections with anyone who is directly connected to someone who works at the employer.

With the free account, you can see 2nd degree connections. If you pay, you can see 3rd degree connections. The idea is to get introduced to someone at a place who potentially can pull your resume to the top of the heap.

2. Look at employers you like – even if there are no jobs posted there – and see if there is anyone in your network who you can ask for an informational interview.

This involves asking for their advice and guidance on your job search, learn more about the company, where they see someone with your background potentially fitting in – you don’t want a job from them, you want insight. If they have a lead, great – let them tell you about it. There’s nothing people hate more than being put on the spot by being asked for a job. It’s always better to ask “do you know anyone you think might have advice for me, or a possible lead?” And you want them to introduce you directly. Even on LinkedIn.

I forwarded a request from a client to a colleague, and it wasn’t until I sent her a direct request to connect with the guy that she responded. So that personal touch from a trusted colleague is really key, perhaps especially on LinkedIn now that it is growing so fast.

3. Participate in one or more groups. Ask a question, answer someone else’s question, start a discussion on a hot topic in your area.

Visibility in a group is a great way to establish your credibility as someone who contributes value. And you never know who’s reading. Plus many groups list jobs so it’s a great way to find out who’s hiring in your field, and what skills are sought.

4. Post a valuable update at least once a day. This keeps you visible to your network. Talk about your job search – an insight you had based on an interview, a skill you realized is now considered basic in your field. Talk about what you’re reading, send people to an interesting link. Show that you are a contributing member of the community and someone who is actively engaged in a job search.