Link-up with LinkedIn–Part 2 UPDATED

Published in CareersConnect, November 2010

By April Silverthorn Southward

This post is a continuation of the article "Link-up with LinkedIn"; click here to read the first half of the article.

As with anything involving social media, things advance quickly, and LinkedIn is no exception. Since I wrote "Link-up with LinkedIn" Part 1, back in August, LinkedIn has added a "Sections" enhancement to all LinkedIn member profiles. This enhancement allows you to add your Certifications, Publications, Languages, Patents, and Skills to your profile. While some of these categories may be irrelevant to you, I would highly recommend that you add in the information to any applicable section. The section that is going to be applicable to most of you is the "Certifications" section, so let's begin there.

If you have obtained a certification, list this accomplishment on your profile using this feature as it places a stand-alone "Certifications" section on your profile. This stand-alone section will deliver more of an impact than adding your certification to the "Awards and Honors" section as I had suggested previously. To add this section to your profile, select the "Add Sections" link on your profile editing page. Select "Certifications" and then "Add to Profile." You will then need to fill in the "Certification Name," "Certification Authority," and "Dates." For example, if you obtained an NCMA CPCM certification in March 2005, you would enter: "Certified Professional Contracts Manager (CPCM), National Contracts Management Association (NCMA), March 2005-December 2010."

As for the other sections, they each ask for very specific information, which makes them easy to add to your profile. LinkedIn even provides samples for you to check out for formatting as well. Continue to add the other applicable sections to your profile.
Now that you are working to construct an effective LinkedIn profile, you should begin focusing on taking your profile to the next level by making the most of the benefits the site provides.

Get started by building your connections. You can add connections to your profile in several ways; select "Add Connections" on your homepage for the following options: add connections manually, import your contacts, search your colleagues, and locate your classmates. As you begin to build your connections, LinkedIn will start recommending people it believes you might know based on the connections you've established. It's a good idea to periodically go through the suggested connections the site provides as it's a very simple way to increase the reach of your professional network. I would also suggest that you add connections to your network as you meet and begin to work with new contacts.

Another important consideration for your profile is the addition of recommendations; you can send requests to your connections in order to obtain written recommendations that will appear on your profile. However, I would suggest that you send individual, personalized requests versus a mass e-mail to all of your connections. Recommendations are viewed as very personal and therefore need to be treated as such. Take the time to write a short personal e-mail each time you send a request. After all, those you send it to are going to take the time to write you a personal recommendation, so it's the least you can do. You should also keep in mind that not everyone is going to respond to your request and write a recommendation immediately. Since the recommendation will show up on their profile as well, they have to carefully draft a well-written recommendation, which takes time. It's also important to remember that people are busy and will generally take their time to write your recommendation, so you shouldn't expect to receive many back immediately.

One last thing to consider about recommendations is that, as I mentioned before, they are a very personal thing. So, you should only request one from those with whom you have worked directly. In other words, you can ask both current and previous bosses, co-workers, and subordinates for a recommendation, but you shouldn't ask vendors, clients, or personal friends for a recommendation. If your vendors or clients feel as if you deserve a recommendation, they will write one without you having to ask. Keep this in mind and be sure to write recommendations for those who surpass your expectations as a little thank you.

Now, just how can all of this help your job search? Really, the possibilities are endless; it's all a matter of how much time you are willing to invest in the site. One of the most apparent benefits is that you now have great information on the Internet for employers to find when they search for you, and trust me this is something that employers will do. In today's technologically advanced society, searching online networks has become a normal part of the hiring and selection process.

Another advantage is that you can view jobs that are being advertised in both the "jobs" section of LinkedIn as well as the "jobs" sections of each of your professional groups. NCMA's group offers free job postings that are continually updated by the group's 3,000+ members. Check out the jobs currently posted here.

Next, you can leverage your connections when applying for positions. To do so, begin by searching for the organization's name, which will provide you with a list of company contacts. The list will be broken down to how close the individuals are to you, noting if they are a first, second, or third round connection or if they are a group connection. You can then contact your connections to be introduced to the person at the specific organization. I've heard of a handful of people actually getting interviews and eventually being hired this way.

There you have it; that's LinkedIn in a nutshell! I hope that you make the most of the site and of the NCMA group. Best wishes on finding the position you are searching for, and as always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask; I'm always listening at asilverthorn@ncmahq.org.

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