LinkedIn is described as a more professional version of Facebook, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. LinkedIn allows you to build a more professional-looking social media presence for yourself and make the right contacts to help you climb the corporate ladder or promote yourself to new and potential employers.

Of course, the more work you put in to your LinkedIn profile the higher your star will rise, making it look professional and making sure you have all the relevant information on there will increase your chances of impressing someone on the look out for a person with your talents.

Your first port of call should be the Profile section, here you’ll input all the personal and professional information that’s relevant. Remember, though LinkedIn is a social networking site it’s not as laid back as Facebook or Twitter so you’ll probably want to keep information more reserved and professional.

Your background work and experience are the two most important sections of your profile so spend some time with them making sure that you’ve filled in as much detail as possible. You’ll also be able to pick a range of skills and expertise that apply to you, try not to simply choose everything here and stick to a core selection of attributes, a profile with hundreds of skills will probably put people off if they’re looking for something specific.

The more you fill in the better the profile will look and LinkedIn will help you to keep filling up your page by asking you to add more and more information. You can add any honours or awards you have, courses taken and certificates earned. As well as this you can and should list any charitable work or volunteering you’ve done. Should you want to you can even publish your test scores to your profile.

The basics are often overlooked but making sure that you’ve filled in all the simple things on your profile first is a must. Ensure that your email address is up-to-date and that you’ve not spelled your name incorrectly as it’s details like this that can make all the difference.

Having a professional picture taken of you for a social media site might seem like overkill, but it can be a wise investment and make your profile look that much better. You’ll be able to use it for other things too so it’s not just a one off cost. If you can’t afford a studio headshot then pick your image carefully depending upon how you want to brand yourself.

With your profile taking shape you should start asking old colleagues for recommendations. With plenty of recommendations from your former co-workers your profile will look even more impressive. If you’re finding it hard to get people to write recommendations for you then start off by recommending others yourself and the favour will often be reciprocated.

To get started recommending people you need to make connections so spend some time adding people you know to your network. You can do this by searching for people by name or by giving LinkedIn access to your email address book and letting it find everyone you’ve ever been in contact with. It’s probably best to use a combination of these approaches so that you can keep control over who is in your network. To get started click on the Add Connections button or simply type a name into the people search box.

With LinkedIn there are a host of other fringe benefits of having a network of professionals at your fingertips. Once you’ve built your network of colleagues both current and past and added all your own information you can start to take advantage of your connections. There are groups to join that will help you further your understanding of your own profession or help you learn the tricks of the trade to a new position that you might be interested in. If you want to be more proactive you can start your own group too.

Like many social sites the basic LinkedIn account is free, however, there are paid-for options that you can use should the extra features be useful to you. There are three packages with prices ranging from about £16 a month up to £60 and for this you get access to who has viewed your profile and the ability to see the full profile of everyone in your network, this includes people you aren’t actually directly connected to but who, for example are friends of friends. Each of the three paid-for upgrade options has a range of added benefits so check them out to see which, if any, appeals to you. To help get a more rounded profile you can follow people on LinkedIn to see how they use the service and pick up more tips and tricks from the heavy users of the site. LinkedIn has even helped you to identify who’s worth following with the Influencers section.

Once you’re happy with your profile remember to keep updating it on a regular basis, post relevant updates and stories to your feed to keep your pages interesting and make sure that you add plenty of relevant detail about your professional life to the site. Make the most of those connections and keep recommending others so that they return the favour.

However you use LinkedIn if you spend some time polishing your profile and making it look the very best then the higher your chances are of making some useful contacts. You can find out all about what’s happening in your chosen field getting help from fellow experts or use the site to research a career change or move into a completely new job. LinkedIn allows you to make the professional contacts that you need to move up the career ladder.

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