You have hundreds of connections, stacks of skills and endorsements, a killer review of your experience and a flattering but professional headshot. Your LinkedIn profile is all set up for some seriously productive networking, and you're ready to build up your brand online as you climb the ladder of success.
But don't you wish you could get a little bit more out of LinkedIn? While having an extensive network is a big advantage, there several little things you can do to help make the most of the website — and a lot of them are free.
1. Request to connect through search instead of the profile button.
When you send connection requests through the Connect button on someone's profile, you have to prove you know them through a mutually listed company or school. To skip that step, just search for the person you want to connect with, and use the Connect button next to her name to immediately send the invitation.
2. Set up anonymous profile viewing to explore the network fearlessly.
Whether it's an old college rival or your new boss, it's natural to want to delve a little deeper into someone's professional past. However, LinkedIn's default settings notify users when someone looks at their profiles.
The first concern is coming off as creepy, but if you're using LinkedIn to vet potential hires or recruiters, you may not want them to know what you're doing. Luckily, there's an easy fix to limit or remove all identifying information from your visit, so the people whose profiles you view won't knew you were there.
The one caveat is forfeiting your ability to see who views your profile (if you have a basic account), but it's a small sacrifice for searching in secrecy.
3. Use advanced searches to hone in on the best jobs and candidates.
Whether you're a recruiter looking for the perfect person for an opening at your company, or you're just someone looking for a new gig, a basic search might not yield the best results. While LinkedIn offers several paid upgrades that give you special tools for this, an advanced search can help you filter through a slew of postings and connections.
The paid upgrades give you deeper filters and streamline the process, but the free ones are a great first step toward a successful search.
4. Import your email contacts as connections.
If you've been using LinkedIn long enough, chances are you've connected with most people you've done business with by now. That said, searching through your email contacts is a great way to find anyone who might have slipped your mind or works in a different industry than they did before.
It may not make a huge difference right away, but all it takes is one message to start a big business move, whether it's a new job or a major partnership.
5. Make sure your profile reflects your current work and aspirations.
Keeping your profile updated might not be at the top of your to-do list, but it's helpful to clear out the cobwebs and keep the information fresh. You shouldn't need to make major changes to the experience and education sections, but consistently updating your work portfolio will keep connections updated on what you've been doing recently.
While this is mainly useful for those in media, graphic design and other industries that often value work samples over resumes, it can also highlight a specific interest or specialty you want to parlay into a new job.
6. Take advantage of groups.
While connecting with people you don't know is against LinkedIn's rules, joining groups of users with similar experiences, jobs and interests is a great way to reach more people and resources. There are groups for colleges, industries, professional organizations, companies and common interests, and being part of these groups allows you search and filter through them with an upgraded account.
Each group has a page with an open forum and job board, helping those within the group help each other. Also, group memberships appear on your public profile by default, which will help connections see what you do beyond your listed experience.
7. Ask connections to leave you recommendations.
Letters of recommendation can make or break a job application, and LinkedIn allows users to recommend each other's work at specific companies and organizations. While it might be awkward to ask at first, these recommendations add immediate credibility and depth to your experience. And beyond it's content, the recommendation shows that people actually like you enough to say nice things about you for everyone to see.
8. Save job searches and receive email alerts.
If you're looking for a new gig, you can save job searches on LinkedIn and get email updates daily, weekly or monthly. This is a great way of making the site work for you, as you look for work yourself.