Know Your Network, Grow Your Network: Why You Need to “Get” LinkedIn

linkedin_128You’ve probably heard of LinkedIn. With over 100 million users, it is the world’s largest online professional network, and has captured the attention of professionals and businesspersons who see the potential value of online networking to move forward in their careers and their businesses. But when it comes to “getting LinkedIn,” many don’t understand the how to use it effectively.

So let’s get down to business, and up to speed, with what you need to know about LinkedIn to move forward in your business and career.

The first thing you need to know is that LinkedIn is not simply an online replacement for your résumé. If you only use it that way, you are doing it wrong!

Many of us grew up and started our careers when computers were making their way into businesses and homes, and though we are very competent users of e-mail and office productivity applications like Word, Excel, and Access, it’s hard for us to understand the point of “getting social.” We use our computers to do work!

Using a social network to get work is a separate, but related, skill set. It comes easily to those raised as “digital natives,” who have always been connected to their peers online. For their generation, it’s a basic skill, not a luxury to be learned if you have time. And it does require a lot of work, a lot of consistency, and a lot of “long-haul” thinking.

Let’s dig into some terms now, so we’re all talking the same language.

Social Networking is different from Social Media. Social Media is a publishing medium. You can construct a message and deliver it where it can be found online. It’s a great way to get your one-sided, carefully constructed messages out, in a way that increases brand awareness. Social Networking, on the other hand, is an engagement medium. Like joining the Chamber of Commerce or any other network, it can reap great benefits for your business, but only if you know your network, the people in it, and where your common interests converge.

Social Networking is a very special kind of professional networking, in that it allows “shy networking”-content and competence-based conversations around subjects of common interest. It can be a great equalizer for those who aren’t as comfortable with in-person networking, because it gives them a global platform for showing their “chops,” and get connected to others based on their knowledge, skills and interests.

To get the most out of LinkedIn, you need to put some time and energy into using it effectively. Here are Five Quick Tips for Getting Started:

  • Make sure your profile is complete.

    • Put a professional photo on your profile. People want to connect with other people, so having a face as well as a name will make you seem more approachable.

    • Be sure your headline is keyword-rich. For example, “B2B Sales Leader Specializing in Food Service and Hospitality Marketing” is better than “Sales Manager for Aramark.”

    • Import your contacts from your e-mail program. LinkedIn will tell you which contacts are on their network, and you should invite all of these to connect.

  • Join groups related to your region, industry and niche. Follow the conversations until you are ready to add something, and when ready, jump in! It’s okay to “lurk and learn” for a while, but effective social networking requires that you add to the conversation. Speak up!

  • Ask and answer questions. It lets others connect with you as mentors, and people like that. It’s natural to be drawn to people who could use your help. Let other people be your expert mentors every once in a while, too. You’ll be surprised at how answering a few questions or offering support and encouragement can pay off. As in real-world networking, the gains can be exponential and long-lasting!

  • Add applications to help you share your knowledge and increase the interactivity of your profile. You can add SlideShare presentations, Behance portfolios, your blog feed, a recommended reading list, and many other utilities. Only add those that you are willing to learn to use fully. Otherwise, you may seem foolish or inexperienced with the technology.

  • If you don’t know where to start, just start! Be brave, try new things and ask questions. Those who don’t try new things won’t reap benefits from emerging technology and social networks, while others who do will move forward, onward and outward, toward the new frontiers of business.

My name is Sean Cook, and I am a Career Coach, Organizational Consultant, Writer and Speaker, based in Athens, Georgia. Through my company, Cook Coaching & Consulting, LLC., I help professionals design intelligent strategies for moving forward in their careers and businesses. For more information, connect with me on LinkedIn,  follow me on Twitter, e-mail me at, or just pick up the phone and call me at 706-363-0539.

A version of this article appeared recently in Chambering, the magazine of the Barrow County (Georgia) Chamber of Commerce.


  1. […] the local aspect of my business, I’ve been getting more clients for résumé writing and LinkedIn profiles, and many of these are from outside of academia, and have varied experiences that are hard […]

  2. […] Get social. Networking has always been a great way to get job leads and to understand job roles, formal and informal rules of particular organizations, and the work environment you might be joining. Social networking can extend your reach. The role of social media in the job search has changed drastically over the past few years. It’s no longer a luxury but a basic skill. If you don’t “get” social, you will differentiate yourself in a bad way. […]

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