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9/30/2014
08:40 AM
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Stop Doing This On LinkedIn Now

Watch out for these missteps that might undermine your presence on the professional networking site.

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If you're a little too laissez-faire about LinkedIn, you might be doing your IT career as much harm as good. And if you're an active, regular visitor to LinkedIn? You still might be doing more harm than good.

But I followed all of the conventional advice, you say. I even uploaded a snazzy headshot. That's all fine and dandy, but there are some less visible ways in which you may be missing the mark -- or worse. Let's get right to it: Stop doing these things on LinkedIn.

1. Stop thinking of LinkedIn as a job-search tool.
If you view LinkedIn as a job-search site, you're missing the point, according to Donna Serdula of Linked Makeover. Too many people only visit the site when they need something -- like a job.

"They don't bother doing anything with it until they've been handed the cardboard box," Serdula said in an interview. "[Don't] look at it as something you get involved in when you need a job -- you should always be there."

[Just how bent out of shape are you about the iPhone 6's flexibility? Read Apple iPhone 6 Bendgate: Top 10 Tweets.]

So, uh, what's LinkedIn for, if not for finding jobs? "You use LinkedIn because it's going to help you forge strong relationships with your network, it's going to help you create a strong brand, it's going to help you broadcast your knowledge, it's actually going to help you learn more about what's going on in [the IT] industry, and it's going to help you find all types of different opportunities," Serdula said.

2. Stop being shy.
Being an introvert isn't a bad thing -- on the contrary, actually. But just because we're not all born salespeople and social butterflies doesn't mean we need to tiptoe around LinkedIn. Connect with other people; it's why the site exists. Nor should anyone feel like LinkedIn requires reliving the less pleasant parts of high school all over again. (Facebook, on the other hand? That might be a different story.)

"It's not a popularity contest," Serdula said. "You're connecting for a reason. Strategically, it's the right thing to do on LinkedIn because when people search LinkedIn they're searching their network, which extends three degrees. If you want to get found, you need to be in people's networks."

Don't try to hide your age.
Don't try to hide your age.

You can generally disregard some of the common excuses you might come up with for not connecting with someone, such as, "I don't know this person that well," or even, "I don't think I like this person that much." Connect with them anyway, Serdula advised, because you're ultimately connecting with their network and their network's network. You'll always have the opportunity to connect and re-connect with your friends; it's everyone outside that cozy little circle that you should be thinking of on LinkedIn.

Obviously, IT professionals more than most people must keep information security -- their own and their employers' -- top of mind. If an invitation to connect or other request on LinkedIn doesn't pass the eyeball test, there's probably a reason. IT pros should really have an advantage on LinkedIn in this regard -- the confidence to connect widely because they can spot a phishing threat or other scam faster than most people.

3. Stop phoning it in with your profile.
Raise your hand if you took, at least initially, the lazy route to creating your LinkedIn profile: copying and pasting your old-school resumé (raises hand). You're not alone, but that's not going to cut it -- your profile (and mine) needs more TLC.

"Your LinkedIn profile is not your resumé," Serdula said. "Your resumé is your professional past. Your LinkedIn profile is your career future. It's your first impression and digital introduction -- you want to make sure you stand out. You want to put a little bit of effort into it. You have the ability to control other people's perceptions of you -- and people are Googling you, they are researching you. You want to make sure what they find is engaging, compelling, unique, interesting, and makes them want to learn more about you."

4. Stop asking for recommendations.
Start giving them instead. Too many people turn to LinkedIn only when they want something: a job, a recommendation, a referral. That's the wrong mentality, one that eventually will close more doors than it opens.

"With LinkedIn, it's about giving, it's about helping people," Serdula said. "Stop looking at it [as] take, take, take."

Offer recommendations and endorsements, put people in touch, and -- perhaps best of all for IT pros with in-demand experience and skills -- share your expertise wherever applicable. It will pay itself back, but that's not really the point.

"You don't want to overly market yourself -- it makes people feel weird. Instead, you give -- you help, you add value, you inspire, you educate. And when you do those things, people want to help you in turn. If you're just asking and taking, no one wants to help you because you make them feel icky."

5. Stop ignoring the homepage.
Serdula noted the considerable improvements to LinkedIn's homepage -- but worries too many people don't pay attention to it. That's not without reason:

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Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses. View Full Bio

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Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2014 | 12:49:23 PM
Own your age ...
That's great advice. Most people could manage their profiles to shave off 10 years or so, but as soon as a potential employer starts checking your paperwork, the game is up. While I expect most employers get why someone would fudge their age (more so than, say, inflating their titles or education) it's still less than honest.
glenbren
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glenbren,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2014 | 1:04:43 PM
Re: Own your age ...
Great tips! Especially about turning off notifications. I never even knew my actions were being broadcasted until I started getting notices of other people's actions and realized they might be getting the same about me. Wouldn't you think the default would be not to send them?
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2014 | 11:15:35 PM
Re: Own your age ...
glenbren, LinkedIn benefits from as many status updates, work anniversaries, etc., because it gives them more excuses to send you emails to let you know I changed my profile pic, or have been at my current job for 3 years 1 month and 21 days --- all to drive traffic and engagement. More people coming to the site more often, adding information, feeds their data machine and their dream of creating a data quilt of the entire job market.
glenbren
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glenbren,
User Rank: Ninja
10/1/2014 | 12:02:40 AM
Re: Own your age ...
They should at least let people know they're doing it, and there's an option to turn it off.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
10/1/2014 | 7:08:41 AM
Re: Own your age ...
There are valid reasons on both sides. I would hope that companies like LinkedIn would be more open about the preferences and choices you can make to set your preferred level of privacy.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2014 | 11:25:54 PM
Re: Own your age ...
@glen, agreed. always struck me as a feature that most people would want turned off.
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