Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn For Success

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DO keep your profile current.
A pox on the person who lets her LinkedIn profile languish! If you can’t be bothered to keep your profile current, why should another person bother to engage with you? If I receive a Contact request, jump over to the requester’s profile, and find that its details don’t match what’s in the requester’s email message, I’m already underwhelmed. Bonus: when you update your profile, you can send a one-click blast message to let your entire first-degree network know about your news. Note: please don’t abuse this feature! Reserve profile-update blasts for news on the order of a job promotion, book launch or appointment to a national commission….as opposed to news items like “I have started my PMP certification class.”

DON’T confuse quantity for quality.
If I were a recruiter, I’d build the biggest network I could, on LinkedIn or otherwise. After all, there’s zero downside to being able to view, and reach, a massive number of candidates when your job is locating talent. But for the rest of us, it’s easy to get the notions “a big network” and “a strong network” confused. The question to ask yourself is “could I recommend this person, and could he recommend me?” If not, the principal value in any individual LinkedIn connection will be your ability to view his network (and vice versa). That’s not a bad thing, but it would be a shame to mistake that kind of visibility for influence. Amassing connections can become a kind of addiction, but withdrawal will kick in when these near-strangers begin to ask you to vouch for them to your dearest friends.

DON’T pass along questionable requests.
I got religion on this item in an instant last summer, when a fellow asked me to send a friend of mine a spammy invitation to his business conference. “I can’t do it,” I wrote, “it’s purely a marketing message.” The gentleman’s return message essentially ripped my head off, affirming my initial gut reaction that his request was an improper one. Don’t hesitate to stand up for yourself and for your friends when sketchy requests come down the pike (and they will). If you pass along every bit of dreck that finds you, your trusted friends will start to doubt you, and that’s a far worse fate than having to write to another LinkedIn user, “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel comfortable passing this on.”

DON’T abuse the Find Colleagues feature.
LinkedIn’s Find Colleagues feature allows you to find old workmates and send unmediated connection requests to them, a boon if you’ve lost their email addresses over the years. Unfortunately, it’s easy to abuse the feature by listing false employers or dates of employment on your profile. What can we say about this? If you believe in the wheel of karma, avoid the temptation to claim employers and employment dates you’re not entitled to.

DO disconnect from bad apples when you need to.
Finally, it’s worth noting that LinkedIn gives you the ability to disconnect from other users if you find that the connection no longer works for you. If you’re plagued by inappropriate requests or other annoyances from one of your connections, you can cut the cord and save yourself from recurring headaches. Some people just don’t get the notion of an online community with standards and norms; and it’s not your job to teach them how to behave. Just move on.

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