A beginners’ guide to using LinkedIn

I wrote this blog a while ago (Nov 09), and posted it on an earlier blog site. It has a Life Sciences focus, but it is relevant to any industry so I thought it was worth putting it here too.

My guide to using LinkedIn

I appreciate that there must be hundreds of blogs out there with this title, but its something I get asked about a lot, so I thought I’d add my voice to the choir. I’ve tried to keep to the basics, and to explain some of the benefits.  Please do let me know what you think, and let me know how you use it too.

What is LinkedIn?
In their words “LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 50 million members and growing rapidly. LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals.”
It is very widely used by people in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, and almost everyone I know professionally seems to be listed on it. Academics are using it too; over 300,000 people list their job title as ‘professor’ and a company search for University of Glasgow current employees listed 1,175 people!

Why is it useful?
If you know someone’s name, you can look them up and see their public profile. This can be very useful when you are meeting someone for the first time, as it gives you much more information about someone than their business card does. Although it is possible to put minimal information about yourself on your profile, most people do fill in details of their current job and interests.

You can look people up, not just by name, but by company, location, industry, key words. E.g. a search for key word ‘imaging’ in the pharmaceutical industry came up with 3,131 results. This makes it a very useful tool for finding people with similar interests.

You can join a group, which not only allows you to join in discussions and post questions, but often allows you to make direct contact with another member of the same group. There are thousands of groups in LinkedIn so it’s almost certain that you will find one that is relevant; for example a search for ‘medical imaging’ had 69 results, though molecular imaging had just 3 groups.

You can see what connections your connections have. You may find that you have a lot of contacts in common, even though you may have just met. You may find that they know someone who works for an organisation that you have been trying to get in touch with. You can’t always contact someone directly, but you can ask your contact to make an introduction for you.

Getting started.
The LinkedIn web site has a useful learning centre that provides a lot of information about how to use the different features http://learn.linkedin.com
This basic guide for new users will help you to get started http://learn.linkedin.com/new-users . It’s a good idea to use your personal email when you set up your account so that it is easy to update your profile when you move jobs.

The more detail that you can list in your profile, the better, as people will have a better understanding of what your skills are. However you don’t have to put your entire cv on LinkedIn at once, as it’s easy to add more detail at a later stage.

Once you have set up your profile, you need to start building your connections. You will probably find that you already know a lot of people that are in LinkedIn. You can import or upload your contacts from Outlook, webmail etc. and those already on LinkedIn will be highlighted. The more contacts you have, the more you will benefit, but make sure you only connect with people you know and are happy to be associated with.

Find some relevant groups and join in their discussions.

Update your status from time to time. By displaying what you’re currently working on, and where you’re planning on travelling to, etc., you invite your network to help you with advice and recommendations. Keep it professional though, it’s not like Facebook!

Make sure you log in regularly, to see what your connections are doing (their statuses and activities are featured on your home page). Get in touch with them if you think you can help them, or just to say ‘well done’. Making occasional informal contact with your connections via LinkedIn will help to strengthen your business relationships.

Above all, remember it is a two way tool. Use it to help you to interact with people, and make sure you become known within your own network as a person whose advice and opinions people trust.

Extra: just found this useful article; the slide presentation is a great illustration of how to search LinkedIn effectively. http://blog.linkedin.com/2009/12/11/linkedin-biotech/

You might also like my other, more recently written blog: Some practical tips on using LinkedIn’ http://wp.me/p19Yxm-23

UPDATE, 20th April, 2011
I’ve also just been reading a great blog by Jackie Cameron on why and how students and new graduates should use LinkedIn to help them get a good job. It’s worth a read: Students and LinkedIn – don’t wait until you graduate!

Published by Fiona

Fiona was once a hands-on scientist and still has a curious mind. She combines strategic thinking with an entrepreneurial attitude and the ability to make great connections. She also takes photos.

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