Celebrating 10 years this year, LinkedIn has become the online gold standard for professional networking. Boasting more than 200 million users, and dozens of unique features, LinkedIn is ripe with networking and job opportunities.

Yet, many professionals are confused on how to use the site to their advantage. After all, despite its perks, the average amount of time spent on LinkedIn a week is a measly 17 minutes. Many are grossly underestimating the value of the site.

Want to snag some of the benefits many are ignoring? Get a leg up on the competition and work at an awesome marketing agency? Still mystified by LinkedIn and want to maximize your time on it? We’ve got you covered!

Here are the 3 principles to find a job on LinkedIn:

1. Complete Your LinkedIn Profile & Update it Often

It’s simply not enough to create a static profile and let it sit there, hoping someone will stumble upon it. Don’t settle for an incomplete profile either – a good profile is a thorough one. The more complete your profile is, the higher you will appear in searches by prospective employers, and the better chance you have of getting hired.

  • A simple list of your past employers and job titles won’t likely interest a recruiter; make sure to include your educational background and detailed descriptions of your work experience and skills.
  • Ensure that your headline is engaging. It’s the first think people see; it provides a snapshot of who you are and what you do.
  • Don’t be afraid to show off examples of your work. Depending on your industry, consider even including links to work you’ve done, such as blog posts or articles you penned, or websites you helped build.
  • Always include a professional photo. LinkedIn has found that profiles that contain a photo are more than seven times more likely to be viewed.
  • Every time you gain a new skill or change positions, make sure to update your LinkedIn as soon as possible. The best profiles are the most up to date.
  • Gather recommendations from your colleagues, it looks best to have at least three recommendations if possible. A strong recommendation highlights your strengths, and shows potential employers that you were a valued employee. It you were a manager, ask former employees to write you a recommendation highlighting your leadership qualities.
  • Keep your skills list as precise as possible. Instead of listing “writing” as a skill, frame your accomplishments less vaguely. Choose something along the lines of “blogging” or “fiction editing” if that’s more your speed.
  • Once you’ve updated your profile, test the strength of it using LinkedIn’s “Profile Strength” tool, which guides you through how effective your profile is to both search engines and humans.

2. Make the Most of Your LinkedIn Connections

Share content, join groups and become a valuable member of the LinkedIn community. Oftentimes, employers aren’t just looking at your profile, but they are also concerned with the groups you belong to and your activity on the site as a whole. Are you passively watching LinkedIn opportunities go by, or are you joining in the conversation?

  • When connecting with someone, send a personalized message and avoid the automated message that reads “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” Instead opt for personalized invitations that communicate warmth to potential contacts.
  • Don’t limit your connections to just close friends and colleagues- expand to anyone who you feel is important to your career, but remember to value quality over quantity. It’s a red flag for potential employers when they see that you are using LinkedIn indiscriminately. It cheapens your connections and makes your job search appear desperate.
  • Share regularly and strategically. Much like Facebook, LinkedIn allows users to post updates. If you share something just once a week, you are 10 times more likely to have your profile viewed by recruiters or hiring managers. This is your opportunity to show off how much you know about your industry, and to pass on valuable information from around the net.
  • Consider integrating your LinkedIn updates to other social media works using the “More” tab on the homepage. In the drop down menu you’ll see an option to connect your blog or twitter. This can help streamline your networking, and ensure that you never forget to update to LinkedIn.
  • Heighten your visibility by taking advantage of the groups feature on LinkedIn. There are more than 1.5 million groups on the site, and at anytime you can be a member of up to 50. Their focuses include anything from your industry to your skill set, to even hobbies and alumni organizations.
  • Don’t just join groups, but participate in them! Post intelligent and insightful comments. All comments in group discussions are searchable, so the more you post, the more you boost your chances of being found by recruiters who regularly scan groups to find innovative leaders and those who start conversations.

3. Do Your Research

LinkedIn is a uniquely searchable website – almost every aspect of it can be easily accessed through the search bar at the top of every page. You can look for more than just people or job postings, you can also search by industry or even by a specific company.

  • First and foremost, explore the jobs section! Using the tab on the home page, this section uses an algorithm based on the information on your profile to provide you with a series of jobs in your area that LinkedIn believes will be an appropriate match. In addition, it allows you to save jobs, search for jobs and keep track of which positions you have applied to in the past. LinkedIn allows you to do this anonymously, so it’s not clear to those who view your profile that you have been using the feature.
  • Research connections who have jobs and careers that you admire or would like to have, and then read their profiles backwards. How did they get their start? What kinds of qualifications do they have? How can you follow their career path?
  • Follow companies which you plan or desire to interview with. Searching a company on LinkedIn can be particularly helpful because companies will often share different information on their LinkedIn aside from what is readily available on the company website.
  • You can also view a company’s current and former employees and read company status updates. This information can help you to tailor a cover letter or interview to a specific company
  • Use LinkedIn to find networking events to attend. Using the home page, roll your mouse over the “More” tab and select “Events” from the drop down menu. On this page, you can view which events your connections are attending or are interested in attending, and you can also view the most popular events on LinkedIn as a whole. It’s a quick way to find ways to network off the net.

Final Thoughts

LinkedIn is a valuable tool that many let slip through their fingertips. In the end, it doesn’t matter how successful your career may be or how qualified you are for a position if you remain off the net. In 2013, if recruiters can’t learn about your positive attributes from your LinkedIn profile, you fall short as a candidate. Remember to maximize your potential for finding a job by making sure your profile is complete and inviting, assuring that you create valuable contacts and lastly by doing your research about all of the features that LinkedIn offers. Happy job hunting!

Photo is Courtesy of WatchdogWire.com