If you’re new to LinkedIn, it can be a little daunting – a social network designed purely for use by professionals, where everyone’s trying to market themselves to potential clients and would-be employers.
However, like any social network, a strong profile will always help you to make new connections, and LinkedIn can easily become a powerful networking tool (in the business sense, not the IT sense).
As a fledgling LinkedIn user, there’s only so much you can do, so consider your profile as though it were an online CV and make sure you comprehensively fill it in.
List all of your contract experience – you never know what might impress a fellow user when they’re looking for somebody to hire or recruit – and be specific about the details.
List your main IT strengths under ‘Specialities’, and summarise your key industry experience under your ‘Summary’.
Just as with a CV, you should only need to do this once, and any future edits can simply build on what you’ve already got in place.
Unlike a CV, you won’t be able to tailor what different users see, beyond the basic privacy settings, so stick to the facts unless you’re really certain of the kinds of role you want to be considered for.
You’ll need to make some connections in order to build your LinkedIn network, so look for former colleagues or bosses who you are still on good speaking terms with (although this might not always be possible, depending on how your last contract ended!)
Add them to your network, and your name will soon start appearing on other users’ pages as a potential contact – allowing your connections to grow organically once you’ve done the basic groundwork.
Try to add at least one person from each previous job you’ve held, just to keep the lines of communication open.
LinkedIn offers you a few ways to get involved beyond simply adding connections and sending messages to past colleagues and potential clients.
Groups offer subject-specific discussions that you can join in with, raising your profile on LinkedIn and helping to position you as an expert in your field.
Recommendations are worth considering, too – these let you praise former colleagues for the good work they have done in the past.
Often you will receive a reciprocal recommendation – and even unprompted praise, as your profile really starts to grow – and it’s a great way to add the LinkedIn equivalent of testimonials to a contractor or freelancer profile.
Stick With It
Even if you don’t intend to use LinkedIn in any great detail, stick with the basics of maintaining your profile – add more jobs to your work history as you complete them, and respond to any messages you receive.
This shouldn’t take too long and is a worthwhile addition to the other admin you carry out on a weekly basis, such as invoicing and maintaining your other social network presences.
With a small amount of work carried out regularly, your profile – and your network – should grow organically over time, so that it’s ready to serve you well if you ever do decide to launch a LinkedIn-based marketing initiative to sell your services.