In response to my column on SEM career development, several readers asked what they could do to get a job or enhance their career as a search professional. A partial answer to this question is to use a social networking tool like LinkedIn, where professionals link to one another's resume-like profiles. This tool can offer a lot, regardless of where you are in your career.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is an online network of more than 30 million professionals enabling you to create a profile that summarizes your professional accomplishments. You can then find, or be found by, other professionals.
I recently looked up an old friend I worked with about 16 years ago. Within minutes, I found my friend and sent him a request to link up. He now works at a firm that might need my services. We plan to have lunch the next time I'm in New York.
Just recently, LinkedIn received $22.7 million in new funding, even during this time of economic turmoil. That should say something to the relevancy of this tool in today's overcast climate.
Another article from TIME, "LinkedIn: the Site that Likes a Bad Economy," says it all. People tend to consider self-preservation in a bad economy and wish to reach out to others for help, to educate themselves, or to make new connections to further their career and enhance their resumes.
And it's as easy as opening an e-mail account. You sign up for an account, fill out your profile, search for your business associates, clients, and anyone else in your professional world.
As your linked network grows, so do your opportunities. The recent launch of their application platform gives you even more options for enriching your home page and your profile similar to that of Facebook.
Like the sometimes-questionable Yahoo Answers, but without the "sometimes-questionable" part, LinkedIn has an answers section to the site where one person can post a question and get feedback from your linked network. Because LinkedIn is primarily a professional site, the answers and conversations are mature and business-oriented.
For example, Chad M.'s answers post is being used to research education, asking "How has your formal education prepared you to be a more successful small business owner or entrepreneur? Did your choice of college major matter?"
One of the other great aspects of being a part of LinkedIn is joining groups. You can join professional groups, alumni organizations, industry conferences, and corporate alumni groups.
As a member of these groups you can post questions, read answers, and generally stay on top of the "goings on" with other members who have similar interests in common. You can search their new directory for groups that you would like to join.
For instance, I searched for "SEO" and found about 241 groups, including one for Search Engine Watch, one for Search Engine Watch Forums, and one for Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo. Go ahead and get an account and sign up.
Of course, I wouldn't be writing this without being part of the first-hand experience. Feel free to send me an invitation to your linked network, and I'll see you in the groups. As always, feel free to drop me a line here or there if you have any other LinkedIn insights. Your experiences are important to us.
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