You’ve heard it hundreds of times before (and probably will hundreds of times again): You need to be on LinkedIn.
But once you’ve created your profile , what’s next? If you’re not actively job searching, it can be easy to throw your information up there and leave it alone until you need to reach out to someone or browse open positions.
Well, that would be a big mistake. You’ll be missing out on an opportunity to stay current in your field, interact with and grow your network, and even establish yourself as a thought leader.
The good news? It doesn’t have to take a lot of effort. To keep things simple, here’s your plan for how to make the most of LinkedIn, broken down into easy, manageable chunks.
Interact With Your Homepage Feed
LinkedIn is a great way to keep up to date on industry news and see what your contacts have been up to—both great things regardless of whether you’re job searching. If you check your homepage feed regularly, this will likely be the first place you’ll see viewpoints on news in your field or a contact’s new promotion posted.
Interacting with your feed really only takes a couple minutes—just click over, scroll on down, and write a quick “congratulations” for new positions or promotions or click “like” on interesting new or articles others have posted. You’re done!
Aside from using LinkedIn to keep up with your network, try using it to update others on your professional achievements and interests. Target posting an update once a week: If you recently attended a conference or professional development seminar, write a quick update on what you enjoyed about it. Or, if you read something relevant to your industry, post it to the homepage feed to see what others think.
If you want to do something a bit more in depth, LinkedIn now offers a platform for you to write and post your own articles. Much like your very own professional blog , it’s a great way to get your thoughts out there and your work seen.
Add New Contacts
In case you haven’t noticed, LinkedIn is a great way to keep track of your contacts—but that only works if you’re consistently adding them as you meet them. So, set aside time once a week to send out invites (personalized, of course!) to connect on LinkedIn for the new people you meet in your day-to-day work—think vendors, people you’ve met at conferences, new co-workers or clients. Once you’ve connected, LinkedIn makes it easy to interact with your contacts’ updates as well as send personal messages when you want to reach out directly.
Update Your Profile
While this isn’t something you have to do daily or weekly, it’s a good idea for you to keep track of any new job responsibilities or professional accomplishments and update your LinkedIn profile accordingly. Making a point to do this at least one a month ensures you’ll have an easy time updating your resume when the time comes and has the added benefit of allowing others to see your most up-to-date qualifications. Recruiters and hiring managers often scroll through LinkedIn looking for candidates, so even if you’re not actively job searching, having an impressive profile will mean that opportunities will still come your way.
Contribute to a Couple of Groups
Groups on LinkedIn are a great way to interact with professionals with similar interests or backgrounds—but they’re really only as good as you make them. ( More on that here .) Contributing to larger, better-known groups could even help you establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. Of course, that takes times, so at the very least try to catch up on what relevant groups in your field are up to at least once a month. This will help you stay current, and if you make the effort to comment or contribute to existing discussions, you may even make some new connections.
Reach Out to Old Contacts
Few things feel as sleazy as reaching out to someone only after you realize you need them for one reason or another. To avoid setting yourself up for this uncomfortable situation, regularly reach out to a handful of contacts (switch up the contacts every month) to check in with them and see how they’re doing. Offer some updates of your own, and simply make it a point to catch up. The good news is, LinkedIn makes it easy—just shoot people a quick note, and it should pop right into the email they have linked to their account. No need to worry about up-to-date contact information! Make a habit of this, and you won’t have to feel awkward about reaching out to your contacts when you do need some help.
LinkedIn is an incredibly handy tool for keeping track of contacts, what everyone has been up to, and the latest in industry news. And that’s all in addition to being a platform for you to promote your skills and expertise. So, don’t let your profile sit stagnant—make the most of it by actually using its features beyond the profile.
Photo of calendar courtesy of Shutterstock .
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author