Using LinkedIn™ Effectively

Growing Your Professional Network

"LinkedIn" is a trademark of LinkedIn Corporation (see "Twitter" is a trademark of Twitter Inc. (see We have no association or connection with these organizations.


LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking service.

© Linkedin

You've likely heard of LinkedIn™, the business-oriented social networking website that many people use for keeping in touch with business associates, clients, and former colleagues.

But is this LinkedIn's only use? Or can you use it in other ways to grow yourself professionally and help your organization to network more effectively?

In this article, we'll explore how to use LinkedIn for personal, professional, and organizational development, including how you can use it for networking and recruitment, and for keeping up with trends and news in your industry.

What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a business-focused social networking site that launched in 2003. Its main purpose is to help people network professionally. The basic service is free.

The site lets you find other business associates, clients, and colleagues whom you already know. You "connect" with them through the site, and they then become part of your network.

Once you've connected with a person, you will then have access to their list of connections – this is called your "extended network." You can request an introduction to people in your extended network through your mutual contact.

LinkedIn also provides other features including the ability to set up and join groups, and a jobs section where members can advertise open positions or apply for jobs.

LinkedIn Definitions

Here are a few useful terms you should know when using LinkedIn:

  • Connections – Connections are other registered users who you know personally on LinkedIn. Although you can invite anyone to be a connection, they will need to set up an account to use the site.
  • Second-degree connections – These are the connections that your connections have. For example, you're friends with Bill, who is directly connected with his boss. Bill's boss is a second-degree connection for you.
  • Third-degree connection – Any connections from your second-degree connects are third-degree connections. So, Bill's boss's connections would be your third-degree connections.
  • Profile page – This is your personal page on LinkedIn. All registered users with LinkedIn can view it (unless you set it to be a private page). Your profile page can list your education, past work history, current and past projects, groups and associations, and more. Users can also forward your profile page to contacts on their lists. You can also make your profile page "public" so that anyone (even people not on LinkedIn) can view it.
  • Recommendations – Your connections can write recommendations, or testimonials, for your profile. These can be a powerful testament to your business and professional skills.
  • Introductions – Introductions are when a third party introduces two people who weren't currently connected. For instance, your colleague Sue and your client Dan don't know each other. You think Sue could help solve a problem that Dan is having with one of his projects, so you introduce Sue and Dan through LinkedIn. Introductions are simply a way to bring people together on the site.

Professional Use

There are several ways to use LinkedIn to help you grow professionally:

  • Networking – LinkedIn allows you to network   with people and professional organizations in your industry. This helps you stay up-to-date with industry trends and share information with others who do similar work to you.

    In addition to networking with people in your LinkedIn extended network, you can also set up and join specific groups to discuss ideas and share industry news. This is a great way to build your professional network further.

  • Asking and answering questions – Many people use the groups on LinkedIn as a kind of think tank or open brainstorming session. By offering your expertise to those in your network, you establish trust and improve your reputation as an expert.

    You can also use your profile's status update to ask questions to people in your network, or share news or insight. (Your status feed on LinkedIn works in a similar way to a Twitter®   timeline.)

  • Research – You can use LinkedIn to find out more about the people and organizations that you do business with.

    For example, imagine that you're about to meet with an important potential client. You do a quick search on LinkedIn and discover that the person went to the same university as you. In fact, you know several of the same people. You now have a valuable conversation starter that will help you build rapport with the client.

Tip 1:

Remember that your boss, and others at your organization, will be able to see your LinkedIn profile. If you update it extensively, you might want to let them know in advance. People new to the site may confuse your profile with an online resume, so you don't want them to think that you're looking for a new job!

Tip 2:

It's an obvious point, but it's one that people forget: don't get carried away while sharing information. Make sure that you respect confidentiality, and don't give away information that could harm your organization.

Organizational Use

You can also use LinkedIn in the following ways to help your organization grow:

  • Increase visibility – LinkedIn gives your organization increased visibility for its brand, products, and corporate goals. Potential customers, clients, and suppliers can research your company on LinkedIn to see if they're interested in doing business with you. This is especially useful if your organization sells services or products to other businesses.
  • Conduct research on other organizations – LinkedIn also works the other way. You can use the site to research your competition, potential partners, or new suppliers.
  • Tell your company story – This company story  , if told in the right way, can inspire customers and potential employees, and create an emotional connection with people. Special applications, like video, allow you to create a multimedia experience with other users. (Setting up a profile for your organization will be useful here.)


Make sure that organizational use of LinkedIn is aligned with your organization's overall strategy, and its other communications.


You can also use LinkedIn for recruitment   and job-hunting.

For example, if you're looking for a new team member with a particular set of skills, or prior experience in a certain industry or company, you can post jobs on LinkedIn, or search for specific people who have the skills and experience that you're looking for. (Check people's profiles first to make sure that they're happy to be approached with new job opportunities.)

You may find this more effective than more traditional recruitment methods, depending on the position you're looking to fill, and your industry.

Many potential recruits also use LinkedIn as a research tool. For instance, suppose a person had two good job offers. Which organization will be a better match for them? What will their new boss or colleagues be like? What is the corporate culture   like? LinkedIn can help them to find out.

So, as well as keeping your organization's profile up-to-date, also make sure that you own personal profile reflects yourself and your organization positively.

LinkedIn Etiquette

Remember these guidelines when using LinkedIn:

  • Use introductions carefully – Success on LinkedIn relies heavily on reputation. Be careful when you ask for, or make, an introduction, and do so only if you truly think everyone can benefit.
  • Always tell the truth – When discussing where you've worked and what you've accomplished, be honest, and don't oversell yourself.
  • Don't gossip – Don't spread any company or personal gossip through LinkedIn. You never know who's going to read it, or where it will end up.
  • Be professional – LinkedIn is used mainly for professional networking. So, stay professional at all times. Use other sites like Facebook for personal posts.


If your organization approves, add your LinkedIn profile page address to your email signature. When you email colleagues, clients, and suppliers, they'll see your link – and if they're on LinkedIn, they may connect with you. This will further expand your network and exposure.

Key Points

LinkedIn is primarily a professional networking website. Although some people use the site for job searches and recruitment, it mainly helps you to get in touch with past colleagues and potential clients, and expand your professional network.

With tools like LinkedIn Answers and groups, you can establish trust with those in your network and improve your reputation, while keeping up-to-date with industry news and trends.

LinkedIn can also help your organization increase visibility for its products and brand, and can provide information on other organizations such as potential partners, customers, and competitors.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

Add this article to My Learning Plan

Comments (4)
  • dtrainor wrote Over a month ago
    LinkedIn is a great resource, particularly for finding individuals with specialist skill sets and getting some useful background on people that you may be in the early stages of establishing business relations with. Some of the specialised Linked in groups have good discussions, particularly in technical subjects. I do endorse the idea of "quality over quantity" when it comes to LinkedIn connections.

  • saskiaritchie wrote Over a month ago
    What a fantastic resource. I have been using Linked In for about six months and have been encouraging colleagues to use it as well. A recruitment agent recently told me that he would check out shortlisted candidates on Linked in and read any recommendations.

    I manage a group about the Third Sector on Linked in that is pretty active and it has been invaluable for making contacts. The article allows you to take it one step further.

  • MichaelP wrote Over a month ago
    Zuni I agree with you this a is good overview of a very useful networking tool.

    I have found the effectiveness of using LinkedIN does vary between country and business sectors. Some are very well represented some are not! I do use it to research people and companies and have found if effective.

    What works for me is that this is a professional vs personal social network. However the advise in the article is very pertinent, all your past current and future employers and colleagues can view your public profile, so I try and not put too much info, keep it updated and be positive.

    The referrals section is also added value. Some people just want to show how effective they are at networking by trying to include everybody! My advise is do not add people you do not know and respect to your network.

    every day the world gets smaller and the connectivity grows - its a big opportunity. cheers
  • zuni wrote Over a month ago
    This is a terrific overview of Linked-In. I do a lot of benchmarking research on a variety of HR topics.

    In the past finding contacts and gaining access to people in organizations was largely done by picking up the phone and calling people you knew. Today, most "conversation' is via email and through internet forums, blogs and chat groups. With back to back meetings and increased workloads many managers often do not have the luxury of time to spend talking to others. As well, making a connection in 'real time' is increasingly difficult across time zones.

    I find Linked-In to be a good way to conduct research. When using Linked-In for research, pose your question(s) well in advance of your deadline, particularly if your information request is on a specific aspect of a topic.


Where to go from here:

Join the Mind Tools Club

Click to join Mind Tools
Printer-friendly version
Return to the top of the page

Your Score
Create a Login to Save Your Learning Plan

This ensures that you don’t lose your plan.

Connect with…

Or create a Mind Tools login. Existing user? Log in here.
Log in with your existing Mind Tools details
Lost Username or Password
You are now logged in…

Lost username or password?

Please enter your username or email address and we'll send you a reminder.

Thank You!

Your log in details have been sent to the email account you registered with. Please check your email to reset your login details.

Create a Mind Tools Login
Your plan has been created.

While you're here, subscribe to our FREE newsletter?

Learn a new career skill every week, and get our Personal Development Plan workbook (worth $19.99) when you subscribe.

Thank You!

Please check your Inbox, and click on the link in the email from us. We can then send you the newsletter.