LinkedIn Can Actually Be Helpful, If You Use It Right
A guide to the networking site everyone loves to hate
Of all the social-media platforms, LinkedIn might be the one whose purpose is the most misunderstood. Facebook, despite its many alarming flaws, is still the go-to corner of the internet for announcements featuring babies and engagement rings. Instagram is the place to humblebrag, with envy-inducing shots of vacations and elaborate meals. Twitter, for most people, is just for jokes and article recommendations.
LinkedIn, by contrast, is where you go to… well, there’s a reason “the world’s largest professional network” is the butt of so many jokes. It’s where people go to stretch the limits of the word “hobby” (you snorkeled once, it counts!), to self-seriously detail the duties of college internships held decades ago, and to connect — well, “connect” — with anyone they’ve ever said “hello” to.
“Your childhood friend whom you no longer speak to because he told your classmates about the Barbie he saw in your room? Add him,” Colin Stokes wrote in a New Yorker piece mocking the sort of earnestness that runs rampant on the site. “The porn-site administrator whom you had to email to sort out your subscription? Hey, he might be a valuable professional connection, you never know.”
That’s the double bind of LinkedIn: It’s easy to make fun of and hard to use well, but at the same time, it’s quietly essential. If you’re passively or actively looking for a job, not being on LinkedIn at all is somewhere between odd and a red flag.
“I think being a person in the world with a job is a good enough reason to have a LinkedIn,” says Viveka von Rosen, author of LinkedIn: 101 Ways to Rock Your Personal Brand and founder of the consultancy LinkedIn to Business. But your profile won’t do you any good if you just sign up and let it languish — or fall victim to the silly mistakes that make so many people roll their eyes at the site. Not all LinkedIn networking is good networking. These tips are designed to help you attract the right kind of attention.