By now, you may have heard of—and even utilized—online social networking through the various sites available to the technically savvy, including Plaxo.com, Twitter, FaceBook, Ryze, and a host of others. However, you may not have realized the intensity that using the powerhouse called LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) can have on your job search.

To spell it out most succinctly, preserving job mobility, whether you’re merely maintaining your professional value or actively seeking your next opportunity, is core to stayed employed in one form or another. And, as you’ll find, its robust qualities and rapidly growing population makes LinkedIn a gold mine of opportunities for doing precisely that.

Most professionals who have accessed LinkedIn and its counterparts simply log in, create a profile, wander around a bit, and place a few connections. This, according to many LinkedIn experts, means you may be missing out on its value.

In my special report “When Employers Google You, What Will They Find? 5 Effective Techniques for Managing Your Digital Dirt,” I’ve pointed out that maintaining an online social networking profile is crucial to a job search.

After all, as the title indicates, recruiters WILL be looking for information about you on the Web. Maintaining a fresh, well-connected profile ensures that you can control this data.

Here are 5 tips that will bring your LinkedIn knowledge up to speed and allow your online network to play a critical part in your job search:

1 – Build your profile carefully.
After creating a profile (which is a simple process that allows you to edit key pieces of information), you’ll notice that you can add a professional Summary. Avoid the temptation to simply use your classic resume information.

Instead, create a bullet-point list of career highlights that includes some of your skills, your expertise in particular areas, and your top achievements.

Remember that what you add is searchable by others who might be looking for you. This means that recruiters can search for you by occupation and location, so be sure to add a title such as “Senior Sales Representative” to generate hits on your profile.

Log in, and take a look around at others’ profiles to gain some ideas.

2 – Maintain visibility.
When you first sign up, LinkedIn will remind you to add connections through email addresses. However, it is best to regularly add connections, rather than merely dumping the contents of your email address book in once and then forgetting about it.

Frequently finding others with which to connect serves two purposes: it keeps your profile on top of Web searches for your name (since search engines love fresh content), and it maintains a business presence for those who read your profile.

3 – Use the People and Company search functions to aid your job hunt.
One of the best-kept strategies for approaching contacts is this: after identifying a target company where you want to work, search LinkedIn for company insiders, especially HR resources or hiring managers.

Send your resume by the method requested on the company’s website, and then send an additional note to the contacts you find in LinkedIn. Be sure to note that you have already sent a resume, and wanted to use LinkedIn to forward another note of interest to them.

4 – Avail yourself of the extra functions.
For example, downloading the LinkedIn JobsInsider at http://www.linkedin.com/static?key=jobsinsider_download will give you additional job search capability at your fingertips for major job boards including Monster.com, Craigslist, and CareerBuilder.

5 – Regularly educate yourself on the optimum usage of LinkedIn.
There are numerous ways to promote yourself as a job search candidate—and someone is constantly coming up with more methods.

You can easily access training curriculums, blogs, and other resources that will bring you up to speed. In fact, enhancing your online presence has never been easier!

Here’s a list of forums and books that I recommend in order to maximize your LinkedIn expertise:

Ask Dave Taylor
http://www.askdavetaylor.com/what_are_best_practices_for_a_linkedin_job_search.html

Jason Alba – I’m On LinkedIn, Now What???
http://marketerschoice.com/app/?af=809676&u=http://happyabout.info/linkedinhelp.php

Guy Kawasaki’s Blog
http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/01/linkedin_profil.html

Web Worker Daily
http://webworkerdaily.com/2007/06/15/20-ways-to-use-linkedin-productively/

Best-Case Consulting Blog
http://best-case.blogspot.com/2008/06/why-i-love-linkedin.html

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