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Chances are that you are already familiar with major social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. You might even be using Google Plus. However, there’s another social networking site that you might want to join.

LinkedIn is a career and business networking site. This social media network is less about tweeting witty things in 140 characters or less and sharing cute pictures of your family, and more about letting others see your professional qualifications. Your LinkedIn profile can help you expand your career network, and provide you with a convenient place to share information about your qualifications.

In a world where many employees are expected to change careers between seven and 10 times during their lives, it makes sense to leverage whatever you can into a career network. LinkedIn can help you do just that.

Creating Your LinkedIn Profile

Setting up your LinkedIn profile is similar to creating a resume. You enter information about your current position, sharing your title and what you do. Then, you enter information on your past work history, sharing your skills and past experiences. It's very easy to enter the information, since LinkedIn takes you through the profile creation process step by step. Just fill in the forms as directed, and you'll end up with a resume.

Not only can you enter your work history and information, but you can also list skills, and add keywords that describe what you do. This makes it easier for others to find you, based on areas of expertise. It's also possible to add your Twitter feed to LinkedIn so that your insights can find their way to your profile. On top of that, it's also possible to link to a blog, and to publications that you have. It's a complete professional profile easily accessible online.

Your Career Network on LinkedIn

Building your career network on LinkedIn can help you expand your reach. First of all, adding someone as a “connection” is the virtual equivalent of exchanging business cards. However, when you have a connection on LinkedIn, you are also accessible to the members of your connections' connections. That means that you have second degree and third degree connections that can see you, and perhaps even ask to connect. This expands your career network so that there is a greater chance that you will be able to find more opportunities.

Another feature of LinkedIn is that, similar to Facebook, there are groups. These are normally companies you’ve worked for or schools you’ve graduated from, but they can also provide you with a way to join those with similar interests and areas of expertise. You can answer questions and provide valuable insight, and expand your reputation as a thought leader with the help of LinkedIn groups. Participate in the right group, and you could attract positive attention that can result in career opportunities.

On top of that, you can get referrals (and give referrals) from those who have worked with you. Have others review your work, and acknowledge your expertise, is a valuable part of being on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn can provide a few other opportunities. You could build your network of connections which could help your business by gaining clients through referrals. You might find someone with the expertise you need for a project. You can look for jobs, or have HR departments find you. Maybe you’re about to apply for a job, look on LinkedIn, and realize that you have someone who works for the company within your network. You could then ask your connection to introduce you to their connection. Now you will have someone who may be able to help you get that job you’re applying for!

All of these uses are very helpful in your career network. Additionally, the fact that more and more companies use social media in their hiring and recruitment processes underscores the need to have an online presence related to what you do. You want to be findable, and show that you would be a valuable asset to a company in your field.

I have setup my own LinkedIn profile. Over the past few years, I've grown my network, leveraging my connections to make new connections. It's been a great resource for me, and if my job ever becomes an issue, I know that it can be valuable in helping me find another job or maybe even focus more on my own business.

LinkedIn is a career and business networking site. Your LinkedIn profile can help you share your qualifications and expand your career network.

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