As most of you know, I have a love affair with LinkedIn.  Used properly, I don’t think any other site on the Internet offers as much productive potential in terms of promoting an individual’s business/career success.  And while another technology will surely come along one day and topple LinkedIn off the throne, as of right now the site reigns supreme — and those folks who take the time to master it will find it to be an invaluable tool in their job search arsenal.

The “success stories” related to this tool keep pouring in:

“Matt:  I wanted to let you know that I have recently landed a new position as VP Marketing with a late-stage software start-up in Seattle — and that this lead came directly from my presence on LinkedIn!  I was a big fan of LinkedIn even before you started teaching your classes and I plan to stay active on the site, despite my new job status.  My profile has a fairly detailed description of my career path and accomplishments, which led a recruiter to contact me, after having viewed my profile.  After a series of conversations, she introduced me to my new employer, who, until that point, had known that they needed to beef up the marketing effort, but they had not described or posted a position.  In the interview process I helped them define what needed to be done, and my job was created from those discussions.  I therefore wanted to write and thank you for reminding us all that jobs do come about in this fashion — and for reminding us to be open to any conversation (even with a recruiter!) about our goals, because you never know what might come of it!”

Love these stories — let’s have more of them!

And while many of my regular readers may have noticed the occasional tips on LinkedIn I’ve written about over the years, accessible here, I’ve decided to start rolling up a whole bunch of advice about the site into a single posting each month.  So here’s my first installment.  Enjoy!

1)  The Job Seeker Premium Package — is it worth it?

While I’ve maintained for years that the “premium” paid subscriptions on LinkedIn probably aren’t a good investment for most job hunters, since most of the extra features they provide are designed for high-volume recruiters, HR folks, sales professionals,  and the like, it might be time to revise this opinion.  Recently a client wrote me the following note discussing her experience with the new “Job Seeker Premium” account LinkedIn has available for $19.95 a month.

“Matt: Just wanted to report that today I received my 4th unsolicited job posting/email from a recruiter just because of this cool ‘Job Seeker’ icon on my profile.   For $19.95 I think it’s a wise investment.  It also allows one to see WHO has viewed me on LinkedIn—as long as they have their settings at the ‘open level’ (which as you know we can’t control).  Thought you’d appreciate this tidbit!”

In light of this, I’m thinking this type of account might be a smart move for those who can afford it.  While the vast majority of features offered by this premium option still aren’t all that useful, in my opinion, it could well be worth the extra $20 a month simply to get the extra exposure the little “job search briefcase” icon gives you.  Has anybody else out there subscribed to this package?  Or have any positive (or negative) experiences to report about this feature?  If so, I’d love to hear your feedback — and I’ll be keeping an eye on this issue, going forward, and testing it to see if it consistently produces results.

2)  How do I add certifications to my profile?

For years, LinkedIn users have begged for the ability to add a few other important types of information to their profiles, especially professional certifications — since the “Education” section of LinkedIn has historically only allowed people to list full formal degrees, not any other form of training credential.  Thanksully, however, the powers-that-be at LinkedIn have added a way for people to insert not just certifications on their profile, but also publications and patents.  It’s a little trickier than you’d expect, though.  So go ahead and read this article here which will show you the ropes!

3)  Where did my Settings menu go?  And the Help menu go?

Remember how I said I’m in love with LinkedIn?  Well, even lovers have a spat every once in a while.  And one of the dumbest things (sorry guys!) I think the makers of the site have recently done is to remove the “Settings” menu as a main option on the top toolbar — hiding it now, instead, in a drop-down menu next to your name at the top right of the screen.  To me, this was a bad move, since the Settings menu is a critical feature allowing people to configure all sorts of useful privacy, profile, and communications preferences related to the site — and burying it in a menu tree makes it that much harder for people (especially rookie users) to utilize these options

Same thing with the Help menu.  It used to be right there at the top, easy to click on if you had any sort of issue or question about using the site effectively.  Now you have to hunt high and low before you realize you need to click on the “Customer Service” link all the way down at the bottom of the screen, on the left.  Sure, we’ll all eventually get used to this new approach, but I think both the Help and Settings features deserve a lot more importance and prominence than they’re now receiving with the new layout.

And don’t get me started on the Service Providers page.  They put THAT great part of the site out to pasture years ago.  (you can still find it, though, if you poke around on the Companies page…)

4)  How do I pick the right “Introduction Path” to somebody?

Here’s another question that recently came in from a client:

“Matt: When it comes to trying to find an inside contact at a company that interests me, what do I do if there are dozens (or hundreds) of potential people that turn up?  How do I go about choosing which person to target?   Do I choose based on how close I am to a particular person — such as somebody who is a 2nd Degree contact, vs. a 3rd Degree one?  Or do I focus on their specific job title, instead, and how close it comes to my own field?  And if I have multiple people I can go through to get to somebody, how do I narrow it down?”

While these kinds of decisions can be confusing at first, when you’re getting the hang of the site, eventually you’ll start to figure out the “prioritization system” that generates the best results for you.  Based on all the introductions I’ve sent out or forwarded along over the years, however, I’ve found that the first criteria should almost ALWAYS be a person’s “closeness” to you in the network.  In other words, you’ll get a higher response rate on average by targeting a 2nd Degree “friend of a friend” contact over a 3rd Degree “friend of a friend of a friend” one.  After that, you’d obviously want to scrutinize people by title to try and pick somebody who works in your department at the company — or perhaps the person highest up in the food chain, who might have the most influence.

And in the event you’re lucky (and connected) enough to have multiple friends who could introduce you to a particular individual you’re trying to reach, just use common sense in picking the right conduit.  Who do you know the best?  Or owes you the biggest favor?  Or might be the most relevant, based on their professional background and how they likely are acquainted with the person you’re trying to contact?

Hopefully the tips above were helpful — and I look forward to bringing you a fresh batch next month!