I must confess, a few months ago I thought that LinkedIn was a tool for recruiters, and those who wanted to get a job…through recruiters. Don’t get me wrong, I had dutifully updated my profile with my latest job title and even had an old work headshot but I, like many others out there, set up the account many years ago and had barely touched it since.

WOW. Was I missing out. Without wanting to come across as a LinkedIn disciple, I have been thoroughly converted into believing in the power that LinkedIn has for individuals and businesses. That said, there is still a whole host of features that I do not know about, understand, or really even think are necessarily relevant for me, but the bits that I do use about have become such a key part of my working week – that it has become habit. Don’t worry – this is not a blog about how you can increase your social index, rack up endorsements or use InMail to hook in that next sale. Instead, it is my top 5 ways that LinkedIn has helped me in my job.

This is not a blog about how you can increase your social index, rack up endorsements or use InMail to hook in that next sale.

The Newsfeed

Far less likely to have pictures of cats or babies compared to my Facebook feed, the newsfeed of LinkedIn has become the second place that I go in the morning when I sit at my desk (first is BBC news in case you were wondering). Without fail there will be an interesting image or article that grabs my eye. Often it is not headline news, or even breaking news, but there is a regular feed of interesting shares that I just would not have found if it was not for the site. Many prompt an idea for my own business; or start a conversation with a colleague; or something to share with a client.

Engaging in conversations in groups

An extension of the newsfeed is heading over to my groups. I have asked to join a fair number, all with titles that seemed vaguely connected to a topic I might have an opinion on. I tend to scroll down and open up interesting headlines in a new tab on my browser. After I have around 10, I can go through each in turn, read the article and then write a little comment if I have one. Sometimes it is just a ‘thanks for sharing’ and sometimes it can be entering into a debate with people on the other side of the planet. Whatever it is, it is a conversation I would not have had without LinkedIn. What I found interesting is how when entering these conversations, it forces me to defend, support, challenge or otherwise interact with a topic, and so it makes me think about my own viewpoint more and so sharpens and shapes my own opinion, which can only be a good thing.

Checking out a profile picture & personal summary

Now this one is perhaps a little creepy – but is probably the most helpful thing there is. Living and working in Singapore for the last 5 years there have been a number of times you go and meet a client / supplier / candidate face to face. Either at their office, my office or in a coffee shop. The ability to get a quick glimpse of the profile picture, so you recognize them when you first meet should not be underestimated. Gone are the days of standing under a clock with a red umbrella!

Congratulating people that have stayed at their job

I genuinely do this every day or two. The little list pops up on the top right of the screen, it tells you that someone you know has an anniversary and I click ‘like’, or send them a message. I have no idea whether people are pleased by this, but it just seems like the right thing to do. I tend to only do it with colleagues and clients I know fairly well, but in my mind any sort of anniversary should be commended, and I also think it’s good practice to keep engaging with people, I’m constantly pleasantly surprised by how these little acts can lead to an interesting conversation or even a new job opportunity.

Writing Blogs

And finally we come to the best thing about LinkedIn. It is an avenue for thoughts. I don’t pretend to be a literary wizard (you have probably worked this out on your own if you have made it this far) but there is something very cathartic about jotting down some thoughts on a subject and having a place to store it (especially when the content on the newsfeed is such a compelling source of inspiration). If people read it, like it, share it – then that is fantastic (I do always glance at the charts of who has read each one – who doesn’t) but more than anything else it has developed a habit in me of regularly writing. Not emails, reports or financial controls. If it was not for LinkedIn blogs I would not have written anything ‘long form’ since school. It is a relaxing and rewarding experience. But more than that, the act of committing an idea to paper solidifies it in my mind – be it an approach to work; a new initiative for the office; or a way of working with a client – I have started (or stopped) a number of new actions as a product of spending a bit of time thinking about and writing about them.
So in a nutshell, in the last few months I have been properly using LinkedIn, I have found myself more informed about my industry; more connected to clients and colleagues; and more clear in my own thinking. I can truly say that I am a convert to LinkedIn.