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Most successful senior leaders today will tell you they became well-established and connected in their fields through years of hard work, continuous learning, making deals and focused networking. To this generation, spending time and energy to develop a good-looking, online professional profile can feel unnecessary, faddish, juvenile or even vain.

I couldn't disagree more. In the same way that I advise today's rising young executives to value face-to-face networking opportunities and meetings, I also implore senior executives and managers to embrace the opportunities that online networks create for us all.

The bottom line is every business leader should absolutely have a LinkedIn Profile.
Here are some of the reasons why:

1. It Ensures That "You" Are Found.
The reality is people who want to know more about you are going to look for you on the Internet. Because Google considers LinkedIn a credible information source, LinkedIn profile pages rank very highly in Google searches. Your LinkedIn profile page will likely outperform other, more piecemeal, web results your name search might prompt. If you have a LinkedIn profile and someone searches for you, that profile will likely be the first impression that searcher has of you. It's a professional, accredited forum that showcases your career highlights and skills. Not a bad place to start.
2. It Offers Professional Ways To Reach Out Online.
LinkedIn offers unique, professional options for getting the attention of users that are not in your network. Unlike other social platforms, reaching out to people you don't know is expected and encouraged. You can send messages to people to whom you aren't connected to without getting flagged as "spam." Users will also receive alerts with links to your profile when you view theirs - a neat, deliberate way to leave them your calling card. You can also join groups and follow publications that relate to your field of expertise.
3. Your Network Matters.
When you edit your profile, you have the opportunity to select a list of keywords that convey your areas of knowledge and expertise. The more people to whom you are connected to with keywords that match your own, the higher your profile will rank in search results when people search for those keywords.
4. You Can Set An Example.
The majority of the young people in your company or industry probably use LinkedIn to scout out their next career move, establish contacts, share work and self-promote. As a leader in your company, you represent a valuable resource to them. Sharing a list of your career highlights, educational experiences, connections and bio provides inspiration, direction and motivation for these future leaders. By making yourself "available", you set an example and make yourself accessible. It also sets an example to your management team, i.e. to put a professional foot forward and establish themselves as online leaders as well. That's just good for business.

Find A Recent Tutorial, And Get Started

So LinkedIn sounds like a great idea, right? But of course, just because you want a great LinkedIn Profile doesn't mean you're confident in your ability to set it up. Be assured, there are numerous online resources that will walk you through the steps for setting up your profile. (Slideshare, YouTube and many tech magazines are great places to search.)

Because the LinkedIn network continually develops and evolves, make sure you're working from an up-to-date tutorial. Anything older than six months might be missing key information. Four rules that have held true from the beginning and will likely stand the test of time:

1. Complete the profile. In particular, make sure your biography, a detailed list of your career highlights and education are included.
2. Use a professional head shot. This may seem obvious, but a quick perusal through LinkedIn reveals that not all individuals feel the need to include a photograph at all, and sometimes those who do choose a picture that is simply inappropriate. Do not include an image of yourself and someone else in your profile photograph. Skip the sunglasses and the holiday background too. Have a professional photographer capture you at your best.
3. Keep it Professional. Do not include personal/family details in your profile, and make sure that information about special interests and hobbies is minimal. Do publish as much work-related content as possible.
4. Write a great headline. Beyond including a succinct description about what you do and what your objectives are, create a headline that is memorable and eloquently sums up your professional brand.

While we all need to nurture business relationships in face-to-face settings, delaying to establish a professional online profile in today's business environment is simply unwise.
Digital connections are important, and LinkedIn is a good platform on which to achieve a necessary degree of professional digital connectivity. When used properly, LinkedIn can be an excellent tool to network with others. Be sure to keep these points in mind so you will be able to leverage it to its full potential.

Contributed by Ira Bass, Connect For Success


Larry Hart

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