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If you’re like most of us, you have a LinkedIn account and accept the occasional connection request—but not much else. Here’s how to really use the networking site.

Odds are that you’re one of LinkedIn’s 150 million users. But are you using it right? Texas Exes Career Services Director Jennifer Duncan says the world’s top professional networking site can be far more than just a resume gallery.

“Even if Facebook and Twitter aren’t for you, you should be on LinkedIn,” Duncan says. “It’s a powerful networking tool when used right.”

Here are five things you can do to make LinkedIn work for you.

Join Groups

Like, ahem, the 36,519-member Texas Exes LinkedIn group. With 18 subgroups for industries ranging from geosciences to green jobs, this is an invaluable resource. Try the advanced search option to find alumni in your region or industry. And seek out other groups by skimming the profiles of your connections.

Use it as a Springboard

LinkedIn doesn’t allow direct messages or emails to new contacts, but the Texas Exes Alumni Directory does—so copy a name from LinkedIn and paste it into the directory. You can also try looking in your groups for in-person networking or professional events in your area.

Get Coffee

Online connections are only valuable when they move offline. So if you find a fellow Longhorn in your dream position, send a short, specific message: “I’m a Texas computer science grad. I’d love to discuss the video game industry in Austin over coffee.”

Use Activity Broadcasts with Caution

LinkedIn’s default is to tell all your contacts whenever you change any aspect of your profile. If you’re stealthily job-searching while employed—or if you don’t want to share that you’re newly unemployed—go to your account settings and turn those notifications off.

Be Active, Not passive

Schedule a few minutes every week to use LinkedIn. Share news as a status update, scan your contacts to see if there’s someone you haven’t talked to in a while, ask and answer career questions in your groups, and make sure all your info is up to date.

Photo courtesy iStockPhoto.

 

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