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Five LinkedIn Tips to Boost (or Start) Your Journalism Career

Behind FacebookMySpace (surprisingly), and TwitterLinkedIn has become one of the most talked-about social networks and the most popular online social network for professionals. LinkedIn had 70 million users in June 2010, and if used correctly, it can help professionals get and keep a job, something we all want, especially given the job market circumstances.

LinkedIn’s professional nature means it hasn’t yet outdone — and probably never will outdo — Facebook or Twitter in a sheer number of users. LinkedIn’s professional purpose just doesn’t lend itself to having more people than Facebook. However, the site’s comparatively smaller presence may actually be good. Having fewer users means decreased competition for attention, and in the current job market, anything to decrease competition is helpful.

LinkedIn’s Learning Center has plenty of resources for job seekers and journalists, but what about journalists and communicators seeking jobs? By following five tips, we communicators can achieve long-term LinkedIn — and career — success.

Research. Communications job seekers use LinkedIn to follow companies and employers of interest to familiarize themselves with the organization and its current employees. Knowing organizations in this way may help you decide if you actually want to apply to that new job posting they listed. It could also show you how you’re already connected to people currently employed with the organization.

Strengthen relationships. Find people you know, even those you may not have spoken with for a while. Do this by importing e-mail contacts or searching for names and narrowing results based on location, company, etc. Also, look at who your contacts are connected with; a lot of times you will know the same people they know.

Once you’ve got those established relationships, take them further by commenting politely on one of their home feed items or by sharing a story or article they might be interested in. Don’t be pushy, but politely let them know you’re thinking of them. In addition, if you’ve had a positive work experience with a connection, write him or her a recommendation. It’s a nice gesture and, as a bonus, people may be more likely to return the favor by positively recommending you.

Find new contacts. In addition to sharing valuable links and resources, join a few groups related to your employer, university, hometown, industry, or interest. Popular journalism and communications groups include the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass CommunicationSociety of Professional JournalistsOnline Reporters and Editors, and, of course, Journalistics. Once you belong to groups, get involved when you can by asking and answering questions. This brings us to the next point.

Prove your expertise. Proving your expertise will likely increase your network. Besides getting involved with groups, LinkedIn’s Answers section is a way to share your expertise by answering others’ questions. Also, many employers treat a LinkedIn profile as a sort of online résumé that highlights your skills and past experiences. Therefore, make sure your profile is complete, up-to-date, and rich in relevant keywords. If you’re not sure what keywords to use, try finding conduct a few searches Google AdWords and avoid cliché, overused words that will only make you sink among others.

Find and apply to jobs. LinkedIn uses your profile content to find relevant jobs for you and you can also search for jobs based on your own criteria. LinkedIn job searches beat other job board sites because you can usually see who posted the job, making it easier to address cover letters and other criteria to a specific person. Also, seeing this person allows you to do a bit of research on his or her professional background before applying.

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