I've started using LinkedIn again recently, after a period of relative inactivity. In the process, I've invited people to join and gotten involved in the standard "how do I use this" discussions. I thought it might be useful to present this information here for a wider audience.
The first question about LinkedIn is usually, "what are you going to do with it? "
I suggest that it’s ideal for
1) being found by people that know you
2) keeping in touch with people that you know (as they move about and you lose their contact info),
3) adding people as you meet them (more likely linking with those that are already in there), and
4) finding people you don’t know, but want to
To address 1) – add full detail to your profile, including every job (for instance that college job or interim project), that people might try and find you by. Also add full educational details, to serve those you met at college etc.
When you’ve done that, you can work on 2). Company names, keywords etc. are hyperlinked in LinkedIn, so that you can search directly from some of your keywords (college, jobs etc) to find all of the members that were there too.
LinkedIn also offers a "Connect with former colleagues" function, which is hosted on the user Home page. Using the company names in your profile, it offers a list of people who also worked at those companies and a quick method of connecting with them. LI keeps track of these searches and then offers only members that joined since you last checked. Repeat occasionally.
3) can be active, passive or combined
Active: If you want you can upload your Outlook address book into LI – you’ll need the LinkedIn toolbar for outlook – and manage invitations to anyone in your contact list. That might work well for college people, direct colleagues and people you know well. I’d suggest writing your own standard invitation, as it works better than the spam-like standard texts in LI itself.
You'll find the Outlook toolbar here, as well as somme cool browser tools, that recognises anyone in your network while you're browsing web sites etc.
Passive: suggest linking to people you meet, when they tell you that they use LinkedIn. Some people put the link into their e-mail signature, like this : I’m LinkedIn:https://www.linkedin.com/e/fpf/126026
Active/Passive mixture: Join some of the LinkedIn related Forums and just “hang out”.
(You’ll need to set up some filters in Outlook, as these groups are very active and you’ll probably want to divert all mail from the forums to a special folder. Also a separate e-mail is useful, because – unlike LinkedIn itself – your email does appear in the forum postings!)
If you post an introduction “Hi, I’m ... and I’m new here. I work in … and I’m interested in linking with people who…”, you’ll get invitations to connect – especially from the so-called mega-connecters (guys with >10000 connections). These guys might no be of any direct benefit to you, but they do increase your indirect network dramatically – which means you can find and connect to much more people for free.
If you get invites that you don’t want or from people you don’t recognise, I find that a “neither your invitation text nor your profile gives any indication of why we should connect. Do you have a specific opportunity in mind?” e-mail, generally works well. Most people then explain why they think a connection might make sense and then you can decide whether to accept or not.
Number 4) is done simply by using the search functionality within LI – but unless you pay extra (which I don’t recommend initially) then you can only search within 3 degrees of connectedness – hence the need to grow your network.