Dear Sam: I constantly receive LinkedIn requests to “connect” with people in my network and even some people I hardly know. I am not into social media and do not want to put myself out there for everyone to see—these people are not friends of mine—but I am also hearing that I have to be active on LinkedIn as I am conducting a job search. Can you tell me what I should and perhaps should not be worrying about? – Steve

Dear Steve: LinkedIn is an incredibly valuable professional networking forum. It not only provides you with the opportunity to deepen existing network connections, but to capitalize on the networks of others in order to broaden your reach. How can this be helpful in a job search? Well, if you search LinkedIn for network connections that could prove influential in your search, chances are the larger your network the higher the possibility you may have an influencer or even a decision maker within your reach. Here are some tips that may prove helpful as you leverage the power of LinkedIn during your job search.

  1. You can be somewhat stealthy on LinkedIn, meaning you can remain anonymous when searching other profiles, you can turn off activity broadcasts so your network does not get alerted to any activity on your account, and you can even block select connections from seeing your profile at all.
  2. Accept those connection requests to expand your network and broaden your reach. LinkedIn “connections” are not akin to Facebook “friends.” Do not think that accepting a connection request means you have a personal connection with the individual; in fact, you may not even really know him/her. Instead, accepting a connection request means, “Thank you for access to your network, and if my network can be of assistance to you, I am happy to reciprocate.”
  3. Seek recommendations and endorsements of top skills. There are tools built into LinkedIn that let you easily request recommendations from those in your network. Having recommendations attached to your past experiences adds value beyond what your résumé can typically convey and provides instant third-party credibility to your claims. I will caution you, however, not to reciprocate those recommendations. You want to have far more “recommendations received” than “recommendations given”; otherwise, your recommendations look a little disingenuous.

I hope these tips make you feel more comfortable when using LinkedIn and when accepting those connection requests. LinkedIn provides free webinars for job seekers; I suggest you check those out.