LinkedIn can be a valuable tool for just about any professional, but—as with any such tool—there is a right way and a wrong way to go about using it. As a paralegal or court reporter, you should probably be on LinkedIn to expand your professional network and career opportunities. Use these six guidelines below to ensure you’re using LinkedIn properly, with an etiquette that reflects your professionalism and shows you mean business.
Invest in Your LinkedIn Profile
It’s really easy to write a bad LinkedIn profile. And sadly, many people do. Then what happens? Out of sight, out of mind… the poorly done profile sits there doing nothing to help that person expand their network or career.
Don’t be that guy. Take the time to write a professional profile that highlights your abilities and experience. You want someone to read your profile and think, “This person knows a thing or two; I think I should connect with him/her.” If you need help, you will find excellent pointers for writing your profile in this article at The Paralegal Society.
Use a Professional Profile Photo
A picture really is worth a thousand words. Your profile photo plays a large role in the first impression you’ll make because it is visual, and people absorb visual information much faster than written information. If you invest in your profile and it’s exceptionally well written, yet you lack a professional photo, you are diminishing the impact your written words will make. Use a quality, professional photo—not the one of you at your cousin’s wedding with your date cropped out, but an actual professional image.
Personalize Your Requests to Connect
When you want to connect with someone on LinkedIn, take 10 seconds to type a unique message. Do not use the default “I’d like to join your LinkedIn network.” Unless the person already knows you, this generic message doesn’t tell the other person why they should connect with you. You don’t have to write an essay, but do write one or two sentences as part of your request, stating why you think you and the other person should be connected. This is particularly important if you’re trying to connect with someone who doesn’t know you at all!
When you’re on the receiving end of a request to connect, respond when you can, but only accept those connections that make sense to you. Some people request to connect to just about everyone, and that doesn’t necessarily make them a practical connection for you.
Always Be Professional
LinkedIn is not Facebook (although some might argue that it’s starting to feel like it lately, but that’s a different post). You might connect to friends and family to get your connections jumpstarted, but remember that this social platform is about reaching out to those in your business network, not your personal network, so focus on finding the professional connections.
As you build your connections and start to post and share on LinkedIn, also remember to be professional in your comments and your content. This is not the place to mention your 2-year-old said a cute word. It is the place to share a worthwhile legal article, or to comment on another paralegal’s or court reporter’s post about something relevant to your field. This applies when sharing as well: Just because someone shared something on LinkedIn does not mean it was appropriate for LinkedIn, so share judiciously, being careful to only share content that reflects well on you and has relevance to your audience.
In addition, always use a professional tone when writing posts or comments, and thoroughly proofread what you write to ensure it’s error-free.
Be Picky About Recommendations
As with making and accepting connections, don’t recommend everyone who asks, and don’t ask everyone to recommend you. The recommendations are nice to have but they should be genuine. Also, if you’re going to ask someone to recommend you, be willing to write one in return—and to be sincere and professional in doing so.
Post Regularly but not Constantly
It’s not enough to just “be” on LinkedIn. You must participate too. And you do that by posting and commenting. So how often should you post? Ideally, if you can find something worth posting each day, then daily. But make sure your posts are meaningful and relevant to your particular legal audience. If you don’t have something to post, then don’t. Remember the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” The LinkedIn version of that is, “If you don’t have anything worthwhile to post, don’t post anything at all.”
On those days when you don’t post, make sure you still spend 15 minutes seeing what others have posted, liking and commenting as is appropriate for a paralegal or court reporter.
LinkedIn is like any other professional tool: It will only benefit you if you use it—correctly. Follow these six guidelines and you’ll improve the way you represent yourself in this professional forum, thereby increasing the chances of expanding your network and opportunities.