At one time or another, we have all heard a speech from a colleague, friend or mentor about the importance of using LinkedIn. And they’re right, LinkedIn is a powerful tool for building your personal brand and promoting your accomplishments. But here’s the thing: there is a difference between simply having a profile on LinkedIn and actually knowing how to use it.

Over the last six months since my university graduation, I have been working diligently to create, nurture and grow my personal brand, and I’ve learned a few things about LinkedIn along the way. Here are a few of my dos and don’ts:

DO build a complete profile. List all work and volunteer experience that is relevant to your career path. (Unless you want to work with kids, leave out details of your babysitting days.) List your education and all of the clubs and societies you belonged to.

DON’T exaggerate or misrepresent your skills and experience. There is no shame in being a beginner, and stretching the truth can get you into hot water.

DO complete the summary portion of your profile. It is a great way for potential employers to get a quick snapshot of what you’re all about. If you’re unsure of what to write, read the summaries of people in your industry who you admire, and emulate their tone and language. Your summary depends on the space that you work in — if you’re in banking, your summary might be a no-nonsense listing of your skills. But if you’re a designer, it might be a little more quirky and personal.

DON’T send a connection request using the standard greeting. Ever. It comes across as lazy and impersonal. If you’re unsure of what to write, I like to use, “I would love to add you to my network, and I hope to connect in person again soon!” When adding someone you met at an event, always reference that event in your greeting. It helps them place you, and gives it a personal touch.

DO join groups! It shows that you’re plugged in to what is going on in your industry. Joining your alumni group is also a great way to network with your alma mater peers and hear about upcoming events.

DON’T apply for a new job before updating your profile. There is nothing worse than seeing that a potential employer has viewed your profile, and it wasn’t looking its best.

Despite what Amazon and Indigo might lead you to believe, there is no “official guide” to LinkedIn. There are no hard-and-fast rules. Just remember that these days, LinkedIn is often your first impression, and we all know you only get one of those!

LinkedIn Hints To Know

How are you using LinkedIn? Tell us in the comments!

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