Is LinkedIn one of the first sites that you visit each day? If you're like me, it's not. (That is, up until this report! ☺) The reason for this is not because LinkedIn isn't valuable. Instead, it's just hard to make time for it, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and all the other sites that demand so much time.
Do you find yourself struggling to make time for LinkedIn? Let us know.
The site is often equated with finding a job, and while this is a very big part of LinkedIn, it's not everything. According to Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's Connections Director and founder of WORKS by Nicole Williams, the professional network should be viewed as a "career toolbox."
"Where it may end up being deemed as forgotten is that people don't realize how helpful it is in your day-to-day career development," she said. "LinkedIn is designed to help you in your career totality."
"It's not just to be used at the point in which you're looking at a job," Williams added.
As she pointed out, LinkedIn should be used in continuous career development. It's full of news, forums, and groups that could create valuable opportunities. The relationships and connections that are made on LinkedIn can play a significant role in helping people get into their desired careers.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are all useful in their own way, but they are very different from LinkedIn. Facebook, specifically, covers a user's entire life (especially once the new Timeline feature officially rolls out) from personal vacation pictures to fun activities and events that the user participates in.
LinkedIn, however, is different because it offers a professional forum to individuals. As Williams explained, it provides "distilled information," which is necessary for a professional environment. The company also has features such as LinkedIn Today that helps users stay up-to-date on industries they are interested in.
In addition, LinkedIn recently introduced a Volunteer Experience and Causes field to its service that allows users to display their charity inolvement right along with their work experience. Based on a survey the company conducted, 41 percent of the respondents said that they considered volunteer work just as valuable as paid work experience.
Williams told us that this new feature is especially beneficial in this economy, since so many people aren't able to work in jobs that are reflective of their true passions. The Causes field now allows them to actually get credit for their volunteer experience.
"You have to set yourself apart," said Williams. "What LinkedIn is hoping to do is allow people to set themselves apart by being able to offer up their volunteer work experience."
The truth is - there are a lot of ways to use LinkedIn that people aren't taking advantage of. According to Williams, LinkedIn Groups is a powerful means for people to connect with individuals not only in their industry but also in other industries that they are interested in. Groups also can give a user the opportunity to become a leader in their industry by participating in conversations.
"You can get exposed to people who are beyond your normal realm of influence and get to know people who may, in fact, get to be able to offer you something professionally; or, you may be able to offer them something professionally," she said.
Williams told us that, as a new mom, she is involved in several groups related to professional women and working moms. Through a conversation she had about being tired, she met a sleep coach and, after talking with her, hired her. She told us that the chances of them connecting in another way would have been extremely slim.
"If you can just engage in conversation and offer up tidbits of advice that prove that you're a legitimate, helpful individual, that may turn into a real business opportunity," Williams said.
She also said that LinkedIn would continue to build products that would enhance the lives of professionals and make it easier to connect with other professionals.
While it is difficult to keep up with all the social networks, Williams told us that LinkedIn should not be underutilized because it could really impact a person's career for the better.
After reading this, are you going to make more time for LinkedIn?