By Anusha Shrivastava, Ph.D.

  Creating a robust LinkedIn profile should be top of mind even before you start looking for a job. That’s because you are best off having a presence on this professional networking site long before you press the accelerator in terms of job-hunting.

  The site offers more space than a one-page resume so you can expand on the descriptions of your achievements, projects and skills. You should also add links to your website and publications. With a professional-looking picture, a well-thought out summary, some strong recommendations and a fully updated profile, your game will be on.

  Your LinkedIn profile helps build credibility around your professional expertise so you must get recommendations from people you have worked for. You could also request your professors to recommend you. Ask them to give specifics about the projects you worked on together. The more detail there is in these recommendations, the more weight they will carry. People tend to ignore generic recommendations.

  Recruiters reach out to potential candidates on LinkedIn so be sure that everything about your profile is professional. Unlike Facebook and other social media sites, no one really wants to see your party and travel pictures on LinkedIn. In fact, it would be inappropriate to post those on LinkedIn. Treat LinkedIn like the work-related tool it is. This is how users think of it. Plus, you will find that colleagues may hesitate to connect with you on Facebook but they will likely not decline an invite to connect on LinkedIn.

  Once you’ve connected, you can track their careers and if you ever happen to be looking for a job at the company they are working at, you can easily ask them what their experience has been. Research about a company becomes easier, too. You can figure out what the reporting structure is.

  You can also reach out to alumni via LinkedIn so treat the site as a meeting ground of sorts. Share what you are good at and reach out to those who will appreciate your experience and skills.

  Before you attend a conference, be sure to click through the LinkedIn profile of the speakers so you know what connection you may have with them. This could help you start a conversation when you meet them at a networking event. On a regular basis, you should connect with new professional contacts and read about their career history. Pay special attention to how they’ve described their skills and experience. This can help you find the most appropriate words to describe yours.

  Scan LinkedIn job listings to know what kinds of jobs are on offer. Pick out keywords to insert in your summary. You should also make the effort to join groups relevant to your job search. Discussion boards within these groups are a good place to pose challenging problems. You may end up getting a response with a solution! Follow the companies you aspire to work at on LinkedIn. It will demonstrate your interest in those firms.

  If you avoid LinkedIn or aren’t on it, not only will it be the loss of an opportunity, it will also seem suspicious, amateurish and unprofessional. Everyone is, after all, on LinkedIn for the same reason: to further their career goals.