Like many people these days, I have a Facebook account, which I mostly use to stay connected with high school chums and other friends.
In the last six months, though, I've also established a professional online presence through LinkedIn.com, a popular career-oriented network. (The site has 13 million members, who can establish a personal account free. LinkedIn charges fees for extended services.)
While it's nice to reconnect with old co-workers and see what they're up to career-wise, the idea behind LinkedIn is to help professionals advance their careers.
So, I asked Kay Luo, LinkedIn's director of corporate communications, for tips on getting the most out of the network.
With so much information available on the Web, this is a way of establishing your digital identity on your terms.
"It's a way to brag without bragging," Luo says.
First, you need to create a profile that represents your work and your career passions. Don't leave your profile sparse, Luo says.
Besides listing your current and past employers as well as education and other professional experience, briefly describe each work experience in a conversational tone. Your profile should not be a cut-and-paste job of your resume, Luo says.
Having a descriptive and full profile helps headhunters and recruiters find you. Even though you may not be actively looking for a job, Luo says companies are always looking for candidates with specific skills and experience or even at specific competitors.
I've read several stories of folks who have found their jobs through LinkedIn.
"It's a great directory to be in just in case your dream job is out there, and they're looking for you," Luo says.
You also could use the search function to find experts or executives at companies you're interested in. I've had success in this area: I found a source for an article on video resumes.
Another way to spruce up your profile is to add a pitch about yourself under the summary section to engage readers, Luo says.
Take a look at Luo's profile at www.linkedin.com/in/kayluo. You could tell she's having fun, but she's still professional.
Remember, the online network is not a popularity contest. You only need 20 to 30 connections to establish visibility, according to Luo.
I've heeded Luo's advice, so check out my profile at www.linkedin.com/in/hanahcho and tell me your thoughts and whether you've had success with LinkedIn.
Send your stories, tips and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and your city. On the Job is published Monday at www.baltimoresun.com