LinkedIn is the largest professional network on the Internet, and an increasing number of users are finding it an effective tool in job searches, networking and hiring.
Rebecca Plankey, the director of marketing and business development at Augusta’s Serotta Maddox Evans CPAs, said LinkedIn has helped her to connect with prospective clients, learn about referrals before meeting them and stay in touch with people.
“Having that dialogue is invaluable to me,” she said.
There are more than 161 million members in 200 countries and territories, and the site functions in 17 languages. LinkedIn works as an online database of professionals’ profiles, which are made up of an individual’s work history, education, recommendations, skills and expertise. The site launched in 2003.
Melissa Furman, assistant dean at Augusta State University’s Hull College of Business, said she uses LinkedIn regularly but it may be a few years before it becomes a tool for the Augusta economy. When she worked in Baltimore and Atlanta, LinkedIn was a tool used to connect within industries and communities and recruit for open positions. In the Augusta area, Furman has not seen that happen as much.
“Here in Augusta, we’re still a little behind the times,” she said. “If I have any students looking for jobs in large metropolitan areas, being on LinkedIn is a must.”
Furman has found LinkedIn to be useful in learning about other professionals before interacting. Some of those connections have led to valuable professional relationships, Furman said, even resulting in jobs.
Headhunters and professional recruiters also use LinkedIn, searching by keyword to find professionals who have kept their information current.
“The best talent is not unemployed,” she said. “There are recruiters on LinkedIn every day, and they like people on LinkedIn because it shows they’re engaged and excited about their industry and staying connected.”
Plankey joined LinkedIn more than three years ago, but getting to where she is today with it was a gradual process. Her profile includes her résumé, work history and education, contact information and awards and honors.
“I get out what I put in,” she said. “By keeping my information up to date, I feel like I’ve been able to connect with a lot of people.”
The site offers an expanded subscription starting at $39.95 per month, giving recruiters access to more search filters, e-mail alerts when new professionals join the site, reference verification and more. LinkedIn’s recruiter solutions is the biggest business line within the company, according to company spokeswoman Erin O’Harra.
LinkedIn continues to develop new options for other categories of users, such as job seekers and sales professionals, tailored to fit each category’s needs.
“Our mission is to help professionals be productive and succesful,” she said.
From building the initial profile to joining groups and connecting with colleagues, O’Harra said the site can help professionals at any level and in any industry do their job more effectively.
“It’s useful for anyone from a small business owner to a Fortune 500 CEO,” she said.
LinkedIn counts executives from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies as members.