LinkedIn is essential for a successful job search today. But, it is very public -- that's the reason we all join it.
Many employers understand that having their employees join LinkedIn and actively participate is a benefit to their business, bringing it both more visibility and, hopefully, more credibility. [Read How Your Employer Benefits from Your LinkedIn Activities for more details.]
Employers also use LinkedIn to find and recruit new employees which is LinkedIn's main revenue stream.
As a result, employers also see the "flight risk" that results from employee LinkedIn membership.
Because they don't want to lose good employees, many employers monitor employee activities as part of the process of tracking and managing the company's LinkedIn visibility.
This corporate monitoring of LinkedIn creates a risk for those employees who are in job search mode, because they may be terminated if the employer discovers their job search.
Your employer may view a dramatic increase in your LinkedIn activities as a sign that you are job hunting. Which can lead to job loss. So, don't ramp up your LinkedIn activities dramatically. Instead, increase your activity (and, consequently, your visibility) slowly and carefully. [Read 3 Ways to Update Your LinkedIn Profile Unobtrusively for more information.]
At a minimum, you need to have a complete ("All Star") Profile. Use LinkedIn to expand your network, sharing good information about your employer's products and/or services and your industry and profession.
Also use LinkedIn to get in touch former colleagues and old friends and to meet new potential clients, all to help them improve their job performance and to promote your employer's products or services.
Once you have a new job, don't drop LinkedIn. It may well help you be more successful in your work. But, best of all, your next job might find you on LinkedIn, unless it is obvious that you have dropped out and are not paying attention to LinkedIn.
Some employers do not want their employees using social media, particularly during working hours and/or using the employer's computers, networks, etc. Check for a "Social Media Use" policy (or an "Internet Use" policy), to be sure that you are in compliance.
So, being in LinkedIn can also mean you are a savvy business person, leveraging current technology to improve your ability to do your existing job better, through better networking, staying up-to-date with your field and industry, and learning new skills. [Read 10 Steps to Better Ranking in LinkedIn Searches for more information.]
If you are employed, keep a low profile for your job search:
However, if no one else is in LinkedIn, don't take that as a sign that you have free rein to do anything you want! Someone from your current employer could join, and expect to "connect" with you. I've even heard of clueless recruiters checking out a potential job candidate by contacting the candidate's current employer via LinkedIn. So do be active, but also be very careful!
[MORE: Stealth Job Search Networking .]
LinkedIn is a big help for your career, your employer, and – when you are ready – your job search. Participate regularly, and it will pay off for you. And don't quit using LinkedIn when you have landed your new job!
If you have the option to stay employed while you are job hunting, do that. You are much more attractive to an employer when you are still employed. Not logical, but very human (here's why).
Keep your Profile ready for that next job search, unless your new job finds you first (on LinkedIn).
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.