Too often, LinkedIn is an under-utilized social network. You set up your profile and then forget about it… until you find yourself looking for a new job. Then it’s a mad scramble to update your information and connect with long-lost friends who might be able to help you out.

But this is not the best way to use a powerful professional platform. Don’t make the mistake of putting time and effort into your LinkedIn presence only when you need something. Invest in building genuine connections over time, and look for ways you can provide value to others. And when you do need an introduction or a piece of advice, people will be happy to return the favor. Follow these four steps to improve your networking on LinkedIn.

Make Your Profile Memorable

According to Viveka von Rosen, author of LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day, 98% of recruiters and 85% of hiring managers use LinkedIn to find candidates. Your LinkedIn profile is your opportunity to make a great first impression.

Use a clear, professional headshot, and fill in all sections with easy-to-read, updated information. Take advantage of the headline and short summary at the top of your profile; use this space to sell your unique qualifications and attributes. Use industry-specific keywords in your descriptions, but avoid buzzwords and dense language. Write in a professional but conversational manner, and aim to make your profile compelling and readable.

Build Your Connections

Send invitations to people you know personally – friends, current colleagues, former coworkers, classmates, and industry contacts. Be intentional in how you connect with people you want to get to know better. Don’t send a hundred requests with generic messages; instead, select a few people and reach out to each with a personal note. Mention a mutual friend, a shared professional interest, or a specific reason you’d like to connect. There is value in fostering what research calls “weak connections.” LinkedIn’s data team found in a study that people are more likely to be referred for jobs by their second- and third-degree connections than by their first-degree connections.

Share Engaging Content

Stay top of mind among your connections by posting interesting content in your LinkedIn feed. Curate and share articles, studies, videos, or infographics that people in your network will find relevant. Occasionally include some of your own content – such as a blog post you wrote on an industry issue, or updates on a new project your company is working on. But focus on providing value for others, not just promoting yourself.

Utilize LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn offers a wealth of groups focused on industries, skills, and professional interests. Join a select number of groups and actively participate in them. Engage in conversations, offer thoughtful commentary, and be generous with your help and expertise. Focus on building a community within your groups.

Interested in learning more about networking and professional development? Check out York Solutions’ services.