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Alright, I'll make a profile--but how?

Now that I've (hopefully) convinced you to join LinkedIn, it's time to get started on your account. First things first. Go to www.linkedin.com and complete the registration process. Luckily, it's simple. You'll just need to input basic information like your name and email. (Click on each image for a close-up view.)

registration

Then, follow these steps to get the most out of your profile.

1) Add a photo

Upload a professional picture of yourself to your profile. This is a must. LinkedIn Career Expert Nicole Williams was quoted in an article by Forbes contributor Libby Kane saying your profile is seven times more likely to be viewed if you have a photo. Need I say more.

2) Get creative with your title

Your title appears directly beneath your name on your profile page. You can click on the blue pen next to the title space to edit it.

title

Many people (myself included) simply name their current position, but you can get more creative with your title if you like. For example, if you are currently unemployed and you're looking for a job as a social worker you could write "Passionate, experienced counselor seeking social work opportunity."

3) Write a good summary

The purpose of the summary is to sell yourself. You should use this section of your profile to convey your skills, qualifications, interests and beliefs to your network and your profile viewers. If you don't have a summary, it will appear to the viewer that you don't care enough about your work or about your career field to talk about it. Also, don't feel shy about giving it a personal touch. You want people to read about you, so make your summary interesting.

It's also easy to do. The summary appears just below your photo on your profile page. Click the blue "edit" button. Then start writing--and don't forget to hit "save" when you're done.

summary

4) Complete your profile

According to Business Insider contributor Sultan Camp, the only thing worse than not having a LinkedIn profile is an incomplete profile. For example, before you interview with a company, the hiring manager may look you up on LinkedIn. If your profile is incomplete, the hiring manager will already have the impression that you can't complete a task, and according to Camp, will expect others to pick up your slack. You can avoid this situation by taking the time to fill out the different sections on your profile: work experience, education, volunteer work, skills, coursework, awards, etc. You don't have to describe every place you've worked since you were 16, but you should write about jobs and list experiences relevant to your field of interest.

Below is a fuller screen caption of my profile--notice how in the right-hand side, I have some more sections like "Volunteering & Causes" to fill out. If I want to update them, all I have to do is click on the plus sign and start writing in the box that pops up. After I hit save, people will be able to view those sections on my profile.

volunteering

5) Customize your URL

You should customize your URL by making it simpler and incorporating your name. A custom URL will make it easier for people to search for your profile, and according to About.com contributor Alison Doyle, a custom URL will make it easier for recruiters and employers to remember your profile. Go to the "profile" option at the top of your homepage, click "edit profile" and then click "edit" next to your URL (located under your profile photo).

editurl

You will be directed to a box that says "customize your public profile URL"; click on it and type in the URL you want. Visit the LinkedIn Help Center for additional questions.

6) Now that you've joined LinkedIn--Join groups!

Joining groups on LinkedIn is a great way to stay up-to-date on the trends in your industry. You can engage other group members by posting questions on the group page, or you can share your knowledge by making comments and answering questions. This will also help you grow your network and build a list of contacts in your industry. To find groups, go to the search bar at the top of your page and select "groups" from the dropdown box. Then you can search for groups by typing in the group name or keywords. After you find a group you want to join, click the "join" button on the group's page.

groups

7) Spend time making your profile stand out

If you've followed steps 1 through 6, you've got the basics down, but you can always do more to give your profile that extra flair. For example, consider asking colleagues and previous employers to "recommend you" for the work you've done, especially if you're looking to change careers. Even if you are searching for a position in your current field, a recommendation on your profile will certainly make you more desirable to recruiters and potential employers.

Also, don't underestimate the importance of showcasing your work on LinkedIn. On your LinkedIn page, if you go to "edit profile" and then scroll down to view your experiences, you will see an image of a blue box next to, and below, each work experience. Click on it, and you can upload a file or provide a link to your work.

experience

Another way to showcase your work is with the "Projects" section, which allows you to upload a project file and add a description of it. Completing this section is going the extra mile, but you will be a more desirable connection for others in your industry.

projects

Following these steps and building the ideal profile takes work, but it shouldn't be an overwhelming task. Work on it in stages, and once you've got it where you want it, start making connections.

If you remember from Part 1 of this blog series, I was skeptical about joining LinkedIn. But since I joined, I've reconnected with old school friends and previous coworkers. I've learned about the current trends in my career field, and I have added contacts that I can reach out to for guidance or assistance. In my book, I've gained a lot from this free resource that I was able to update and edit whenever the mood struck me.

So if you're like me, and have an interest in learning different things, discovering new opportunities and increasing your professionalism, consider making LinkedIn a priority. You won't be disappointed.