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LinkedIn Tips and Traps - Step 2 - Account Settings 

Check critical LinkedIn account settings ...so that you receive job leads and requests to connect but have reasonable privacy.

- A paid LinkedIn membership is of little value over a free membership -- unless you are seeking sales leads or promoting a business. In an effort to sell you a paid membership, LinkedIn's system will say "You appeared in 4 searches this week" or "2 people viewed your profile" -- even for the most uninformative profile.

- Google yourself -- with your name in quotation marks -- to be sure you don't have a forgotten public LinkedIn account connected to former email address. If you have a common name, include "HP" as one of the Google search terms. Repeat the search with each employer you have ever had. Repeat if you have worked under another name. If you find a duplicate account, you can get it deleted or merged. An inactive account will stay on the system -- causing confusion and making you look careless -- until you delete it.

- If you don't already have an account, setting up a free account is easy -- and requires only name and email address to get started. Just keep skipping the steps pushing you to provide more information -- you can finish your profile later. To create a new account, start at the LinkedIn homepage.

- You can have multiple email addresses on your LinkedIn account. LinkedIn sends job leads, requests to connect, and some Group emails to your primary address. For most people, the primary address should be a personal email address. This ensures that you maintain control of your account through changes in employment, provides privacy, and avoids important emails being inadvertently discarded by a company firewall. In addition to your current work address, you can include former personal and work addresses on your account as secondary addresses -- so that LinkedIn members who know you by another address will be able to connect with you. Change LinkedIn email address      

- LinkedIn will regularly nag you to "see who you already know." This is an attempt  to gain access to your entire email address book. If you aren't careful, members report that LinkedIn will send several emails to every person or company you have ever sent an email to: church distribution list, city streetlight repair, former spouse, etc. -- all designed to look like personal notes from you asking to connect.
On the "Get started by adding your email address" screen, click the small "Skip this step" link in the lower right corner -- instead of the big "Continue" button in the center. (If you have already done that: How to Unlink Your LinkedIn Address Book )

- As with any online service, do not use a password on LinkedIn that you use for any other service. LinkedIn Corporation has been breached twice. LinkedIn does offer "Two-Step" verification -- texting a random code to your phone if you log in from an unrecognized device.

- Check that the "First Name" and "Last Name" fields are correct on your account -- so that you can be found. Don't get first and last reversed. It is even possible to wind up with a comma as your last name.<smile>

- Nothing on LinkedIn is private. The whole point of LinkedIn is to allow recruiters to search for candidates, salespeople to hunt for prospects, and people to connect with each other. Every LinkedIn member has basic search capabilities. Recruiters -- who may work for your current employer -- pay thousands of dollars per year for very powerful searching, tracking, and monitoring tools. At LinkedIn, you are not the customer, you are the product.

- As with any social medium, do not do anything on LinkedIn -- posts, group memberships, recommendations, or "likes" -- that you don't want your employer, managers, co-workers, competitors, or the media to see. Material from LinkedIn is increasingly showing up in news stories -- which may reflect unfavorably on a current or past employer -- and as evidence in legal cases. Employers can hire outside services to monitor their employees' LinkedIn activities for clues that an employee is considering leaving or to check for legal compliance issues.

- As you would expect, LinkedIn is a hunting ground for scammers -- fake recruiters and career consultants, "hidden job market" scams, questionable business opportunities -- not to mention harvesting personal info for identity theft.

- Be careful as to what you disclose about your work -- competitors, industrial spies, and foreign agents are searching too. Don't inadvertently disclose employer or client strategy, future products, or trade secrets -- or even project codenames. Applies to everyone -- a researcher can piece together a lot of intelligence about your employer by reading multiple LinkedIn profiles. People who work in sensitive roles -- finance, computer security, classified -- recommend special care in what you disclose on LinkedIn. Your current employer may be checking profiles -- or your employer may have rules about what you can disclose.

- People who work in sensitive roles -- finance, computer security, classified -- recommend taking special care on LinkedIn and other social media.

Check privacy settings 

Unless you change the defaults, LinkedIn exposes too much about you to identity thieves, spammers, and competitors.  (Details: Nothing on LinkedIn is really private.)

Click the pulldown arrow under your photo (next to "Me") and select "Settings & Privacy" then "Privacy."

1. Before updating your LinkedIn profile, click "Me" under your photo > "Settings & Privacy > "How others see your LinkedIn activity" in the left-hand menu > change "Share job changes, education changes, and work anniversaries from profile" to "No." Otherwise, LinkedIn will notify all your connections -- including managers and co-workers -- about every change with "Congratulate Mary Smith on the new position" if you have merely updated a position description.

2. To avoid exposing your list of clients to your connections, you may wish to change "Who can see your connections" to "Only you."

3. Depending on your level and role -- and depending on what you signed when you left your last employer -- you may wish to change "Sharing profile edits" to "No." Notifying your connections that you have a new employer may be viewed as solicitation of customers or as solicitation of former co-workers to join your new employer. These issues are being litigated. (No reports of this coming up with respect to HP or related companies.)

4. You can limit what shows up when people search for you online. (However, since almost every professional on the planet is a LinkedIn member with search capability, this doesn't provide much privacy.)

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Next step -- Profile:  Optimize your LinkedIn profile so that recruiters and hiring managers will find you.

Return to first article in this series: "LinkedIn Tips and Traps - How LinkedIn Really Works."

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