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LinkedIn Tips and Traps - Step 5 - Networking 

Using LinkedIn's networking features:  to find former co-workers who know you and your work.

- LinkedIn suggests "People you may know" -- based on where and when you worked and your connections in common. The suggestions are uncanny -- and actually fun.

Unless you are seeking sales leads, only send invitations to people you really know. If too many invitations are not accepted, LinkedIn's system will restrict your ability to send more invitations.

- 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 do, LinkedIn will send several request-to-connect emails under your name to every person and company you have ever corresponded with -- dog-sitter, city streetlight repair, etc. (If you have already done that: How to Unlink Your LinkedIn Address Book )

- Try joining the LinkedIn professional networking groups related to each former employer that fit your location and career. (Groups are operated by informal groups of alumni around the world.) LinkedIn has changed how Groups work, making many of them much less useful.

- Try joining the LinkedIn groups related to your interests. Click the LinkedIn logo in the upper left corner. Enter the topic in the search window. Click the magnifying glass. Select "Groups" from the row of links below the window. LinkedIn has changed how Groups work, making many of them much less useful.

- Accepting invitations to connect. Unless you are seeking sales leads, only accept LinkedIn invitations from people you really know. Forbes career columnist Liz Ryan has an example that went badly wrong. If you don't immediately recognize the person, check their profile. Lots of fake members on LinkedIn -- often posing as recruiters. Fakes generally have profiles cut-and-pasted from real members -- usually obvious if you scroll through the entire profile. Scroll down to "See all" at the very bottom of the profile and click "Groups." If there is a random list of large, unrelated groups, they are a fake. They often have glamorous photos copied from the Web. If using Chrome, right click on the photo and select "Search Google for image." There she is, Miss Louisiana!

- Sending invitations to connect. Depending on your level and role -- and depending on what you signed when you left your last employer -- you may want to be careful about sending connection invitations to former co-workers. This may be viewed as a solicitation to join your new employer. These issues are being litigated. (We've had no reports of this coming up with respect to HP or related companies.)

- Check the companies you are following. The 50-employee "EDS" outsourcing company with a red logo -- actually "Egyptian Document Storage" -- inexplicably has 2,600 followers on LinkedIn.

- Adjust the notifications in your "LinkedIn Updates" emails. Some of the seven default "Updates about your network" settings will suggest things that may not be a good idea -- or bury the information you want in notifications that are not useful. For example, leaving "Work anniversaries" set to "On" will get you notes like "John Smith is celebrating 30 years at Hewlett-Packard. Congratulate John" -- which may be based on a profile that they haven't updated since their WFR. If you send a message via LinkedIn, be sure to substitute your own wording for the default wording. If a connection changes their profile to "Looking for new opportunities" -- the canned suggestion is "Congratulations on your new position!"

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Next step -- Emails:  Get the emails you want LinkedIn sends you emails you don't want -- and doesn't send you emails you do want.

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

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