Career-Crushing Mistakes You're Making on LinkedIn

LinkedIn profile
Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

Contrary to popular belief, LinkedIn isn't a company that exists to fill your spam folder with "invitations to connect" with people you barely know. In fact, you can utilize LinkedIn as a way to find a new job, expand your professional circle of contacts, and just plain make yourself look better in Google search results. And, as with anything on the Internet, odds are that you're doing it wrong -- with dire career consequences. That's why we spoke to Viveka von Rosen, founder of LinkedIntoBusiness.com, to find out common ways people mess up on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn profile
Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

Getting "clever" with your name

If you put your phone number, your email address, or "SEOExpertGenius#1" in the last-name field instead of your actual last name, you might as well make your screen name "Johnny Unemployable." "You look like a 1990s Internet marketer," von Rosen says. And since it won't help your career to be known as "Prodigy Guru" in 2015, you can also put any pertinent contact or work experience info in the Professional Headline field.
 

Having more than one account

Unless you have a clone and you want to give your clone the ability to make sick business connections, there is no need to have two accounts. Von Rosen says that sometimes people change jobs and create a new account, forgetting they created one years ago. The problem is that LinkedIn doesn't take kindly to the duplicates, and the company may ask you to choose one or the other.

If you do have two accounts active, the better choice would be to message their customer-support people and ask them to merge your accounts. The process won't be perfect (you might lose some recommendations in the process), but at least you won't look like you make a new profile every time you get a new job.
 

Not having a custom URL

Von Rosen says she often sees solid LinkedIn profiles that inexplicably don't have a custom URL. There's probably a good reason for that, and it's because LinkedIn doesn't make it easy to do. Lucky for you, von Rosen made a YouTube clip to show you how. And even better: once you have that custom URL, your LinkedIn profile will likely show up even higher in a browser's search results. Since you've taken the time to improve your profile with all this knowledge we've been dropping, you'll be glad even more people will be exposed to it.

LinkedIn profile
Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

Posting an inappropriate photo

If you're thinking, "Who would be dumb enough to put a selfie of themselves doing shots with a stripper on a website primarily used for making business connections?" then you're already smarter than many people von Rosen has seen on LinkedIn. "I've seen a bong in the background [of a photo] -- and not someone from Colorado, either," she says. Also not cool? Using your company's logo. Bottom line: "Put in a photo that represents you and is professional." Save your drinking heroics for your future company picnic.
 

Posting a profile... then ignoring it

Dedicating an hour or two to LinkedIn is like getting a check-up at the doctor -- it might not feel good, but it's in your best interest. "People are searching for you on Google, and your LinkedIn is often one of the first things that shows up," von Rosen says. "There are a lot of people who took 10 minutes four years ago to create a profile. They have jobs listed that they don't do anymore. They don't have a photo. It's worth it to take an hour or two to make sure your LinkedIn profile looks as good as your Facebook page."

You probably spend a lot of time on Facebook already, so taking a little time out to tinker with your LinkedIn profile could be a nice lift for your career. And the less time you spend looking for your fifth-grade girlfriend on Facebook, the better.
 

Spamming people you want to connect with

"Always customize an invitation [to connect]," von Rosen says. Otherwise people might think you're a spammer and block you. Unless you somehow reach out to Bill Hader in those Apple commercials, and then you'll get to be best friends with Bill Hader! But that probably won't happen. Von Rosen recommends looking at what groups and other commonalities you might have with that new person, and then customizing a message based on that.

Even better, ask someone in your network to introduce you to prospective future bosses. You can do this fairly easily using one of LinkedIn's built-in tools.

LinkedIn profile
Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

Ignoring invitations to connect

Missed connections aren't only experienced by Craigslist weirdos. While you don't have to accept everyone who invites you to connect (and you shouldn't, says van Rosen, because there are always scammers lurking on social networks), you're potentially leaving money on the table by overlooking opportunities to connect. And you'll never know if you have 1,200 invitations to connect sitting in your inbox. LinkedIn recommends you only connect with people you know, but von Rosen says that's bad business.

"You want to connect to people who make sense to you and your business," she says. "[They could be] a good prospect, vendor, or employer. They might be a good gateway person for job-seekers. They might not be the person who hires you, but they could know someone who can hire you. Gateway people are awesome to connect to."

Not taking relationships offline

The guy with a million Facebook friends and Twitter followers with no friends in real life is a sad, sad person. OK, probably a rich sad person. But a sad person nonetheless. Turns out that there's a LinkedIn equivalent to this person. "You've gotta take [your relationships] offline," von Rosen says. "You have to at least take it off LinkedIn and into a private email eventually. You've gotta take it to a phone call If you can."

If your connections just sit there and you don't do anything to follow up with them, they're pretty worthless as a business relationship.

Von Rosen says that when she talks to the people who do business on LinkedIn, all of them say they have at least had a phone call with the business contacts they met through the social network. Taking the active steps to create a real business relationship starts with a phone call or a personal email. Racking up those connections is a step in the right direction, but it's not the endgame.

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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and needs to update his profile. Follow him to custom URLs and unanswered connections: @LeeBreslouer.