Are You Making These 8 Embarrassing Mistakes on LinkedIn?

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LinkedIn can be an incredibly powerful tool for networking, expanding your contacts and even finding jobs, but it has its own unique etiquette land mines. Here are eight of the most common faux pas people make on LinkedIn – and how to make sure that you avoid them.

1. Sending generic connection requests. It was probably a mistake for LinkedIn to provide default text for the connection request emails sent through its system because many people don't bother to customize it. People who know you well might not mind receiving the default message, but if you're trying to connect with someone who may not even remember you, it's smarter to personalize the message and remind the person of how you know each other and why you're asking to connect. Plus, even if the person does remember you, you'll make a better impression and solidify the connection by writing something personalized.

2. Asking a contact who barely knows you to recommend you for a job. Recommending someone for a job is the equivalent of saying, "I have direct experience with this person's work and will put my own reputation on the line to vouch for it." Obviously, that's not the sort of thing that you have standing to ask of someone who barely knows you or your work. Plus, when you get a recommendation, you want it to be a glowing one, not a tepid "this person contacted me on LinkedIn." Similarly ...

3. Asking people who barely know you to write recommendations for your profile.Recommendations should speak with detail and nuance about your strengths. Asking someone who barely knows your work to write a recommendation for you puts the person in an awkward position, where they have to either shoulder the discomfort of turning you down or write something they can't truly stand by. Making people uncomfortable is never a good networking strategy, and any resulting recommendation is likely to be vague and unhelpful.

4. Overusing the "endorsements" feature. LinkedIn now lets you "endorse" other people for specific skills, which has led to an epidemic of endorsements based on no actual knowledge of the endorsee's skill set. Savvy users don't want their profiles crowded with things they have no real expertise in, so use a light touch with this feature (or don't use it at all since it doesn't carry real weight with most people).

5. Using an unprofessional photo. You don't need to pay a professional to take your photo, but it should be a professional-looking headshot. That means no beach photos and no strapless gowns. Additionally, your photo should just be of you, not you and your spouse or kids. Think of it this way: If you wouldn't include information about your kids on your business card or resume (and you should not), they don't belong on your LinkedIn page.

6. Filling your summary with subjective self-assessments. Calling yourself a "visionary leader," "charismatic communicator," "exceptional marketer" or other highly subjective self-assessments is likely to elicit eye rolls. If those things are true about you, it should be evidence from the accomplishments you list. Let others who know your work effusively praise you. It's not something that you credibly do yourself.

7. Mistaking LinkedIn for a dating site. Most people are on LinkedIn to manage their professional contacts and careers, not to be sized up as potential dates. If you use the site to hit on other users, you will creep people out. You might assume that this doesn't need to be said, but the legions of women who have received inappropriately flirtatious messages (or worse) through the site can unfortunately report otherwise.

8. Inflating your experience. It's bad enough to inflate your experience, skills and accomplishments on your resume. But when you do it on LinkedIn, people who know the truth will see it. If your co-workers or former co-workers look at your profile and see you reporting accomplishments or responsibilities that they know you didn't have much of a hand in, they will know that you're lying. It will destroy your credibility, possibly get you gossiped about and make people less likely to vouch for you in the future.
Keep it truthful.
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