Jane Scudder

You surely know by now that LinkedIn is one of the best networking, job search, research, and general professional growth tools out there. But how do you know if you’re using it right? Or maybe the most impactful, even if dramatic, way to think about it: How do you know if you’re using it wrong?

Here are 8 signs that you’re using the platform incorrectly:

1. No one is accepting your requests

If you meet someone in person and add him or her quickly (think within 48 hours) and you don’t get an acceptance within a week, maybe this person doesn't use LinkedIn all that much. But if this is a common trend (think this tends to happen to you a lot) it’s likely time to look at how you are adding people.

The #1 mistake I hear about (and see with connection requests) is not including a short note. This is an important piece because it offers context of who you are. It doesn’t need to be complicated; in fact, LinkedIn will prevent you from sending a note more than 300 characters. Something like this does the trick:

“Hi Michelle,

It was great meeting you at the Women & Work Event on Tuesday. I wanted to add you to my LI network.

- Sara”

2. You have fewer than 100 contacts

You gotta play to win. If you’re not actively adding people, or accepting requests, you’re simply not using the tool to its full capacity. If you are struggling with who you want to add, use the feature that pulls in your email contacts then add from there.

3. You’re not connected with your current or former colleagues

If you wait to add contacts after you leave a company you’re using LinkedIn wrong. I suggest people add real-time (no it does not give the impression that you’re looking for new work--it simply means you’re a thoughtful professional!)

4. You don’t have a picture

At its core LinkedIn is a social networking site. Photos are a central part of networking platforms. As a species we are visually oriented and a photo helps fuel this need. Not having a photo--and a photo viewable publically aka people who are not already your connections--is something you need to change immediately. (Seriously, if you still don’t stop reading this article and change that now.)

5. When you log-on you have to filter through loads of requests

What this means: It’s been too long since you’ve last logged on. If you have to wade through a series of requests you’re behind on your upkeep. Log on at least two or three times a week (if you’re in active job search mode it might be closer to once or twice a day) to keep your requests current, skim what thought leaders are saying, and see if there is any new relevant to companies you’re following or your areas of interest.

6. You don’t follow any thought leaders or companies

Along with staying connected with your network, LinkedIn enables you to stay connected with thought leaders in your industry as well as companies who you are interested in, admire, may want to work for one day—or who competes with your current company! To use the platform to its fullest capacity be sure to follow companies, organizations, and leaders.

7. You don’t have the app on your phone

Some people prefer to limit which apps they have on their phones, but if you’re a working professional with aspirations of growth the LI app should be on your phone and not only when you’re job searching!

8. You’ve never clicked on a stranger’s profile

Yes someone can see that you’ve viewed his or her profile; no it is not creepy. This is not Instagram alerting this person that you’ve viewed his or her story or accidently liked a photo from 3 years ago. This is LinkedIn--part of the point of this social networking site is to help you pique someone’s professional interest; one of the best ways to do this is to visit the profiles of people who are in similar fields, or a field you might be interested in!

If you fell into any of these “traps” take a moment and amp up your LI game! It’s often the small stuff like this that can help in the long run.


Jane Scudder is a certified leadership and personal development coach; she helps individuals and groups get unstuck. She builds and leads original workshops and training programs, consults with organizations of various sizes, and is Adjunct Faculty at Loyola University Chicago. Find out more at janescudder.com