Created: Thursday, 24 March 2016 12:00 

According to IHS Engineering360‘s 2015 SOCIAL MEDIA USE IN
THE INDUSTRIAL SECTOR report, “66% of engineers and technical professionals” use LinkedIn. Among 18-34 year old engineers, this number increases to 71%. Do you know who else is on LinkedIn?

Your boss, some of your colleagues, present/potential customers, and even….your future boss.

Since LinkedIn is a professional social network, having a profile here makes you more visible and gives you more credibility with your professional network. While it’s true that the best action for your career is simply to work hard, this goes back to the whole “if a tree falls in a forest, but no one hears it, does it still make a sound” question. If you work hard, but no one can see what you’ve accomplished….you see where this is going.

As such, we’re going to guide you through LinkedIn in 10 steps.

  1. Fill in your name, job title and choose an industry
    Sounds simple, right? That’s because it is. You can use the job title you currently have, or if you’re in transition, you can choose something that you’re aspiring to. For example, you might be a “Junior Engineer at ABC Consulting” or you may be an “Engineering Consultant and Aspiring PEng”. For your industry and location, you might choose a country like “Canada” or choose the city where you work. You can then pick the industry in which you work or the industry you’d like to work in.
  2. Upload a professional picture
    This step is very, very important. If a client met you once and they’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn, they want to know that the person they’re adding is in fact, YOU, and not another Joseph Brown. You can have a professional headshot taken, or you can ask a friend with a good camera to take a picture of your head and shoulders. Now, the way you’re dressed and your facial expression depends on the industry you work in – you will know best what is appropriate and acceptable in your industry.
  3. Complete your summary
    Summarize your experience, accomplishments and where you’d like to grow in your “Summary” section. You can attach photographs and other files to showcase different accomplishments as well. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at what your boss, your boss’s boss or an influential client has written here for inspiration.
  4. Fill out your experience section
    This section is kind of like your online resume. Recruiters might check this section out to see if you can fill a position they have in mind. Potential clients might take a look to see if you fit their image of “competency”. Take your time with this section and when you’re finished with it, edit through it ruthlessly. Ask a friend to edit it. Ask another friend in a non-technical field to read it. That important client? He/she may not necessarily be a technical person. If he/she is a decision-maker, though, you will need to ensure that your experience makes sense to him/her as well as to the engineers he/she manages.

    Ask your non-technical friends to read through your profile and tell you if there’s anything they don’t understand.

  5. Describe your educational background
    This one is self-explanatory – list the schools/programs you attended. You can also list any awards you may have obtained.
  6. Extra sections
    LinkedIn has many optional sections that you can choose to fill in. For example, “Certifications” and “Projects” are often useful sections for engineers and other technical folks. If you’re proud of a particular project, showcase it!
  7. Ask for recommendations
    You’ve gone through all of these steps and that last project you completed was phenomenal. Your team finished 1 week ahead of schedule, 10% under budget, and your client is planning to name his first child after you. Now’s the time to ask for a recommendation for your work. When it comes time to talk about promotions, you will have a beautifully laid out online “portfolio” filled with project details and praise from your clients, coworkers and, perhaps, even your boss.
  8. Join groups and contribute 
    There are hundreds of LinkedIn groups for millions of different people. Some groups will be more useful to you than others. Check them out and join the ones that matter to you or your industry. Contribute in discussions and become a “subject matter expert” on something you’re passionate about. You can also be the first to spot emerging trends in your industry and choose how you want to act.
  9. Add friends, colleagues, clients to your network
    We’re back to the “falling tree in the forest” metaphor. If you have a beautiful profile, but no one sees it…yes, we know. You’re getting sick of this metaphor. Last time, we promise.Send invitations to friends and colleagues first, and personalize your message. If you’re concerned that your boss might worry that you’re looking for a job, persuade him/her that you’re just establishing your professional profile and that this will increase credibility for you AND your firm. Once you have a nice group going, start inviting other people you’d really like to stay in touch with.

    Sample messages:
    Hi Sara, It was a pleasure to work with you on Project XYZ. Your team did an awesome job of ___________. Please keep in touch and I hope to work with you again in the future.

    Hi Bob, Thank you again for _____________. Your thoughts on _(engineering problem)_ were very insightful. I’m really looking forward to working with you on Project ABC. Please accept this invitation to connect on LinkedIn.

    These samples aren’t perfect, but they might be a good place to start. Keep your invitation simple and remind them why they’d want to connect with you.

  10. Post updates or publish articles on LinkedIn Pulse
    If you’re attending an event like the Rochester Engineering Symposium in April, tell your network about it. Perhaps a former colleague is also attending and you can make plans to catch up. A client who is considering your firm’s services might also see this and carve out some time to meet you. You can publish an article on something you learned (perhaps while attending our early morning cable bus presentation *end of shameless plug*) that was interesting on LinkedIn Pulse and share that knowledge with your network too.

LinkedIn is a great place to connect with other engineering and non-engineering professionals. Follow these steps to set up or optimize your profile. Next week, we’ll publish a post about LinkedIn company pages for small and not-so-small engineering firms. In the meantime, please feel free to connect with us on our LinkedIn page:

*Disclaimer: Please make sure that you are adhering to any non-disclosure agreements you may have signed with your clients/employer when you write about your experiences.