LinkedIn can be a valuable means of networking with other professionals - and prospective employers - in one's field. When one of my friends began to build his LinkedIn profile, his boss called him into his office and began asking him questions that aimed at finding out if he was looking for another job. In fact, my friend wasn't looking for a new job but simply looking to network and branch out within his business and field.
There are important ways that LinkedIn can be used when one is not in the middle of a job hunt, and I don't think that this is something enough people realize. Cheryl Howard makes some great points about why networking on sites like LinkedIn is valuable, regardless of your employment status.
Learn more about your industry and/or profession: Thousands of groups exist on LinkedIn, many of which have discussion boards that offer great forums for dialogue between people with careers and/or similar interests.
Promote your company and yourself: "People use LinkedIn as an information source. You might receive inquiries from people who are interested in working for your company, curious about your company's products or even looking for an industry expert," Howard points out. Use of LinkedIn to do things like share ideas also makes you more visible within your own company.
Network within your own business: LinkedIn allows employees to become more familiar with one another. It can also be a vehicle for discovering "'skills and other areas of hidden expertise.'"
As Howard points out, "the best time to network is when you don't have to." Personally, I like using LinkedIn because it shows a glimpse of how I got to be where I am, gives a complete view of what I'm involved with and allows me to make meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships with others in my field. I also like having a group of people who know what they're talking about that I could turn to for support, advice and expertise in the future, and I hope that maybe I could do the same for them. In what ways do you use LinkedIn to connect with others besides to look for a job?