Facebook is great for keeping up with friends and relatives. Instagram is good for sharing pictures of your dog. You can’t beat Pinterest for black-and-white photos of mason jars. And there is no better site than Livejournal for furries and live action roleplayers. But if you want to get a job or make a professional connection, most people head for Linkedin, the clunkiest looking but most necessary website for career networking on the Internet today.

“It’s been important for a number of years,” says Debra Wheatman, owner of Careers Done Write, a New York-based career coaching company. “Employers are doing more things online, and the first thing they do is they look at your Facebook page or your Linkedin, or other places where you have a social media presence. They want to learn about you, and those things are a window into who you are as a person. Recruiters will go to your Linkedin page like, immediately.”

Wheatman, a career development expert, will lead a free workshop at a meeting of the Professional Service Group of Mercer County, Friday, April 15, from 9:45 a.m. to noon at the Princeton Public Library. For more information, visit www.psgofmercercounty.org.

Out of all the social media sites, Wheatman says Linkedin is the most important for business connections. She spruces up Linked­in profiles for her business coaching clients and has a wealth of advice to offer on doing the same for yourself.

Boom, headshot: Since the headshot is the first thing anyone sees when visiting your profile, it is crucial to have a good, professional photo of yourself. “You can get it professionally done, but if you don’t want to spend the money, you can have someone take a picture with a phone against a neutral background,” she said.

“For men we generally recommend a jacket and button-down shirt. Some people choose to wear a tie also, and that’s fine. For women, a blouse with a jacket. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, it just has to be a picture where people can see your face and that you look like a happy, positive person.”

Headline: Right below the headshot is a headline, and that’s where many people make the mistake of just listing their latest job. But Wheatman said that space can be used much more effectively. “That section underneath your name is like free marketing,” Wheatman says. “How often do you get free marketing? Never. This is the perfect place to write something about your expertise and sell yourself a little bit.”

Wheatman’s own business profile is different than what she recommends for most people. Because she owns her own business, she put her website, phone number, and E-mail address in her headline. For others, a catchy description of their skills and abilities is what works best. For example: “Marketing expertise, delivering improved revenue and profit for clients in the healthcare space.”

Keep it up to date: If you’re in a steady job and not looking for work, that doesn’t mean you should ignore your Linkedin profile, Wheatman said. In the event of losing your job due to an unforeseen circumstance, having your profile all ready to go, and many connections established, will make your job search easier.

“Linkedin is not necessarily about your profile. It’s about maintaining and building an active network and a brand so that lots of people want to pursue you. The best job seekers are the ones who aren’t actually looking. The ideal is to be a passive job seeker so people come to you.”

Building the brand: Wheatman advises writing articles and blog posts to make yourself known as an expert in your field, and developing connections by engaging with other professionals. “People will know you for something specific and be more inclined to reach out to you based on what is available, given your background and experiences.”

Not a Resume: There are places on your Linkedin profile for job experience and education, much like a resume. But Wheatman advises against treating the profile like a resume. “A LinkedIn profile is supposed to be like an appetizer at a restaurant,” she said. The resume is the full meal.

Unprofessional connections: Wheatman said a common mistake people make is sending the default “I would like to add you to my professional network” message to potential connections. “It takes two seconds to write a short message,” Wheatman said. That message can be more direct, personal, and honest. A real message is better than an empty “connection” that has no real relationship behind it.

Wheatman was born in Queens, but grew up in New Jersey, where her father was in advertising and her mother sold real estate. She studied communications and journalism at Adelphi University with the intention of going into broadcast journalism.

But instead of becoming a news anchor, Wheatman discovered she had a talent working with people and making connections. “I’ve always been a big writer and a big public speaker,” she said. After working for a consulting company, Wheatman struck off on her own with her own firm that specializes in career advice.

She has found Linkedin to be a useful platform in her own career, and thinks that it can be an invaluable tool for most professionals — but only if they are proactive. “People are too passive on Linkedin,” she said. “You need to put some skin in the game, and you need to work a little bit and if you do, you will definitely yield a result.”

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