1. Create a bold headline
Your professional headline is below your name on your profile. By default, your current job title will fill that 120-character space. "If you're job hunting, I would recommend saying, 'Looking for opportunities X, Y and Z,' " says LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher, who is responsible for educating consumers on how to best use LinkedIn "It signals to people that you're on the market." If you are openly and actively seeking work, you can also put something in your summary section saying that you are looking for a particular position.
You should also have a current, professional photo as well as a custom LinkedIn URL. To create one, click on "edit profile" and change the URL to: www.linkedin.com/in/yourname. Include that address on your résumé, cover letter and the bottom signature line of your outgoing email.
2. Create your career story
"Employers are looking for a snapshot of your accomplishments, your skills and your employment history," Fisher says. Use the summary category to show what your career trajectory is and write it in a conversational voice. This is your chance to give your elevator speech in written form.
See also: Create your own personal business brand
In the experience section, list your job title, followed by the name of the company, with a one-line description of that business; then list the specific responsibilities of a position in a bulleted format with active verbs. You can also add a results section that describes specific accomplishments. Fleshing out this section with awards, images or presentations is also an option.
3. Fill out your volunteer experience section
If you have significant and relevant volunteer experience, you can add that in the work experience and summary sections, too. It can help you stand out from other similar candidates.
4. Highlight transferable skills
While you may tailor your paper résumé to a specific job you're applying for, on LinkedIn you can have only one profile. In the summary section, you need to be clear that you have transferable skills that can work in a range of positions and industries, Fisher says. You can list recent certifications and courses in the "certifications" section of your profile. This shows potential employers that you are still adding to your skill set and willing to keep learning.
5. Keep it current
"One of the biggest mistakes I see is that people build a profile and never come back," Fisher says. "Make sure you're putting your best foot forward. As your career progresses and changes, so should your profile. If you've changed positions, been promoted, won an award or have just come off a really successful event, it's a great time to showcase some of your work," she advises. "I do some public speaking, so on my profile, I have a video that shows me speaking."
6. Join and participate in LinkedIn groups
LinkedIn groups are a great way to get information on the trends affecting a field. With some private groups, you might need permission to join so you can follow a conversation or post. When you come across an article that you think is relevant to this group, share it, Fisher advises. "That is the type of information people like to see. Click the "like" button on articles that others post, and comment if you have something thoughtful to add." Some groups will require you to be approved before joining and many, but not all, review content before it's posted for approval.
7. Follow companies that interest you
You can follow a company on LinkedIn without needing approval. This allows you to keep tabs on that company, which could come in handy in a job interview at some stage. Job hunters can also go to a company's page, and a pop-up box shows you all the connections you have at that firm. This can be helpful if you want to contact someone to learn the inside scoop about a job or what the company is like.
8. Make it easy for someone to recommend you
Selling yourself shamelessly online is not in bad taste, if done properly. On LinkedIn, there are recommendations and endorsements.
A recommendation generally carries more weight than an endorsement with potential employers. When it comes to recommendations, make it easy for someone to write one for you. You can send a simple note with the request and offer to do the same for them as well.
9. Pay attention to the extras
While LinkedIn is free to use, you have the option to purchase an upgraded premium subscription. The cost after one free month starts at $29.99 per month and allows you to see who has viewed your profile and send messages to people you are not already connected to.
Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her books include What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.