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Jump-Start Your Second Act on LinkedIn

If you're considering a second-act career, this social network can be the key to unlocking new opportunities.

Facebook may help you stay connected socially, but having a presence on LinkedIn is crucial to staying connected professionally. And if you're starting your second act, the network can be a great way to build your personal brand and find your next career endeavor.

LinkedIn has more than 433 million members in more than 200 countries and territories. In fact, when you Google yourself—even if you have a website—the first result is likely to be your LinkedIn profile, says Alex Pirouz, founder of Linkfluencer, an online community for LinkedIn training.

"That's why it's so important to use LinkedIn to the fullest extent to build your reputation, network successfully, and attract clients or recruiters who can help you find your next gig," says Robin Colner, director of the Digital and Social Media Professional Certificate Program at Fordham University's School of Professional and Continuing Studies, as well as the president and founder of DigiStar Media.

Here, Pirouz and Colner share five steps to creating a LinkedIn experience that will garner attention and help you move ahead, no matter what your goals are.

Tell a story. We've always been taught to create resumes that list experience, dates, and skills. While those things are still important, the traditional list-based résumé isn't ideal for LinkedIn, says Pirouz. Instead, build your profile based on the answers to these questions: What are the three challenges your service or product can solve for your target market? And what makes you different as a person and as an employee? Write your summary in the third person and in a story format that covers how you got started, what led you to where you are and what you're currently working on. You can also weave in any achievements or awards.

Join the right groups. There are millions of LinkedIn groups. You'll want to join the ones that are related to your functional expertise, industry interests, and where you're regionally located (for example, the Real Estate Networking Group, or the Des Moines Information Technology Professionals group). "Groups offer an opportunity to network and learn from industry professionals, while demonstrating your expertise by contributing articles and comments related to discussion topics," says Colner. "Groups also offer the opportunity to attract strategic partners and potential clients."

Write your own recommendation. LinkedIn allows you to ask your connections to provide recommendations. Pirouz suggests writing your own recommendation and sending it to people you think will feel comfortable giving you a public nod. Most of the time they will be happy to post it with a few personal touches.

Discover new information. LinkedIn is a veritable goldmine when it comes to finding info on the organizations you'd like to work with or for. Be sure to follow the updates of all the companies and people you have an interest in doing business with, as well as influencers and experts in your field.

Put in the time. LinkedIn isn't a set-it-and-forget-it resource. You need to ask for connections, participate in groups and get involved. Colner suggests spending 15 minutes each day making connections, reading and engaging with updates, and posting blogs and sharing content to keep yourself top-of-mind.