It's been said before that LinkedIn is the new résumé. This seems a reasonable conclusion at first glance. In your profile, you plug in things like your work experience, your education and your skills, and you talk about career goals. That sounds like a résumé to just about anybody who’s written one before. And while it is true that LinkedIn has a line of business  that would consider your profile a résumé, I think it’s a little short-sighted to consider LinkedIn in only this one dimension. LinkedIn is a dynamic resource, good for more than just job seekers, more than just recruiters, more than just social media geeks. LinkedIn is good for you. Let’s talk about putting it to work.
No Need to Post a Thing – Start with “LinkedIn Today”
"Staying on top of industry news is something we think matters for any professional whose success depends on being well informed," says LinkedIn’s blog post  introducing the LinkedIn Today feature. In higher education, staying on top of trends and industry information isn’t just a need; it’s a critical need. We are often at the forefront of industry defining news, performing research that moves professions forward and guiding the next generations to think critically about the world. If you want to read the hottest, most shared articles related to your industry and profession to be "in the know," look no further than LinkedIn Today. 
The LinkedIn Today feed is located right under the box where you type in your status updates. If you click on the blue text reading "LinkedIn Today," you’ll actually be taken to a page that is custom-fit for you. The stories collected in LinkedIn Today are those that are trending among your immediate LinkedIn connections and peers in your industry. Don’t like what you’re reading here? LinkedIn gives you the option to customize your news and will allow you to select channels to follow based on your industry (there are currently 21 channels available).
Late last year, LinkedIn also announced the opportunity to follow thought leaders in various fields with its Influencers  program. Prominent leaders in education, politics, journalism, business, startups, and more share their ideas with regularly occurring columns right on LinkedIn. Follow along to tap their minds for insights that can help you think forward.
For instance, I follow Marla Gottschalk, an industrial and organizational psychologist. She writes about the intersections of psychology and the workplace – a passion of mine, which started early in my undergraduate years as a psychology major. Reading her posts helps feed that interest for me, and sometimes her ideas have helped me reevaluate how I look at work in productive ways.
What’s so great about customizing your LinkedIn Today and following Influencers? Once you do it, the updates will automatically show up in the feed on your home screen, ready to be clicked and read whenever you are.
Give and You Will Gain with LinkedIn Groups
Some of the richest professional development LinkedIn can offer you is in LinkedIn Groups. This professional development doesn’t come from LinkedIn, it doesn’t come from only thought leaders, and it doesn’t come from articles around the web. It comes from colleagues – people around the world who may be able to offer you insight or answer a burning question. I can say this with confidence because I’ve seen it work time and time again for myself and for people in a variety of industries.
Here’s an example. An alumnus I had been working with was interested in making a career transition into business operations. He had been exposed to the field in some projects from his current role, but wasn’t quite sure how to get into operations full-time. I encouraged him to post a discussion in one of the university’s career mentoring groups on LinkedIn, asking for advice from fellow alumni about his specific interests. Within days, group members responded with ideas for him and offered some critical questions to help him think about which points of entry made the most sense. So, to unlock the potential inside of LinkedIn Groups, you may have to put some elbow grease into it. But, the benefits are worth the effort, and as they say, "you only get what you give."
The key to making LinkedIn Groups work for you is finding the right ones to match your professional interests. To start, my suggestion is checking in with your current LinkedIn connections; the ones you admire professionally. Look at their profiles and see their list of LinkedIn Groups. Perhaps these could be some places to start.
To strike out on your own, you can search Groups on LinkedIn by keyword. As an example, I conducted a Groups search with the keywords of "higher education." Over 2,000 Groups popped up. That’s too many for me to review individually, but there are ways I can make this information more realistic now, too.
LinkedIn added a few new pieces of information to the search results that will help guide you to the right places. Underneath each group description, LinkedIn tells you how "active" the groups are and displays the number of discussions started in those groups this month. If the number seems too high for you to keep track of, maybe that group is not right for you at the moment. Consequently, if the number is very low, I’d question how much value is being added to that group on a regular basis. Try to find at least an “Active” group with a number of discussions that suits you.
Remember, you can always leave LinkedIn Groups and join others. The maximum number of LinkedIn Groups you can join at any point is 50, so there’s lot of wiggle room.
I once heard a piece of advice on Groups that I think is great to follow. This advice was actually shared by LinkedIn. "On Groups: join many, participate in a few, manage one." Join many so you will have the opportunity to gain knowledge from people who belong to different communities. Perhaps being involved in your alma mater’s groups will be valuable for you. So might a professional association group. If you are in a variety of groups, you have the opportunity to source a variety of answers to questions you can ask in discussions. Participate in a few that are your "bread and butter" topics.
For instance, I participate often in the Career Counselor Technology Forum on LinkedIn. The group’s mission combines two of my passions, and I find that I learn about new approaches to my work from what colleagues share. Manage one group so that you get involved in cultivating a community that matters to you. If nothing is out there that fits your niche, start something. Your initiative will not go unnoticed.
If you come to LinkedIn with specific goals, a desire to learn, and the willingness to let curiosity overrule your social media hesitancy every now and then, you’ll come out more knowledgeable as a result. Let yourself shed the image of LinkedIn as “just my résumé online” and reconsider it as an opportunity to read, learn, and network with colleagues around the world.
Kevin Grubb is an assistant director in the career center at Villanova University. Kevin may be found on Twitter at @kevincgrubb, and he blogs at www.socialatedu.com .