This image was lost some time after publication.

You're ready to graduate from your grunt gig to something bigger - product management, software architecture, professional services. Maybe a director-level spot for $150K plus 1% of shares outstanding. It's time to log off and set yourself up on linkedIn. But first, don't get yourself fired.

You won't find Michael Moritz on MySpace - not that Michael Moritz, anyway. linkedIn is the preferred domain of upper managers trolling for experienced staff to fill the ranks. Setting up a profile on linkedIn is the accepted way to quietly float your resume. A few rules will get you trolled without getting busted by HR:

  • Send linkedIn invitations to connect only to people with whom you've really, truly worked rather than just overlapped. Presume they'll be sought out for references on you, without your prior permission.
  • Think keywords. Be sure your profile includes correct titles, work history, and enough detail about accomplishments in various jobs so you'll come up in relevant keyword searches. Replace non-standard titles like "Skronkbox Hacker" with industry standard nomenclature - "Sales Engineer."
  • Don't linkmonger! 93 linkedIn connections look good. 953 connections say "poor sense of discretion."
  • If you've got a job now and are quietly seeking another:
  • DO NOT check the box that says you're looking.
  • DO NOT list a phone number.

Whether you say you're looking or not, managers under the gun to fill seats will find you on linkedIn. They won't use the built-in messaging system to recruit you - they'll hunt you down on the phone at your desk.

LinkedIn is just one way to network, one that won't work for everyone. There are other, less automated methods:

  • Start a blog. VC Fred Wilson has proven it can work. You get to show your area of expertise, and your writing can prompt correspondence with the right kind of people.
  • There's always real-world networking. Throw parties. Invite people with interesting minds, or sex appeal. People who don't all work at the same company. Include at least one decent photographer who'll post to Flickr.

A list of what not to do on social networks could become its own series. To keep it short: Every single word you post to linkedIn, MySpace and every other social network will eventually turn up in a stealth background check on you. Never, ever forget that.