A little over five years ago, I was the director of a small nonprofit. Then, on a July night in 2014, I published a blog about getting your MBA online on LinkedIn. The blog immediately went viral and received over 30,000 views in about twelve hours.

Going viral was an amazing feeling, so I kept it up. I polished my profile, and made actively using the platform an essential part of my career plan. I continued publishing blog posts, and six months later a reader contacted me about serving as a communications consultant for their organization. That was the birth of my business and my career as a communications entrepreneur.

Today, in addition to running a consulting business, I am a writer for a wide variety of top-tier business publications, a published novelist, and a multi-time LinkedIn "Top Voice." My blogs and articles on LinkedIn and other platforms have received tens of millions of views.

My entire career path--and the way I will spend the rest of my career--happened because of LinkedIn.

Here's what you need to do:

1. Make sure your profile is professional and complete.

  •  Create a professional headline. Do not call yourself a "ninja," "wizard," or "rock star" unless you are an actual ninja, wizard, or rock star.
  • Make sure your profile photo is a professional-quality headshot.
  • Write a professional summary that is specific, accurate, and includes keywords relevant to your career goals.
  • Give a brief description of each position and the dates you worked and the name of the organization. Side note: Do not lie about titles or duties. You will get called out by old colleagues, and it will be embarrassing.
  • List your education in reverse chronological order.
  • Make strategic use of additional sections. For example, listing volunteer positions or language skills can differentiate you from similarly qualified candidates.
  • Check for grammar mistakes and typos before posting position descriptions or summaries.

2. Be an active member of the LinkedIn community.

A LinkedIn profile can be like a résumé: stored, forgotten, and only used when you need it.

A LinkedIn profile can also be a way to craft a career and a life you never planned for, but always wanted. For that to happen, however, you must be an active member of the LinkedIn community.

Here's how:

  • Share interesting and appropriate content.
  • When connecting with someone you don't know, include a personalized message that briefly describes why you want to connect. If you are in the beginning stages of your career, it is perfectly appropriate to seek out role models, mentors, and people you admire--just so long as you honestly explain the reason for the connection request.
  • If your first message to a new connection is a sales email, you are doing it wrong. Try and build a relationship before you even think about making a sale or asking about a job or internship.

3. Remember, a stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet.

The single most frequent question I receive about LinkedIn is whether I accept connection requests from strangers.

I do--and here's why: Every client and business relationship I have was a stranger five years ago.

You cannot be open to new opportunities if you are not open to meeting new people--and giving them the benefit of the doubt that they aren't con artists looking to steal your network.

If used right, LinkedIn can be incredibly powerful.

It changed my life.

Now go and use it to change yours.