Job seekers often ask me whether their boss will think they’re looking for a better job if they’re using LinkedIn. It’s a common misconception – it’s not just job seekers who use LinkedIn, and there are several solid reasons that you should take advantage of what LinkedIn offers even when you have (and like) your current job.

LinkedIn boasts over 280 million users, and probably fewer than half of them are actively seeking work. LinkedIn is not just a job board – though it does provide a good job search feature and recruiter services takes up more than half of their annual revenue.

Your profile on LinkedIn is far more than an online résumé, though, and you can use it to your advantage.

There are five major reasons to take advantage of the benefits of LinkedIn:

1. Build your network now so you can take advantage of it later.

Layoffs happen, and they’re often a surprise. If your company downsizes and you’re laid off, and you have just ten people listed in your LinkedIn network, it will dawn on you that you should have put more time and effort into connecting with people and building that network.

The answer, of course, is not to frantically add them when you need them – you should make networking a long-term activity.

If you suddenly pile up dozens of new connections, you could be blacklisted for that – and if you aren’t, you can bet that the herds of new connections will wonder what you “really” want from them.

Don’t wait till you need a network of connections; build on it now and you’ll have more to fall back on should you need it in the future.

2. Remember that opportunities can find you; employment pros are on the lookout for “passive” job candidates.

When contract job recruiters are looking to fill an open position, they’re not usually looking to hire an unemployed person.

There are probably more than enough unemployed and underemployed people in this country to fill all the available jobs today.

Recruiters are more likely to “hire up” the currently employed person than to interview those currently out of work. These “passive candidates” are what companies and recruiters look for when they have key openings to fill.

When I was working at Cisco, I got more calls from recruiters than after I got laid off from Cisco! If you’re currently working, that’s the best time to get a better job.

Recruiters are often hired as headhunters, and they’re given the latitude to increase your pay and steal you away from your current job. Your chances of being approached by such recruiters, though, are far less if you don’t have a current and well-written LinkedIn profile, including recent updates and a strong network of connected peers and other contacts.

3. LinkedIn Groups provide connections, job referrals, and education.

Groups on LinkedIn, unlike a collection of Facebook friends, provide stimulating discussion, referrals, tips and advice on topics in your field, and even solid friendships. Groups have really become a valuable networking tool, much more than they used to.

Groups on LinkedIn that are related to your expertise and interests can add solid value to your network and connections – job-related and otherwise. Members of such groups can share news and issues and advice with you, and you have the opportunity to share your expertise in the discussions.

4. Update your résumé regularly.

A résumé should not be a static thing that doesn’t change or get modified. Though a LinkedIn profile is often up-to-date and more accurate than other online profiles – and recruiters are aware of this – you still should stay on top of your résumé and update it when you can. These updates will be far easier if you’ve kept your profile on LinkedIn updated. You never know when you’ll actually need a résumé; if a recruiter with an opening that paid 20 percent more than you’re making now contacted you and requested your résumé, how long would it take you to freshen yours up and get it back to her?

But if you’re LinkedIn profile stored all of that up-to-date, relevant career information, bam! It’s easier to respond to opportunities as they arise.

5. Stay on top of news feeds for your field.

Most users on LinkedIn spend under five minutes on each site visit.

The company, obviously, would like users to spend a bit more time on the site, and LinkedIn does what it can to keep you onboard.

Some of these efforts are actually quite useful, and can provide value to you if you take advantage of them. LinkedIn Pulse, for example, gives you daily customized news online or delivered to your inbox. Your news feed is based on your industry or field, along with the contacts in your network and the articles you share on LinkedIn. That news feed can be a goldmine of news and tips and trending information to stay up-to-date on the happenings in your field, and it’s easy to customize the display of your news and the categories that interest you.

I’m hearing of people abandoning Twitter for their news and information to LinkedIn Pulse because LinkedIn does a better job of customizing the articles it shows you.

These are just five of the major reasons to take advantage of what LinkedIn offers. Do you have other tips or insight to share? Send me your take on the best of LinkedIn.