LinkedIn has grown in both popularity and in the ways you can use it to find a great job. What was once widely viewed as a rich contact database has become an active and vibrant professional community.
While the relevance of LinkedIn has grown well beyond job seeking and candidate finding, those core LinkedIn competencies have blossomed into really remarkable platforms. But to get the most out of LinkedIn, you need to learn the lessons and the etiquette that will make this platform work harder for your career. Let's enroll in LinkedIn finishing school -- take a look at eight ways to maximize the value of LinkedIn for your job search.
Maximizing your profile
If your LinkedIn profile has just your name and your current employer, you are missing out on tremendous value. While developing a comprehensive profile takes a bit of time, it represents a few hours well spent. As you progress in your career, you want to reach the point where new jobs find you, not the other way around. In order for companies and recruiters to see and understand your awesomeness, they need to understand what you do and have done. By proactively managing your LinkedIn profile you make it much easier for people to come to you with opportunities: Passive job search.
Photo: Adriano Gasparri
On the most basic level, the profile allows you to provide a synopsis of your career and education. You can use the text from a current resume -- it's perfectly acceptable to have your profile match your resume. In fact, several recruiters told me that they compare the resumes they receive to LinkedIn profiles to see if a person is representing their true self on paper. This is in response to candidates overhauling their resumes to include keywords so as to get past resume reviewbots. Some revision is a good idea, and welcomed by recruiters as an indication that you truly care about the opportunity. But some candidates are misrepresenting their backgrounds by fraudulently changing their expertise.
One area that relatively few people avail themselves of are the "skills" and "experience" keywords, where you choose a set of a few words that identify your particular areas of expertise.
These keywords help power LinkedIn search, and help recruiters understand your strongest skills. That's important because a marketing generalist might have experience in literally dozens of areas, but genuine expertise in a smaller but highly desirable subset.
Including your other social media identities in your LinkedIn profile is a good idea if they represent your professional persona and interests. Exercise judgment, however, with social, political, or religiously oriented presences. Don't serve up ways for recruiters to feel distant from you.
People often wait to build connections until they need contacts. When you take this approach, you sacrifice potentially hundreds of connections that lose track of during your dormant periods.
Connect with relevant professionals as you meet them. If you make an ongoing effort to connect with folks, you'll find your personal network is far larger and richer when the need arises. LinkedIn also offers tools to scrape your email and social media accounts for addresses, and matches them to its database.
It then gives you the opportunity to choose who to connect to among this vast list of potential "links." In my view, you should review the list and select a subset of all your contacts rather than simply trying to link with everyone.
Most of us are aware that past bosses, clients, and coworkers can provide recommendations that get added to your profile. The process is very simple, and you will likely find that many people will be willing to write something about you. Recommendations definitely have some value, particularly when they are from people who tend to be very choosy about whom they recommend. Do consider, however, that garnering a dozen new recommendations in a week, like getting a large number of new connections, sends a signal that you are in active job hunt mode -- something you may not want everyone to know (Your boss, for instance).
When you ask people for recommendations, it is also a good idea to help them understand what you would like them to focus on. If you don't, you end up with a general recommendation that won't make a recruiter say, "Yes! She's exactly what we need!" Asking people to focus on specific areas actually makes the task easier for them and the results more valuable for you.
Participating in groups
LinkedIn "groups" are an underleveraged source of information and networking for most job seekers. By participating in groups related to your professional skills and interests you become better aware of opportunities, topics, and people in your "space." Many people are also using these groups to communicate new job openings.
The level of activity in groups has truly exploded over the past year, especially in digital where so many people are striving to master the constantly changing environment. But don't wait until you need a new job and then join 53 groups. Like everything else with LinkedIn, groups are most valuable when you make an ongoing commitment to reading and participating.
Using LinkedIn "answers"
LinkedIn offers a functionality that lets people ask and answer questions related to their professions. By participating you increase your personal visibility among people within your specialty.
A friend of mine found the job of her dreams by answering a question about her specialty from a senior marketer. She wasn't really searching for a job, just being a visible part of her discipline. But the asker was so impressed with her answer that he contacted her about joining their team. She got a better opportunity and a raise.
Searching for jobs on LinkedIn
When you are in more active job search mode, LinkedIn is arguably the most valuable place to look for jobs because your connections can give you insights into the position, the supervisors/reports, and a potential avenue in to getting your resume some serious consideration.
With LinkedIn you can search for jobs by company, region, keyword, title, and more. The network also suggests jobs that may interest you based upon your skills and experience.
You can set up emails of job postings that meet most or all of criteria you select. In my experience, the search tools are quite good, but it makes sense for you to search multiple sets of related keywords, titles, and the like. For example:
- Digital marketing director
- Interactive marketing director
- Web marketing director
- Mobile marketing director
When you review the results, you'll see that different jobs have different processes through which they collect your expressions of interest. But LinkedIn makes applying as seamless as realistically possible.
LinkedIn also offers premium services that help you get greater noticing value within the community. Some of these services enable you to contact people outside your network -- which can be of value if your network is small or if you are trying to break into a new field or industry. They also offer "featured candidate" services analogous to paid search listings. Another interesting set of services relate to an ongoing jobseeker community that lets you interact with LinkedIn staff, peers, and recruiters.
Connecting with recruiters
If you haven't been on LinkedIn in a while, you'll see when you next visit that recruiters have really started leveraging this tool as a central -- often the central -- element of their contact programs. When you connect with recruiters you will find that many post new openings before the more formal posts and listings appear within the search results.
A number of recruiters told me that LinkedIn is the source of more than half of their serious candidates. That's a remarkable statistic and the operative word in that sentence is "serious."
The web has made it so easy to apply for jobs that even "ordinary" opportunities might spawn hundreds of applications, most of them from unqualified folks. Recruiters are using LinkedIn to proactively find great candidates and check up on applicants that they are reviewing. If you aren't there in a meaningful way, you may never get serious consideration.
It's also about giving
When brands enter social media, they need to ensure that they are adding value to the people they touch. It's the same for personal brands. The essence of LinkedIn is mutual benefit.
I bring this up because there are many people who view LinkedIn as a one way street. They connect and then make all too frequent demands for a variety of forms of help. But they don't make any effort to help others meet their needs. If you behave like that, you sour people to being in your network.
LinkedIn needn't be a perfect quid pro quo -- I recommend you then you recommend me and so forth. That isn't "organic" and we don't have the same needs or timing of needs as others. It's polite to ask what you can do for someone when they help you, but in my view you are not "off the hook" if they say it is not necessary.
You need to make sure that you give at least as much as you get. If people help you but don't need help at this time, make a conscious effort to "pay it forward" and help someone else, especially a more junior person, a job seeker trying to get their start, or someone who has been out of work for awhile and needs a boost.
And you never know when "paying it forward" may result in some benefit to you in the future. In my recent job search, the most helpful person for me was a former intern I worked with, who happened to know a few people at companies that I wanted to talk to. He went way out of his way for me in part because he is that kind of guy and in part because I helped him get his start: Neither of us "gave to get," but that sort of give and take is the essence of real relationships.
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"Education concept, toned and soft focus" image via Shutterstock.