Q: I am searching for a job, and several friends have recommended that I use LinkedIn to help with this endeavor. Based on their advice, I’ve updated my profile and searched LinkedIn’s job postings, but is there more that I could be doing with LinkedIn?
A: Searching LinkedIn’s job postings makes good sense, especially because those postings tend to offer a higher percentage of professional job opportunities compared with typical classified ads. However, LinkedIn’s resources offer additional avenues for finding employment. To help understand the larger picture, imagine having access to a large Rolodex containing up-to-date business cards for hundreds of your current business connections, as well as the many thousands of their business connections. Now imagine that this Rolodex is easily searchable by company, location, job titles, etc., providing you with a deep reservoir of people to reach out to in search of your next job. This imaginary Rolodex example describes the best job-hunting aspects that LinkedIn offers. With this analogy in mind, listed below are specific tips that might help you better use these job search resources.
Polish your profile. Your LinkedIn profile defines the image you convey to the outside world, so make sure the picture is professional and the text is well-written. For best results, don’t create your profile on the LinkedIn page; instead, paste your profile text in Microsoft Word so you can access that application’s spell-check, grammar, and reviewing tools. Review and edit your text at least a dozen times, have it reviewed by others, and then edit it some more. Be sure to include projects, accomplishments, articles published, honors and awards, and any other special recognition. Have a trusted, knowledgeable person give you honest feedback. Once you have incorporated the feedback and are satisfied with the final version, copy and paste your profile into LinkedIn.
Build your industry connections. If you have fewer than 500 connections, you are behind the times. Often, high-profile people in your industry will already have built an impressive collection of thousands of contacts, and LinkedIn allows you to leverage their efforts. To build your connections, start by connecting with a few people who are well-known in your industry, and then scroll through their lists of connections and invite some (or many) of them to connect with you, too. To do this, type the well-known person’s name in the top of the LinkedIn screen to find him or her, and then click the Connect button to send an invitation. As an example, in the screen image below, I’ve searched for myself; notice the large Connect button pictured to the right of my name. (Note: LinkedIn has several invitation rules that must be obeyed; for example, you may be required to enter that person’s email address to send an invitation.)
Once connected, visit that person’s LinkedIn page and click on the number of connections to display his or her contacts. Then, at the top of the screen, make sure the All option is selected, as pictured below.
If the All option is not displayed, this means that the contact has hidden his or her connections. If the All option is displayed, you will be able to view a list of the person’s contacts, including the Connect buttons, so you can invite those contacts to connect with you.
Repeat these steps multiple times until LinkedIn’s built-in algorithm starts to recommend others in your field of expertise; eventually momentum will build and LinkedIn will recommend an increasing number of connections in your industry. Review these recommendations and send additional invitations to qualified potential contacts. As your list of connections grows, so too does LinkedIn’s list of recommended connections, making it easier to increase your base. Your goal should be to accumulate at least 500 connections to be used for mining job opportunities. Another advantage of having more connections is that would-be employers who check your LinkedIn page can see that you are well-connected in your area of expertise.
Joining groups. You should also review and join the same industry groups that others in your industry have joined, because this will also produce additional LinkedIn recommended connections in your industry.
Using People Search. You should also use LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search tool to find potential LinkedIn connections based on industry, location, company, or job title, as pictured below. In addition, take time to search for college alumni or high school classmates who may be in a position to help you open doors of opportunity.
Reaching out. Directly asking a LinkedIn connection for a job is typically not the best approach. Instead, start by establishing a rapport. For example, praise a connection for the LinkedIn comment he or she made in a public LinkedIn forum, or for an industry article he or she published, then follow up with questions or provide additional research to start or continue a dialogue. Once a sufficient relationship is established, ask if the connection knows of any job opportunities, or perhaps ask for advice for targeting a specific company. Many people won’t be in a position to help you, and others won’t have the time or inclination, but there is a chance that one of your 500-plus connections will come through. Even if a given connection fails to produce a decent job prospect, you still have developed a closer relationship that might someday pay dividends.
Publishing. Create and publish an industry article (such as a list of top tips for working in your industry) and then ask your connections to review your list and perhaps contribute additional ideas. For example, you might prepare a list of “11 Tips for Implementing the Affordable Care Act.” If your article or list is sound, it may help draw attention to you, and it may open additional dialogues that could lead to job opportunities.
Be creative. You might also invite a contact to attend a professional event, meet you for breakfast or lunch, or go on a golf outing. These steps are merely examples to help you think about how you might use a list of established contacts in your industry.
If using LinkedIn in this manner sounds like a lot of work, it is. For those seeking professional employment, finding a job is often a full-time job itself, and searching 40-plus hours a week for many months is the approach many persistent professionals take to land the best possible job opportunities.