LinkedIn, an 'insanely useful tool' for the job seeker

“LinkedIn is an insanely useful tool for every working person, not to mention every job-seeker and student.” This is how Liz Ryan begins an article she wrote for Forbes a couple of years ago – and it’s true. If you want to be successful in your job search and in your career, a positive presence in social media is important and, for professional purposes, LinkedIn is the platform of choice.

However, some articles have suggested that you can then sit back and wait for hiring managers to contact you. That is rubbish.

LinkedIn is an insanely useful tool but, as Liz Ryan writes at the end of her article, “only if you use the site as an active participant, not as a passive flower on the wall”.

And while LinkedIn is a useful tool, it is only a part of the job seeker’s toolbag. LinkedIn can help you build a name for yourself in your field of expertise. LinkedIn can help you research organisations you might like to work for. LinkedIn can also help you contact people in those organisations but, and this is essential, you need to be proactive, to reach out and establish a real rapport, a person-to-person relationship, preferably through face-to-face meetings but at the very least via the telephone or Skype.

Remember the old adage: ‘It’s not what you know; it’s who you know’ – or, more importantly, it’s who knows you. This is just as true in today’s fast-paced computer age as it ever was. And, as Prof Mo Wang’s research team at the University of Florida discovered, being pro-active makes a job seeker six times more likely to be successful in the job search.

So no sitting back. Let’s look at the best ways to use LinkedIn to win your next job.

Your LinkedIn page will be looked at by employers so your first task is to make sure that what employers see is what you want them to see, your potential to help them.

This starts with a good photo, one that shows you to be a confident professional, open and friendly. Then a strong headline because this is the first clue the employer will get as to your skills and motivation. To quote Liz Ryan’s examples: ‘“Marketer seeking next opportunity” is weak, but “Consumer Products Marketer Looking for Small Brand to Make Big” tells your next boss what you plan to deliver.’ My LI headline reads: ‘Career transition expert: we’re here to help you get the job you want’.

So what is it that you can do to meet the employer’s needs? Work on it with pen and paper; talk it over with trusted friends and the, when you are fully satisfied, put it up on your LI page. And then make sure that your profile summary supports the headline. Again, it is useful to ask trusted friends and colleagues to critique your profile and suggest ways to make it stronger.

But having a winning headline and profile is just the start. Employers will look at your LI profile but not until they are interested in you. So how do you create that interest? That is another area where LI can be very effective.

Based on your profile, LI will suggest groups that you might like to join. These are professional discussion groups where topics relevant to the industry or profession are questioned and discussed. Read the comments made by members of the group and, when you feel confident to do so, make a comment yourself. In this way, you will be demonstrating your knowledge of the area as well as your motivation for further developing your knowledge and skills and for improving processes and procedures. This will not only help to build your name within the industry or profession, it will also help you connect with like-minded people and these like-minded people could well become useful members of your network when you are seeking another position.

LI can help you discover further prospective connections. There is a facility at the top of the LI page for looking up ‘people, jobs, companies and more’. Enter the name of an organisation and, when the page comes up, you can discover how many employees are on LI and, more importantly, the names of 2nd and 3rd degree connections with the names of people who can introduce you to them.

It is then worthwhile looking up the LI profiles of those people and see which groups they belong to. It is quite possible that some of them will belong to the same groups that you belong to but it is also quite likely that some will belong to other groups. Look up these other groups and see if the people that you are interested in are active in the discussions. If so, read their comments – in fact, copy and paste them to a Word document in your job search file. It is very useful to be able to mention their comments when you get the chance to communicate with them.

To get the maximum benefit from LinkedIn, you need to put regular time and effort into it. Remember Liz Ryan’s words: “use the site as an active participant, not as a passive flower on the wall”.

However, you also need to remember that LinkedIn is just one of the tools or strategies you need to use to be successful in the job hunt. You also need to get out there and make personal contact with the networks that you are building through LinkedIn. That will be the subject for another

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