With national unemployment hovering around 8% and the figures even worse for people just out of college, job searchers need every edge that they can get. One powerful tool at your disposal is LinkedIn. Most people know that they have to be on it, sign up for an account, and slap up a version of their resume. But really interesting things can start to happen when you dig in and use LinkedIn in ways that can help you capture your network capital, make specific high-value connections, and ensure other users looking for people with your skills are finding you first.
1. Connect with your entire network – consolidate all your networks into LinkedIn.
Different social media networks have different purposes. We sound off on Twitter, we connect with our friends on Facebook, we pin pictures of stuff we love on Pinterest. LinkedIn is the place to go when you’re looking for a job. But when you’re just getting started, you may only have a few connections from school, internships, or one or two professional positions.
Make sure you’re bringing the power of your entire network to bear when building your profile on LinkedIn. Start by making a list of all the jobs, schools, and organizations that you’re part of. Now search for appropriate contacts there. Import your email contacts and get linked up with everyone in your address book. Just because someone is on your rugby team or from your church doesn’t mean they won’t be a useful professional contact. Finally, consolidate your contacts from places like Facebook to make sure you’re professionally connected to literally every person that might help you with your career goals.
If you have a Yahoo account, they have great tools for pulling in contacts from a variety of networks which you can then use to connect with people on LinkedIn.
2. Strategically stalk the people that can help you get where you want.
Let’s say you’re on the hunt for a job, and you’ve recently applied for a position as a marketing assistant for a local company. You addressed your job application to the recruiter, and now you’re waiting to hear back. The job description said that the position reported to the Vice President of Marketing, but you can’t find out who that is via the company’s website.
A simple search on LinkedIn for the company name should give you everyone with a profile, and since most people list all of their current positions on LinkedIn, you should be in a good position to identify the right person. With a bit more due diligence, you can deduce the naming protocols used for the email systems of the company. At that point, if you think it’s appropriate, you can then reach out directly to the hiring manager to initiate a conversation.
3. Use basic SEO to rank well for terms related to your career.
Recruiters use LinkedIn to search for candidates for positions. Ranking well for specific keywords isn’t terribly difficult on LinkedIn, which is counterintuitive given the millions of people on the site. The truth is that most people aren’t trying that hard, or even aware of what SEO (search engine optimization) is and how it can help their goals.
So first start with your keyword selection - maybe your target term is ghostwriter or plastics engineer. Make sure that term is showing up in a few high-value pieces of real estate on your profile. First, the word needs to be in your headline. Then, work it into current and past experiences. Use the term in your summary, and considering adding a “specialties” list that also includes the word. Use it where possible in describing each position. Finally, consider joining groups related to that subject and trying out the beta skills function. Make sure that the flow is natural, and sounds like it’s written for a human. All of these efforts can help you rank better. To see an example of excellent LinkedIn SEO (and to learn from the master himself), check out http://www.linkedin.com/in/lewishowes.
4. Find a way to contact the connections who you want.
Let’s say that you’re really interested in working in fashion, but you don’t know anyone in the space. What would be really helpful to you right now is to make some connections with people that could help you get started, or even get 15 minutes of someone’s time for an informational interview. Or possibly you want to connect with a specific person because you’re going to pitch yourself as an unpaid intern so that they are able to see how awesome you are. But you’re not currently connected with your target person, and no one in your network can help you get there.
Here’s the easy way: find out what group that person is a part of and then join. You’ll then be able to send an invitation, along with a personalized message, on the basis of that shared group membership. With that one simple step, you just opened up a door to connect with the person you’re trying to reach.