Job Seekers: Make LinkedIn Your Best Friend

Posted by Paladin on May 02, 2011

Every time I speak with candidates, I always ask them about their LinkedIn activity. If you are an active job seeker, selling yourself via social networking is a critical element of your job search campaign. You must be proactive and you must be visible. There’s a lot of competition out there, and effectively separating yourself from your peers is what will ultimately make the difference in the success of your search. You are essentially a product that needs to be sold. Ask yourself: “What makes me better than other, similar products that are being considered?”

Being an avid user of LinkedIn myself, I’ve learned a lot… and continue to learn. And I have a reason to believe in its power, considering I’ve landed my last three jobs due to connections I’ve made (and relationships I’ve built) on LinkedIn. The following is a list of what I feel are some of the most important aspects of LinkedIn – a “cheat sheet” for job seekers if you will. This is based on what I’ve taught myself, as well as tips I’ve learned from LinkedIn/social networking gurus, Neil Schaffer and Lewis Howes (who have both written excellent books on the subject – and are both people you should be linked to).

Beginner Tips:

  • Make sure that your profile is 100% complete (and make sure to add specific keywords and skills into your summary). This greatly increases your visibility. Similar to Google analytics, you will show up higher on the list in search results.
  • Make a point to get grow your direct network to100 people or more. Connect with LinkedIn’s most “linked” users. You can find them here: http://www.toplinked.com/toplinked.aspx. Most have contact information either at the top or bottom of their profiles.
  • Use a photo of yourself… smiling. Users are more likely to connect with you… as it’s more welcoming 🙂
  • Update your status regularly. It shows that you are active!
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who you don’t know (we are living in a “pay-it-forward” society, and this is what social networking is all about).

Once you’ve done this, here are some Intermediate Tips:

  • Join relevant LinkedIn groups. Think about starting your own group (I started one called Texas Interactive, which now has close to 700 members). Get active in your niche! Also, the more groups you’re in, the better. And… if you don’t have an individual’s email address, but share a group with him/her, you can connect that way.
  • Become an “open networker.” Join groups such as LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) and TopLinked. Get into the habit of accepting everyone’s request to expand your 1st degree network… which will ultimately expand your 2nd and 3rd degree network. And don’t stay in a “box” – expand to new individuals who don’t yet know what you have to offer!
  • Participate in group conversations. Represent yourself as someone who is knowledgeable in the subject matter by providing valuable content. If you have a question about something, utilize LinkedIn Answers (http://www.linkedin.com/answers/). Whatever your query, there are plenty of industry professionals out there who are happy to assist you (going back to the pay-it-forward statement).
  • Write recommendations for others. The more recommendations you have, the better. If you give a lot of value, you will receive a lot (according to the ‘rule of reciprocity’).
  • Utilize LinkedIn’s “Advanced” search option. This gives you the ability to narrow down your search; locating members based on things like keywords, geographic location, company/school, industry, etc. Advanced search also supports “Boolean strings,” which allow you to narrow (or broaden) your search in a very specific—effective—manner. Learning how to use Boolean operators and formulate strings is not as complicated as it might sound, and there are many sites/tutorials that can assist you with this. I personally like http://www.internettutorials.net/boolean.asp.
  • Use LinkedIn as a cross-referencing tool. For instance… if you apply to a job online (and know the name of the company), you can often times locate the hiring manager on LinkedIn — or at least locate someone who can get you to the right person. This can be an effective tactic for getting past gatekeepers.
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