You've likely heard that LinkedIn is key for a job search. Maybe you've explored it, set up a basic profile and then had that deer-in-the-headlights moment when you freeze and say to yourself, now what? Or, perhaps you set up a LinkedIn profile a while ago and haven't done much with it since. Either way, failing to take advantage of this major business social media platform is tantamount to job-search malpractice.
Here are 10 things you can do easily on LinkedIn to bring your job hunt to the next level of effectiveness:
1. Exploit "networkable" moments. Recognize that not every connection is always ripe for networking. But, there are times when active networking can be both welcome and fruitful: moments when people experience professional change or reach a milestone.
When you get emails from LinkedIn notifying you of your connections' birthdays, work anniversaries, job changes, etc. you are being given a heads up that a networkable moment is at hand. Make the effort to reach out and say something more than just the boilerplate "Happy Birthday" or "Congrats." A simple sentence or two can stimulate a conversation, and bring you to the mind of people in your network who might not otherwise think of you.
2. Track your profile views. Depending on your level of LinkedIn account, you can learn more or less about how often your profile came up as a search result from others, or how many people (and who) have viewed it. If the volume is consistently low, or shows a marked decrease, it's time to take active steps to boost your visibility and draw people toward you. Supplement the information you provide or otherwise optimize your profile, make a point of posting updates that will interest others and participate in Groups. Always make sure your profile is complete so that you increase the likelihood of coming up in other people's searches.
3. Identify yourself. Begin your Summary with your name and email. That way, even if you come up as a third degree connection in someone else's search and your identity masked, he or she will be able to know who you are and contact you.
What a shame it would be if a recruiter or hiring manager comes upon your profile and thinks you might be a great fit for a position he or she is seeking to fill, but he or she can't figure out who you are or how to reach you.
4. List your skills. The Skills section of your profile affords you the opportunity to list up to 50 different things at which you are proficient. If you are having trouble coming up with that many, look at the Requirements section of ads for positions you are applying to. Whenever you have what employers seek, make sure you include it.
5. Include additional files in your profile. You can be incredibly creative these days in providing information about yourself and your accomplishments. LinkedIn now allows you to upload all kinds of files, from PDF to Word to Excel to PowerPoint, plus pictures and even sound files. You can include, for example, a full PDF version of your résumé, examples of your art, coding, a voice recording of you telling your story, etc.
6. Contend with age discrimination. Of course, we all know that age discrimination is rampant, and none of us will be 20 years younger ever again. If you are of a certain age, chances are strong that people you went to college with are now in senior (aka hiring) roles. Rejuvenate those relationships by including your dates for degrees earned and becoming visible with your contemporary alumni network. Rekindle old relationships; you may be surprised at how eager others may be to help you in your job search.
7. Recommend people you respect. Think of five to 10 people whom you respect and whom you've worked with in the past. Link with them, and be proactive by recommending them. This is another way to rekindle old relationships and begin a whole new dialogue. They will likely want to recommend you as well.
When employers see that you have written recommendations for your former peers, supervisors or subordinates, they will conclude that you're a strong team member, capable of adding real value in the future.
8. Follow people, news and companies. When you take the time to understand what people and companies in which you have an interest are up to, you will have no trouble personalizing a cover letter, tailoring your résumé to meet their needs and expectations and transform an interview from a grilling to a friendly conversation.
9. Take advantage of Groups. You can belong to 50 groups at a time on LinkedIn. Each has its own jobs tab that is different from the one at the top LinkedIn menu bar, and often listings are posted in those tabs that you won't see elsewhere. And when you contribute things of value to Group discussions, you make yourself easier to find and add to your value as a thought leader worthy of being recruited.
10. Use tags to organize your connections. You will have a different number of tags available to use based on your membership level, but regardless you can label connections as you choose by using this feature. Some ideas: "People to Contact," "Recruiters," "Current Prospects," etc.
Above all, remember your connections are people, and networking is about building and strengthening relationships, not simply asking for favors. When you show yourself to be thoughtful and engaging with talent to contribute as a valued team member, you will surely advance your chances of being found and hired.
Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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