by Maureen Nelson, M.A., GCDF, CPRW
Maybe you’re considering upgrading your LinkedIn account from “Basic” to “Job Seeker,” which puts a “Job Seeker” badge on your profile. I would counsel against that. The “Job Seeker” label makes you seem desperate (and therefore less desirable). You can, however, take a number of steps to make sure you’re making maximal use of your free account while job-hunting.
Here are five such tips for using LinknedIn during your job-search:
1. Follow a company. You will get updates on who in your network moved where. While it’s interesting to see who the “New Hires” are, more important is where they came from, as these might point toward openings at their old company. Also note what their new positions are to get an idea of a possible career path. And, of course, a company’s “Recent Departures” list also lets you know of openings.
2. Mine new contacts for even newer ones. Every time someone connects to you, look through his or her list of contacts. View the profiles of those that intrigue you, and reach out to a few of them. Make your message personal, though, with starters like these:
- “Love your photo [of the person] — did you have it done professionally? I’m looking for a good photographer.”
- “Love your photo [of a misty hiking trail in woods] — Did you take it? — Where is it?”
- I see you also have Cool Careers for Dummies on your reading list — isn’t it a great resource?
- “I see we have 8 shared connections. We must move in the same circles. Let’s make it easier and link directly — and let me know if there’s anything I can ever do for you.”
- “I see we both went to Chaminade University in Hawaii. Not many people have even heard of that school. Let’s link, since we’re both alumni.”
LinkedIn allows people to put up so much content — slide shows, groups, awards, reading lists, articles, blogs, Twitter streams — it’s very easy to find a common reason to connect.
3. Connect with highly visible people. Search on terms like “speaker,” “author,” “writer,” “coach,” “trainer” “evangelist,” “sales,” “keynote,” “award-winning,” or “expert.” These people are often uber-connectors with thousands of connections. When you find one in your field (or a related one), search for him or her on the Web to find something he or she has written, and send a thoughtful comment or compliment. Make sure it’s sincere. If you get a good response, follow up with an invitation to connect, but don’t pester the person if he or she ignores you. These well-connected types are very busy people. A visit to the person’s Website might reveal an upcoming speaking engagement in your area. Whatever you do, respect an uber-connector’s time. Recruiters are in their own category; they often have connections in the thousands and knowledge of job openings, but they are also overwhelmed. If you contact them, make sure you give them a good reason to link and try to be memorable.
4. Connect to “interesting” people. Search on an unusual interest of yours to see who else has it. You might get ideas about career direction, or a contact might be able to give you a job lead. Imagine you’re a medical assistant who likes dancing. A search on “flamenco dancer” brought up this title for one person: “Medical Doctor, Wellness Expert, International Speaker, Life Coach, Author & Flamenco Dancer.” You could reach out to say, “Wow, another person in health care who loves flamenco!” It’s a long shot, but life is made up of such coincidences.
5. Leverage even weak links. I once got an interview by sending a message through LinkedIn to one of my contacts, with whom, truthfully, I was only loosely connected. Not only was she someone I’d never met in real life, but I’d turned her down for an interview! (I got a job offer elsewhere.) A year after our initial connection, I was job searching again, and I noticed she was connected to someone I was targeting. It was gutsy of me to do, but I felt I had nothing to lose, so I contacted her. She forwarded my resume, and I got the interview.
Final Thoughts on LinkedIn and Your Job-Search
These strategic tips should help you expand your reach on LinkedIn. But you don’t have to wait until you’re a job-seeker to make connections. In fact, it makes more sense to nurture your network before you need it. And remember, always follow up and thank people for connecting!
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Maureen Nelson is manager of adult career services at the Oakland Private Industry Council and co-site manager of the Downtown Oakland One Stop Career Center, part of EastBayWorks. She is a frequent presenter and panelist and has been writing on careers for more than a decade. Maureen serves as editor-at-large for Career Convergence, the online magazine of the National Career Development Association, where she was named “Author with the Most Impact” in 2008. A contributor to Susan Ireland‘s Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Perfect Resume, Maureen teaches resume writing and career theory in the Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) program. She holds a master’s degree in career development from John F. Kennedy University and the designation Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW).