By Anne Evenson
How to use your professional network to build your career.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.“
Milton Berle, American comedian
LinkedIn is the ultimate professional networking platform, with over 700 million users and 30 million company pages in more than 200 countries worldwide. Savvy job seekers understand how to use this powerful platform to expand their professional network and land their next job.
Once you’ve created an engaging professional profile and built your professional network, it’s time to explore some of LinkedIn’s robust job search tools that will help you zero in on the perfect position.
Research and Follow Organizations
Begin your job hunt on LinkedIn by researching organizations that interest you. The best companies distinguish themselves on LinkedIn by showcasing their creativity, innovation and positive work environment. Look for information about an organization’s culture like Deloitte’s Life page, which features its stance on inclusion and employee wellness, and employee videos that reflect the company’s many different voices. The mission, vision and values of Salesforce are visible all over their Life page. Salesforce is passionate about recruiting and cultivating their employees with platforms like the Futureforce University Program. They demonstrate their commitment to equality by featuring employee advice and testimonials from their workforce around the world.
Follow organizations you’d like to work for on LinkedIn, and you’ll stay informed about company news and new positions as they become available. Take note of people’s career pathways in your field who work or worked at an organization you’re following and discover the skills, credentials and training these people have acquired. If you’re serious about a particular position, research your future supervisor and any hiring managers or interviewers to find out more about their interests and experience. You can use this information to establish rapport during the interview and demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. Get creative and enjoy your exploration of different organizations, and you’ll understand their company ethos and what motivates their workforce. This knowledge will guide you as you develop a strategy for approaching the company when you’re ready to put yourself forward for a job opening.
Set Your Search Criteria
Use the Jobs page to search for and apply for jobs using criteria like job title, location, date posted, company or industry. You can also choose positions suggested by LinkedIn based on your qualifications and experience. Set up job alerts and be the first to apply when someone posts a job opening on LinkedIn that matches your preferences, previous searches and specific companies you’ve followed. These alerts also allow you to track the jobs you’ve applied for and saved. Download the LinkedIn App on your phone if you’re interested in connecting with the LinkedIn community and receiving updates and news alerts about new job openings while you’re on the go.
Use the advanced search option to get even more specific with your job requirements. For example, you can create a list of all Social Media Marketing Directors at environmental nonprofit organizations with less than 50 employees in California. You can also use this search function to determine which of your connections are associated with companies you’ve followed.
Gather compensation data and get a detailed outline of the base pay and bonus structures in your interest area using the salary insight tool. Searching by job title and location, you can compare salaries against years of experience, company size and education level to understand your true earning potential.
The content you see on your newsfeed is directly related to your social activity on LinkedIn. The more you interact with posts by people in your network and organizations you follow, the more their content will be directed into your newsfeed. Customize your LinkedIn feed to receive updates from within your network and related to companies and interests that you follow. Search newsfeed posts by switching over from “People” to “Content” to reveal posts by recruiters and company pages announcing job opportunities. To display different types of content, toggle between “Relevance” and “Latest,” or try using other keywords, like your city or area of expertise, to return a wider variety of results.
Announce Your Availability
Attracting attention and securing interviews on LinkedIn often begins when you let your community know that you’re seeking new professional opportunities. You can start with your headline, which carries significant weight in LinkedIn’s internal search algorithm. In other words, your headline allows you to combine personal marketing with personal SEO (Search Engine Optimization), using the best keywords related to your career. It’s the first thing people see after your name when you comment on a post, appear in search results or when someone looks at your profile.
If you’re comfortable doing so, use your profile headline to broadcast the fact that you’re looking for a job. For example, “Strategic Product Marketing Analyst Available to Provide Market Assessment & Competitive Positioning via Social Media While Leveraging CRM Software Including HubSpot & Salesforce” or “Graphic Designer with 10+ Years of Experience Seeking Business in Need of a Brand Manager & Savvy Visual Communicator.” Remember only to advertise that you’re looking for new employment if you’re confident that it won’t affect your current position.
LinkedIn also offers a feature called Open to Work that indicates to anyone who sees your profile picture that you’re open to new job opportunities. This option allows you to specify the types of jobs you’re interested in and your preferred start date and location. You can select the option to “Share with recruiters only” or “Share with all LinkedIn members.”
There are different schools of thought about whether declaring that you’re actively seeking employment is a good idea or not. Some believe that most in-demand, highly-skilled job candidates have recruiters chasing them regularly and are continually being offered multiple job opportunities and openly displaying that you’re searching for a job is a sign of weakness. Others believe that the best first step to finding work is to let others know you’re looking and anything that helps you stand out and catch a recruiter or hiring manager’s attention is worth a try.
Use Your Connections
Use the alumni tool to look for former students affiliated with your college or university. Searching for your college or university is a great way to connect with people who went to the same school as you. You can reach out to them and share this common interest to help you garner a connection and possibly land your next job. This type of networking is a great way to build relationships through a shared experience.
If you have a connection who works or worked for an organization you’re interested in, send them a message, and make inquiries about the company culture and their experience in the hiring process. Is your connection a client or service provider for the organization? If so, ask them what it’s like to do business with the company. If you’re ready and you feel comfortable, reach out to your connection, and politely request an introduction to someone within the company who makes hiring decisions.
Whatever your ask, remember to tailor your request in a way that is appropriate to your relationship with that person and offers them something of value in return, rather than immediately requesting a favor or asking about a job opening. Whenever possible, it’s advisable to make these requests of people that you know. If you’ve been on LinkedIn for even a short time, you’ve probably received multiple invitations to connect from strangers. These are usually from people who adopt a haphazard approach to networking, connecting with as many people as they can, regardless of whether a specific connection is likely to provide value or not. This strategy is considered by most people to be annoying and inappropriate. It’s important to remember the golden rule of networking: it’s about quality versus quantity. Connecting with people you know in real life builds meaningful relationships that create value for both parties. If you must approach a decision-maker on LinkedIn whom you aren’t personally acquainted with, be very specific and transparent about your communication purpose.
LinkedIn has included an “Ask for a Referral” button within job postings to request a referral from one of your existing connections at that organization. Use this option only if you are well-acquainted with your connection or have already asked for a written referral beforehand and know they will supply a positive reference for you.
LinkedIn offers a comprehensive interview preparation toolkit that contains instructional videos and tips and techniques from hiring experts on answering questions based on different interview categories. This feature also includes AI-powered feedback on practice interview questions you’ve recorded in a video response.
Just as you would start your next DIY project with the right hardware, so you should execute your job search with the right tools to get the job done. However you decide to optimize LinkedIn’s vast catalog of job search features and functions, the real key to a successful hunt is you!
Anne Evenson is a marketing specialist and copy editor working in Austin, Texas. She holds a BFA in Fibers and Printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute.
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