As my readers know, I am looking for a new job. The common wisdom goes that no one gets a job by responding to job advertisements. But then again, it's awfully hard to get a job, if you don't apply. Jobs and other opportunities arise through your networks (friends, family, former colleagues, etc.) Get out there and tell them that you are looking and what you want to do. And, of course, social tools like LinkedIn are a great way to get back to connections that you've made in the past. Here are some interesting things I've observed and learned recently.
- Job ads + LinkedIn. Find an interesting-looking job, but want a better chance of having your name bubble to the top? Find out if you know anyone in the company? Or is there someone in your 2nd and 3rd-level network? If your network is fairly large / diverse, you may be surprised at how close that company really is. Another way to link to people with LinkedIn is in the Groups that you belong to. I tread cautiously here, since many people join groups without necessarily participating in them. It's a nice way to check if there is a possible shared interest, as well as their being associated with a target company. I did this with a couple companies recently and was pleased to find people who were more than happy to give me a few minutes.
- Keep your name out there. Find a way to participate in networks that will help expand your options and opportunities. There are many options and mechanisms for this, both at in-person events as well as online. I've introduced myself to people, only to find that we share membership in common groups or that we might even follow each other online. This does NOT require that you do everything, but it does suggest that targeted activities help. It also helps when you are in control of your message - you get to decide when and where to participate. Some options here (non-exhaustive list): live meetings, discussion groups, blogging, commenting at other blogs.
- Keep renewing your connections. Networking isn't only something you do when looking for a job: interacting with other people and sharing common interests and needs is part of life. Many of my LinkedIn (and Facebook and Twitter) connections are from distant-in-time meetings or jobs or other events. It feels odd re-engaging with some of those people. That said, it has been interesting re-connecting with many of them, and it leaves me realizing that this isn't something that should stop when I reach my specific goal. I need to keep up those loose connections for all sorts of positive reasons. The beauty of services like LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook is that I keep that peripheral awareness of people. But nothing beats making a direct connection to learn a little more about those changes or other topics over which you originally shared a common interest.
And then there are some more mechanical things to do and check on LinkedIn.
- Update your headline. This is a somewhat hidden setting, but the headline gives the quick highlight of who you are, such as "Knowledge management professional at XYZ." If you've left a job recently, LinkedIn may not have the correct headline for you anymore - as I discovered for myself. I also suggest checking your headline, even if you haven't changed recently, as the default headline LinkedIn builds is sometimes clumsy or non-informative. This is important because this headline appears search results and connection listings - it's a first-pass filter many people use in considering whether to explore your profile in more detail. To edit the headline, go into your edit-mode on your profile, and click the the "edit" link that appears next to your name. This gives you the ability to change several top-level elements: how your name appears, your headline, industry, and location.
- Update your profile. Along with your headline, it is a good idea to update your overall profile to ensure that it reflects what you are looking for (either job hunting, new connections, or the like). Get rid of plug-ins or applications that you aren't using anymore, like the Events calendar that only has events from two years ago.
- Groups. LinkedIn Groups give you a couple benefits. First off, it is a way to show your affiliation or interest in a specific business area. I am members of many groups, but the focus is around knowledge management and Theory of Constraints, which are the kinds of jobs I am seeking. And I have made connections with people, based on our shared membership in those groups. Another advantage of group membership is that if you are active in the group discussions, that activity appears in your update stream that people see when they login to LinkedIn.
- Answers. LinkedIn Answers lets you ask and answer questions in many areas. As with Groups, if you answer questions, you help the person asking AND the activity show up in your activity stream. (Note that LinkedIn Answers is somewhat clumsy and has been hidden from the main LinkedIn menus - it's under "more" now. I place less emphasis here.)
- Untested: Selected group email. I haven't completely decided on this one, but LinkedIn lets you send messages to a group of your connections. You can't just select all and send a single message - LinkedIn caps the number of people per message sent this way. This is a good thing, as impersonal email blasts aren't very interesting. That said, targeting a message to a dozen former colleagues or people from a given segment of your network would be a great way to deliver a specific message or request.
p.s. I know that these ideas have been written down before, but everyone learns in their own time.
[Photo: "Networked Organizational Structure" by Michael Heiss]