Linking Up by Linking In: LinkedIn and Your Career

The Situation:

You need a job. You spend day after day searching the job boards online. You’ve sweated over your résumé and perhaps even paid a professional to write one for you. Still, all you receive is rejection after rejection, or nothing at all. You are beginning to feel like you’re wasting your time. So, what’s a person to do?

The Solution:

Join Linked In, a networking website for business and other professionals.

If you’re not familiar with this international e-celebrity, take a look at my LinkedIn profile to begin familiarizing yourself. What you’ll notice is that although this is technically a “social networking” site, it is much less social and far more professional than sites such as Facebook or Myspace.

Setting Up Your Profile:

After you sign up for an account, you’ll want to begin building your LinkedIn profile. The importance of profile building cannot be over emphasized. I changed mine several times as I learned the particulars of how this site functions, and what I needed to do to take advantage of its benefits.

I watched a relatively short informative video with “two secrets” for using LinkedIn properly and most effectively. It was time well spent, and I highly recommend it to anyone who takes advantage of a LinkedIn account and who is also searching for employment. The video and the page it’s on will conclude with a sales pitch (and, if I might say, a worthwhile purchase for any of you who can swing the bill), but the author gives you his secrets for free, telling you exactly how to independently achieve the same thing he is selling.

What you’ll discover while watching the video is that to increase the likelihood of finding an executive level position (or any other worthwhile job) in today’s economy, you must 1) network using LinkedIn, and 2) become search-engine friendly. (You still need to watch the video, folks. I’m summarizing here!)

Building Your Network:

To understand LinkedIn, let’s first look at a better-known social networking site — Facebook.

On Facebook, your network is made up of people and organizations referred to as “Friends.” You submit a “friend request,” or you accept or deny a friend request that you receive. We all know individuals who have 1000 or more “friends,” and we likewise know that there’s no way this person actually has that many actual friends.  The purpose behind building a pool of friends on Facebook is as unique to each individual as is there profile picture.

The process — and the rationale — for building your LinkedIn network is much different.

Connections:

On LinkedIn, networks are made up of “connections,” not “friends.” To add someone to your network, you must have an established connection with them such as being a member of the same group, an old college buddy, or a prior or current business colleague, to name a few. If the person is a stranger, you’ll need an “introduction” from another member who is in your network.

In my case, my first “connection” was an old college buddy. By connecting with her, I could choose to ask her for an introduction to any of the connections in her network. Because she and I are in different industries however, most of her connections would not be helpful to my job search, nor could I offer anything (or much of anything) that might benefit them at some point.

Next, I started joining groups on LinkedIn.

By joining “groups” on LinkedIn — groups that are relevant to your industry, talents, and interests –you not only become active on the site, you now have a legitimate connection to other members who you can “invite” to connect to your network.

When choosing who to invite into your network, or when accepting the invitation of someone else, it’s important to build your network to 500 connections but to do so carefully. Numbers are critical, but the reason for the connection is more important.

Here’s how I’m building my network:

I read the various comments within a group’s postings. If someone makes a comment that somehow impresses or interests me, I take a look at his/her profile. If I like what I see — and if that person and I could somehow help one another now or later — I send an invitation for him/her to join my network.

When filling in the invitation form, you have the option to send the canned message, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” or you can write your own message. I always personalize the invitation, stating my reason for choosing the individual, such as, “I was intrigued by a comment you made on the discussion about scams.” If I’m sending an invitation to someone who hasn’t posted a comment, I may say, “You have a business of interest to me because [give reason]. I’d like to add you to my network.”

The reason is up to you, but it is accepted protocol to give a reason rather than quickly sending the canned invitation.

Becoming Search-Engine Friendly:

You may have seen “SEO” and not quite understood what it means. It stands for “search engine optimization,” and it is critical that you have at least a basic understanding of how to build your SEO.

Why?  Because anyone who uses a search engine, such as Google, will typically only look at the first page of results that pops up.  If you aren’t on that first page, you drastically reduce the chance of being discovered.

Think about it:   How often do you do a search and only look at the first page of those results? At best, you may keep looking to the 2nd or 3rd page, but after that, you lose patience, or, more likely, you’ve found what you needed on the first page.  Why keep looking?

With the zabillions of sites out there, and pages within those sites, etc., how does a search engine (like Google) “decide” which sites it will place on the first page of your search results?  They do it using a complex formula made up of key words and search terms, among other things.

While SEO is generally thought of in terms of an internet business attempting to make it to the first page, those of us who are seeking employment need to realize that we are selling our individual talents — much like a business sells its product(s) or service(s). We want to find ourselves on Page #1 of Google, so that a potential employer can find us without surfing through hundreds of pages from his or her Google search (which, we’ve determined, he/she won’t do!)

From watching the video, you’ll learn that it is not your name that Google or another search engine needs to recognize; it is your talents. Why? Because job recruiters who are hired by that company you have your eyes on will put in the search terms that describe the job opening. They don’t know your name yet, so they obviously won’t search for you that way.

If you consider yourself to be a “vegetarian master chef” for example — and a recruiter needs to find a chef who specializes in vegetarian cuisine — guess what search terms the recruited will type in while searching? If she types in “chef vegetarian specialty”, will you show up? Probably not — not unless you’ve optimized your search-engine friendliness.

Summary:

Finding the right career opportunity and being extended a job offer, or building your business, is much different than it was when we were in our youth.  While networking has always been the key to success, the method of networking is now high tech.

To get linked up you need to get Linked In. But just signing up for an account isn’t sufficient; it takes time to build an effective profile. Stop spending all day on the job boards, and build your network connections and SEO instead!

~ Lynda C. Watts

Links:

For more information on SEO and LinkedIn, you may enjoy the following —

  1. THE video
  2. Linked In
  3. Wikipedia: What is SEO?
  4. SEO Chat: details
  5. Customizing to Optimize LinkedIn
  6. Managing Your Career with LinkedIn

Connect with the Author:

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Lynda’s Professional Profile

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One Response to Linking Up by Linking In: LinkedIn and Your Career

  1. Marcy says:

    This is all great advice! I am 40+ and I am currently “pounding the pavement”. Although I am still receiving rejections, I have a much better outlook knowing that I have the opportunity to utilize my Linkedin network and tap into those that are employees of the companies that I am looking to apply to. Although haveing the proper skills for the job, in today’s market it is also VERY important to “know someone”!

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