How to Network on LinkedIn. By Jeremy A. Sykes
I started my new job in September of 2010 at a prestigious law firm. How did I get this swank job? LinkedIn. Anyone can do it. Here’s how:
Establish a profile:
LinkedIn is a professional network. You can post a picture of yourself, and I encourage that, but this is not Facebook and its important that you do not treat it as such. When you start networking, hundreds, maybe thousands of potential employers will be cruising your profile. Show the world the face you want them to see. Save your stories about Baruch’s Thursday Night Socials for your private facebook page. Better yet, save it for your diary, that information does not belong on the net.
The more information you put up about yourself the better, so long as you keep it general. LinkedIn, like any social network, conducts searches by association. Put in your high school, and your college so that old friends can find you. But not so you can swap stories about old times. Your friends, have been just as busy as you have, they have jobs, they have careers, and you never know when there might be someone at the company you want to work for, that you already know. Definitely, put in previous employers, this will expand your network. If you are changing careers, you should choose previous employers carefully. Your work in the town smoothie shop probably isn’t relevant to your dreams of high finance.
No resume is complete without some fun stuff, and this is likewise true for professional networking. Are you in a club? List it as a job or previous employment. When you expand your network and you see Joe from your bowling club, LinkedIn will ask you how you know that person. If Bowling Club is listed in your profile, it will pop up as an option.
Add a photo. This isn’t for everyone, but its natural to be curious about your connections look. It will draw hits to your profile. As with any resume, you’re selling yourself, and a good photo can go a long way. Be tasteful—if you have a photo from an old place of work, or any professionally taken photo, this is your best bet. It’s a small shot, and it isn’t expandable, so no one is going to be checking your face for zits. In terms of information mining, it will help you determine your approach. If someone is under thirty, chances are you can approach them collegially and informally. Someone who is over fifty, (and there are many such on LinkedIn), will definitely prefer a longer, more formal, and impeccably written introduction.
Expand Your Network:
This shouldn’t be hard for the Now Generation, think Facebook. You shouldn’t be concerned about having people that aren’t in your line of work on your list. Particularly if you live in a big city, as we do. Your waiter’s brother is a Vice President at NBC. Your dog walker’s sister is a CPA. As with any network, its not who you know, its who they know. That said, this isn’t Facebook, generally I’d advise against including people with whom you may have been intimate with, at least until long after the dust settles. Search for me. I’ll link with you.
One of the neat functions about LinkedIn is that its “People You May Know” search function has a couple of things worked into its algorithms. It picks people from your expanded network, but it also picks people whom you may have searched for and looked at their profile. Remember, it is highly likely that you will start to appear in their “People You May Know” queue. This is an excellent technique for getting noticed by potential employers.
A Note of Caution: It is an excellent idea to connect with any current employers, but be aware that, like many social networking sites, you get weekly bulletins on what your connections are up to. Your employers will get those same bulletins. In this modern day, a certain amount of job hopping is expected, but always be respectful of your employers. A good way to think about this is to approach any connections that you make, as connections for life, not stepping stools to the next position.
Another Note of Caution: Don’t abuse your network. At some point there may be people much higher up the food chain in your network, VPs and Directors. They are busy people. Don’t connect with them unless you know them personally. On the other hand, lower ranking executives are sometimes willing to talk about their experiences. So choose carefully.
Finding a Job:
This is the fun part. So you know you want to work for Bloomberg. Easy enough. But first you have to know your search engine. LinkedIn has a great search tool. Not only can you have extremely broad searches, you can then filter your search using the task pane at the left. You can filter by ANY of the information present on each profile. If your search pulls up people who work at Bloomberg, are analysts, Tenors, play golf, and were in the Finance Club in high school, you can narrow your search down by each of those factors. With this laser-like pointing, you can connect with exactly the right person at the organization for which you want to work.
Use groups. Like Facebook, LinkedIn has thousands of groups and associations. Not all will accept you, but if you write a convincing paragraph on your invite request, most groups will relent. Think outside of the box when searching for groups, and be creative. There are groups within groups, special kinds of people with special skills. Once you’ve joined a group, your network will really begin to take off. Some of the more talkative members of the group will endeavor to start group discussions. Go ahead and post to these, but remember that your posts will get disseminated in the weekly bulletins, so be careful about what you say. Particularly if you work in a field with confidential or sensitive information. Speak in broad terms, and use open phrasing when responding to others posts. Responding to a “troll” in kind can ruin your entire profile. Members of your groups will start to appear in your “People You May Know” list after a while. Particularly if you’ve responded to a post or had a conversation with them.
So you’ve decided that Bloomberg is the place for you. As with any job search, find out about the company’s competitors. Connect with people at the competition. People see what they want to see, if they see people at Thomson Reuters in your connections, they may well assume that you are being recruited. How did you find out about the opportunity? Was there contact information? Be careful, you don’t want to cyber stalk a potential employer, but it is completely natural and expected that you would want to find out something about an individual. In fact, it would likely work against you if you did not find your employers. Research always shows in an interview. Find people on their level, find people who work for them. Our job trainings at Baruch always tell you to address your cover letter directly to the person hiring. If the post is anonymous, how do you know to whom to address your letter? LinkedIn is a great tool for this.
Once you’ve started your search, its important to see whose been looking at you. These profile views used to link directly to whomever searched for you. I think that they hid this function behind a “pay” wall, with a membership fee. However, it will tell you some information about the people looking at your profile. And will give you a list of people who may have checked your profile, of about fifteen or twenty. This will clue you in to how people might be viewing your profile. You want to attract the right audience, and that may mean fine tuning your profile, or removing an association. Look! A senior analyst at Bloomberg checked out your profile! Good work, check out his, see other people with whom he has connections. Ask for an introduction if you can. You can’t connect with just anybody in LinkedIn, you have to be one connection removed, a colleague, or know their email. There are ways around this, for an example, a recruiter once contacted me saying they knew me from a company in my profile. Then, in her message, she stated simply and honestly that she wanted to talk to me about opportunities in my field. Still, always be respectful, and approach them as you would at one of the club meetings, professionally.
As a communication tool, LinkedIn is lacking. One of the other functions behind the membership fee is called “InMail” which is better for messaging and writing than the small 100 word limit you get in most mail. Once you connect with a potential employer, take your correspondence to the next level with an email address.
There are other great tips and tricks for LinkedIn. I’ve linked the Graduate Baruchian to my page, so I get traffic directly from posts like this one.
So in a word, come write for the Grad Baruchian, we have a meeting next week!