There are more than 277 million people on LinkedIn at last count. This means you want to be on it. But you also don’t want to get lost in the crowd.
Hopefully, by now, you have read our tips on how to create an unforgettable LinkedIn profile that will help you stand out. This is your first step. Now, we’ll show you how to actually use LinkedIn once you are properly on it.
LinkedIn is a formidable professional networking platform as well as a powerful job board and search engine. The fact that a full 94% of recruiters use social media, in particular LinkedIn, to fill open positions should get you excited.
Here’s how you can use this game-changing platform to get your next job.
1. Understand where LinkedIn “fits in.”
In order to use it well, it’s important to understand how it fits into the larger context of social media networking.
Facebook is about brand and identity, whether that is a personal profile or a business page. Twitter is about events or occurrences, which could be a missing plane in the Indian Ocean or letting your audience know that your latest blog post is published. LinkedIn is the best channel for engaging with people and organizations that could potentially hire you.
In the latest survey, 77% of LinkedIn users said that it helped them research people and companies. This is something that’s very handy before meeting a contact for coffee, when requesting an informational chat with someone, and, especially, as key preparation before a formal job interview. You want to know everything you possibly can about the person/people who is/are interviewing you. It will help you ask good questions as well as find points of connection over which you can bond. For example, perhaps you went to the same school or once lived in the same city or country.
2. Use the search function.
As already mentioned, LinkedIn is a high-power search engine. Over 5 billion searches were done on the social network last year.
To get started with search, go to the search bar on top; this is where you will type in your search terms. For example, if I type in “MBA career coaching,” I will get a list of related jobs, groups, and people doing similar work. If I am connected to them, it will prompt me to message them, and if I am not connected to them, it will prompt me to connect.
The dropdown box next to the search bar (or once you are in “search,” the menu at the top left) allows you to customize your search by people, jobs, companies, groups, and inbox. Click “jobs” and you can further hone in by location, connections, industry, job function, and experience level.
Now, let’s say you click on a Product Manager position at Google located in San Francisco. One of the most helpful features of LinkedIn is that in addition to details on that job, you will get: i) a list of other jobs at Google, ii) a list of similar jobs at other companies (for example, a Product Manager position at Facebook), and iii) a list of other jobs that people who viewed this job also viewed. And wait—there’s more! You’ll see a list of people that connect you to the position you are viewing, showing you exactly how and through whom you are connected. This is priceless because now, you can write that networking email (see no. 7 below) asking your friend from graduate school to connect you to his friend from college who now works in that department at Google.
One last thing. LinkedIn’s intelligent search will, over time, get a feel for what your preferences are and give them to you. You see now why search engine optimization (SEO) is important when you are crafting your own profile. The right keywords get you found by people who are using those terms. So, make sure you are find-able.
3. Create shareable experiences.
Speaking of being find-able, one of the ways of standing out is to be perceived as a solid professional in your field, someone knowledgeable and highly employable. To do that, you need to share your expertise and experience…and be heard above the noise.
Remember that in this age of ubiquitous social media, everyone is constantly collecting and sharing experiences. When we experience something special, we want to record it and share it.
Lindsay Pollak, a great resource for absolutely anything LinkedIn-related, defines a shareable experience as one where you can provide a status update about that highlights your exposure and interest and/or shares valuable information with your network. Examples of shareable experiences include attendance at important conferences and events, access to key industry folks, and opportunities to provide expertise or feedback.
Visuals matter more and more. So when you are at that conference or running a training or workshop, use a picture from that event with your update. On LinkedIn, especially, you can share the slide deck from the presentation you just gave or from the panel you attended. Remember to get permission first if it is someone else’s IP.
4. Join groups and engage.
There are hundreds of thousands of groups on the platform from retail and finance to social media and marketing. You will find interests and topics on any business subject imaginable. The latest research shows that the groups feature is the top favorite of users.
First, post useful and interesting content in your groups. This may include articles and blog posts you read (or wrote), a funny (but work-related!) video you watched, or a major report on your industry that just hit the news.
Second, make it easy for others to engage with you. Ask a question where people can give a very short answer, for example, “What do you think is the secret to ultimate job satisfaction: i) talent, ii) passion, or iii) money?”
And always remember to engage back; reply to all comments you receive, even if it’s just a short thank you! Don’t argue with people, but instead, try to facilitate a good discussion. (And by the way, the answer to that question is here).
5. Connect and build your network.
Everyone you meet is someone you may end up working for, recruiting, referring, or advising. This is really where you see the magic of LinkedIn; it’s a veritable live global village of mentors and mentees, job leads, and business opportunities.
So, connect with everyone. And make it personal. For example, you may send a customized message when you ask to connect with people in the vein of:
It was a pleasure to meet you at the conference. I enjoyed our chat. Good luck with your projects, and let’s keep in touch. Warm regards, Hira.
This way, you establish and build the relationship right from the start. And the receiver will likely appreciate your extra effort and remember you among the sea of people he or she met at that conference.
6. Take recommendations (and endorsements) seriously.
I put endorsements in parentheses because these are provided at the click of a button and don’t really say that much about the endorser’s experience of you and that skill. A huge volume of endorsements looks good for sure (so, there is no harm in collecting them), and all you have to do is tell LinkedIn what your skills and expertise are. You can add up to 50 skills.
Recommendations, however, should be taken seriously. We cannot stress enough the incredible value that recommendations provide. They add layer upon layer of credibility in the eyes of prospective employers. If you are in a client-based role, clients writing on your behalf essentially serve as testimonials. For an independent consultant or a freelancer, this is golden.
When you ask for a recommendation, we strongly suggest that you do two things. The first is to offer to help. Remember that people are busy, and also, most people don’t like writing recommendations! They may think great things about you but be at a loss when it comes to putting pen to paper. It would be a relief to get some information from you reminding them of projects you worked on, goals you accomplished, and examples of key skills you used in that job. Always remember to say, “Please feel free to adjust this as you see fit.”
Second, offer to return the favor and write a recommendation for your recommender. That’s just good business practice.
7. Write thoughtful networking emails.
You can directly message anyone in your network. With an upgrade to LinkedIn Premium, you may send messages to up to 10 people per year.
Here are some basic tips for writing good networking emails that will get you a response. First, keep it simple and make sure that what you are asking for is clear. If you are looking for opportunities in XYZ field and would like to connect to Mr. Smith to have an informational chat about his experience in that field, then say so. Don’t say that you’d like any job in that field. Mentioned your skills and explain how they match a particular job or opening.
Second, act according to your objective. If you want a contact to forward your information, write an email that is easy to forward. If you want a contact to make an introduction, ask for it clearly, but give them an out. They may not have spoken to that person in a long time or don’t feel comfortable making the intro for other reasons.
An example of a good introduction email:
I hope this message finds you well. I am applying for the Community Director position with the Humane Society, a favorite organization of mine. I saw that your friend, Sarah Michaels, works for HS. I was wondering if you would feel comfortable making a connection between us, as I’d love to chat with her about her time at HS and my interest in this position. Many thanks in advance.
A Connected Future
Finally, let me say this. As much as LinkedIn is currently one of the greatest tools available for finding the job of your dreams, it’s not about the job. It’s about your future. It’s about taking a genuine and active interest in your career and your life. It’s about relationships, opportunities, and all kinds of possibilities that could come your way because you are now in touch with hundreds of interesting people representing a vast continuum of backgrounds, talents, connections, and experiences.
Share, help others, and grow.