Prior to conducting a job search I was on LinkedIn on a very superficial basis, brushing it aside as something only for people looking for a job. And then quite suddenly, I became a job seeker and LinkedIn became my friend.
One of the benefits of my search was my new found knowledge about how to use LinkedIn. Job seekers often hear about “The Hidden Job Market,” or they are told “networking is essential.”
Below are 5 tips of how to use LinkedIn to tap into the Hidden Job Market and how to network. We are often told what to do; I prefer to tell people how to do it:
- Create a solid profile. LinkedIn will actually give you suggestions on how to improve your profile. A job search is a sales process: you are the product, your resume is the marketing brochure, and your LinkedIn profile is the advertisement. Find a few profiles you like and incorporate what you like into your profile. (Caution: check your privacy settings and adjust appropriately. While you are tinkering with your profile you might want to turn-off “Activity Broadcast.”)
- Join 40-50 groups. Groups are great ways to tap into the Hidden Job Market. You will receive emails each day with job being advertised. The job advertised is not too important. The person advertising is what you want. Recruiters will advertise jobs that are hard to fill. I guarantee recruiters have better jobs for which they need no advertisement. Use the group emails to find recruiters and then connect with the recruiter. Recruiters will almost always accept. Once they accept then you need to begin to develop a relationship with them which is networking. People buy from people they like and trust. The internet is great for finding information however; it is hard to differentiate yourself. The follow-up after connecting is the key to building a relationship. I would send emails and follow-up with phone calls. Recruiters may not have had anything for me at that moment, but who is to say what happens 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days from now….Groups are good for finding blogs which can also be helpful for a variety of reasons. Finally, keep your group list dynamic. When you connect with people view their profile and see what groups they belong to. “Try on” a group for a week. If it doesn’t seem to fit, discard and try on another.
- Do periodic activity like sharing. To make an analogy: your profile is the body and activity is the blood that flows through the body. The blood keeps the body moving. As a job seeker, you want your name out there as a constant reminder to people. I would “share” blogs I read that I thought people in my network would like as well. I try to be a values based leader so my “shares” are leadership based blog entries in an effort to create a brand. My goal is that when people see something from me they will think, “Something shared from Mike. Must be about leadership.” I try to share about once a week, sometimes twice, but not too much. Often, Less is More.
- Use LinkedIn for researching people and companies. Anytime I heard a person’s name or a company, I was on LinkedIn to see if we are connected. As a hiring manager my best hires are from personal referrals. Hiring managers are thinking to themselves, “Can I trust this person or will they be a psycho?” Interviewing is a crap shoot. Crazy people can fool even the best hiring managers during an hour long interview. A personal referral is worth its weight in gold as it removes the trust and character questions immediately. You can also use LinkedIn to find companies. I liked to use the “Companies similar to ABC.” Finding companies similar can help you chase companies rather than chase jobs. Find companies you might like to work for, see if you know people inside the company, then go to work getting to know them. That is the essence of networking to tap into the Hidden Job Market.
- Connect with People You Know. And include a little personal message on the request to connect. Don’t connect with hiring managers before the interview. Many people still don’t use LinkedIn and people tend to be afraid of what they don’t know. Hiring managers might think they are being stalked on the internet if you request to connect too soon. (I learned this the hard way….) I receive requests to connect from people I don’t know and I wonder why I am being asked to connect. I don’t know the person so I wouldn’t introduce them to someone else, or act as a referral. I prefer quality over quantity. Social media can be very impersonal; don’t add to it by connecting with people simply for the sake of connecting. Don’t fool yourself by thinking you are networking because you have lots of connections. If the connection doesn’t know you then it is almost worthless.
Key Takeaway: Ask people how they use LinkedIn and create a Learning Objective to learn about LinkedIn each week. Focus on quality over quantity. Now that I have my LinkedIn network running well, I will contain to maintain it and figure out how to use it to help me be more productive at work. I am certain LinkedIn is for more than job seekers.
On the author:
Mike Blitz lives in Southern California with his wife of 20 years and their two children. Mike has worked in the medical diagnostics industry his entire career, in addition to a leadership role in community based non-profit. Mike loves to ride his beach cruiser, attend all of his kids sporting events, and play Words With Friends (mdblitz51)