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How to use LinkedIn in your job search April 4, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Social Media, Staffing & Recruiting.
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I have written on these pages before about the power of expanding your professional network on LinkedIn. Now I have some new statistics and information that I feel really bore out my earlier comments about the professional social business networking site.


Visitors to the site in 2010 have jumped 31% from 2009 to 17.6 million visitors in February 2010. Your customers, your colleagues, your competitors and your boss are all on LinkedIn. The average memeber is a college-educated 43-year-old making $107,000. More than one quarter of the members on LinkedIn are senior executives, and every Fortune 100 company is represented. Recently, Oracle found their CFO, Jeff Epstein, through a LinkedIn search.


One of the big reasons that LinkedIn works so well for professional matchmaking is that most of the people on LinkedIn already have jobs. But why is that good for job seekers? Well, for one thing, a legion of employed LinkedIn users are using it to research clients before sales calls, ask their connections for advice, and read up on where former colleagues are landing gigs. In this kind of a business-oriented social network, job seekers can do their networking without looking as if they are shopping themselves around. THis population is more valuable to recruiters as well.


In contrast to online job boards, which focus on showcasing active job hunters, very often the most talented and sought-after recruits are those currently employed. Headhunters have a name for people like these: passive candidates. The $8 Billion recruiting industry is built on the fact that they are hard to find, but LinkedIn changes that. It gives the recruiting industry the digital equivalent of a little black book, one that is public ands detailed.


For a generation of professionals, the baby boomers, trained to cloak their contacts at all costs, this transparency is counterintuitive. So far most of the online advice columns have been filled with advice on what *not* to do: don’t post drunken pictures of yourself online, etc. But as more and more companies have turned to the web for recruitment of candidates, it is no longer an advantage for job candidates and job seekers to refrain from broadcasting personal information.


Instead, your new professional imperative should be to present your professional skills as attratively as possible, packing your profile with keywords (logistics engineer, marketing manager, global sourcing specialist) that will send your name to the top of recruiter’s searches. You are also now able to connect your online professional interactions in one place, joining groups on LinkedIn, (LinkedIn has more than 500,000 of them, ranging from groups based on companies, schools, and other professional affinities), offering advice, and linking your blog posts and twitter updates to your linkedin profile.


Look at it this way: you Google other people, so don’t you think they’re Googling you? Part of a networked world is that people will be looking you up, and when they do, you want to be able to control what they find. Helping you present yourself well online is just the start of what you can do using LinkedIn, and with 60 million active users, you should think hard about making it an active and indispensable tool for your career path.


People are in a different context and mindset when they are in and using a professional network. In this networked, interconnected workplace, everyone will have their professional identity online so they can be discoverable for the things that will be important to them. The most obvious thing would be jobs, but it’s not just jobs. It’s also clients, consulting gigs and services.


This new source for recruitment has a complicated relationship with the more traditional staffing and executive recruitment and placement industry. Although LinkedIn is a welcome tool for recruiters, as the LinkedIn software allows recruiters to search its database without access to photographs, thus keeping in compliance with antidiscrimination laws, and to contact anybody in the LinkedIn network. But the Great Recession has forced companies to cut back on their budgets for outside firms. One of the largest corporate recruiters, Heidrick & Struggles, saw their revenues fall 36% in 2009.


LinkedIn’s primary membership is comprised of corporate professionals. Many recruiters spend time daily on the site, reading up on potential candidates, chatting with them in groups and on message boards, and responding to inquires. This approach has been working for many companies: they have been able to use LinkedIn to bring down the time it takes to fill open positions, an important metric among recruiters, by nearly half.


Make sure you always write a personal note when you send a request to connect on LinkedIn. It is very important to complete your profile as much as possible. Get recommendations from former co-workers. Use keywords to bring out the skills you want to highlight. Join groups: recruiters often scour professional groups to round up potential candidates. Answer questions from colleagues that showcase your professional expertise.


Although the prospect of spending all this time online may seem daunting initially, I still recommend placing LinkedIn at the center of your job searching activities. You should be spending a concentrated amount of time on LinkedIn, around 30 minutes a day. I also recommend using a professional picture on your LinkedIn profile page. I recommend against using dogs, cats, horses or cows in the background of your LinkedIn profile picture. I find that many older job seekers are worried that their grey hair or aging appearance will trigger age discrimination. They see that there could be drawbacks to so much transparency, and they fret that using LinkedIn will ensure that employers will potentially know more about them than they should.


These are questions that I have considered from the start of my writings about LinkedIn. Let me tell you what I think about these topics regarding LinkedIn: for all the benefit that LinkedIn brings to a job hunt, it cannot erase the fundamental challenges that exist in the job market. A reality is that many baby boomers are out of work as the industries they have worked in for decades have changes irrevocably. The millenial generation is more affected by joblessness then any generation in American history. These job hunters will need to reinvent themselves in new types of careers. The thing about social networking profiles is that they don’t lie, at least not successfully. You can’t fudge your experience or hide your age, because your connection sknow you in real life. You should post your photo to your LinkedIn profile, as your profile lets you represent yourself as strong as you can, so leverage that to your advantage.


LinkedIn can definitely help you get a job. It can help you expand your professional network, it can help you connect with corporate recruiters and independent staffing firms, land consulting gigs, connect with former colleagues and find out about jobs you never would have known about if you weren’t on LinkedIn. In the end, social networking is just a more efficient way of reaching out to people you know – and people they know. You need to work your professional network, build it before you need it, and use it to help you get an edge in an appropriate way at the appropriate juncture.


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About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can subscribe to Hub Tech Insider’s RSS feed in your RSS feed reader. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

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