One of my favorite networking gurus, Liz Ryan, founder of WorldWIT, wrote the following terrific letter in response to a query on a private mailing list from a woman asking about how to use LinkedIn to help find a job in the graphic design field. I immediately asked Liz for permission to republish it here and I’m pleased that she said yes. Please, read it and learn about professional networking from a true expert…
Congratulations on your new degree! Here are a few ideas on using LinkedIn in your job search.
I don’t think that an overt outreach campaign that reaches out to people (whether hiring managers, HR folks, or other influencers) at various companies and tells them about your job search, is going to be especially satisfying for you. For one thing, this is the sort of contact that people fear when they’re trying to decide whether or not to join a network like LinkedIn. Unless there is some clear, compelling intersection between your background or talents and the company’s specific need, I would view this as typically unwelcome contact.
(I’m just one person. But I’m a ridiculously long-in-the-tooth HR person, with a focus on job hunting.)
Luckily, there are many better ways to use LinkedIn in your job search. Here are four of them, for starters:
1) Check out LinkedIn jobs, naturally. If you can see a job there, that means that you’re connected to the job, which is very sweet for a new grad. If you do not have tons of connections, connect to some of us on the PowerForum, who love to help new grads.
2) Use LinkedIn for your job-search research project. You will focus on specific companies – you should do that, as it gives you a target for your job search and turns you into an active job researcher/seeker rather than just a person who trolls Monster.com all day long. As you identify these companies, you can learn a TON about them via LinkedIn. Search on the company name to find people who work there now or who used to work there – what sorts of backgrounds do they have? What sorts of education? Which of these target companies seem most suitable for you given your own experiences and interests?
If you’re looking to apply at a company and don’t feel comfortable contacting someone who works there now, out of the blue (and who could blame you for that), contact someone who USED to work there! Corporate alums are under no pressure to recommend you for a job, and will most likely talk very freely about their former company. This is the indirect approach – LinkedIn is a terrific vehicle for that. (Do the person a favor, since he or she is helping you – create a logo for his or her teenage daughter’s blog, for instance.)
3) Use LinkedIn to find relevant headhunters to talk to. Headhunters are well-connected and, like real estate agents, seldom shun a phone call that comes out of the blue (although it may take them awhile to call you back). They may not be able to help you find a job specifically – lots of search people don’t work with new grads, because new grads are not the job-seekers that firms will typically pay search people to find for them – but they can advise you nonetheless. In ten minutes on the phone with a headhunter you can learn enough to target some companies, drop others from your list entirely, and save yourself hours or weeks of trouble.
4) Very important – use LinkedIn to expand the network of people you ALREADY know, who should be informed that you are out of school and job-hunting.
Where there isn’t a compelling rationale for contact, it’s awkward to reach out to strangers and say “Gee, want to hire me?” But you should absolutely use LinkedIn to get back in touch with people you already know – friends of your parents, your friends’ parents and older siblings, the lady you babysat for in high school, anyone you interned for during college, the McKinsey VP who sang in choir at church all those years with your mom – get it? – and enroll them in supporting your job search.
What you are doing with LinkedIn in this case is simply pulling together your existing network (the people you know, though you may not have thought of them as your network) and bringing them up to date on your professional status. Here’s how to find them:
a) do a LinkedIn search on the city where you grew up and identify people you know. If you grew up in San Jose or New York or Chicago, scratch that and go right to b)
b) sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and list everyone in business that you know. A new grad should be able to list 100 such people – push yourself. Think about Girl Scout leaders, the volunteer who directed “Grease” your senior year of high school, the track team parents, the librarian back in your high school who is a corporate Knowledge Manager now – you can do it! Once you have the list on paper (actually, do it in Word so you can cut and paste names into the LinkedIn search box) start looking for these folks on LinkedIn.
Some of the people on your list won’t be on LinkedIn yet, of course – if you really want to include them in the network you’re constructing, you’ll have to find their email addresses so that you can invite them to join. The easiest way (short of phoning them) is to Google them – there’s a decent chance you’ll find an email address that way. Out of your starter list of 100 friends-and-family advocates, perhaps you’ll end up with a decent network of 65 LinkedIn contacts. Perhaps more!
Good luck Emily! Finding this group shows that you are canny and discerning and will find a terrific job quickly. Write to me later and I will help you negotiate the multiple job offers you are sure to be juggling before long.