The world of social networking has exploded over the past several years, and many people have become accustomed to platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In the world of employment, LinkedIn is the preferred choice. I still find though that many people are either still not on LinkedIn or not using it effectively. Below is a brief description of what it is, along with the benefits of using this tool. I’ve also included a few warnings to help you avoid potential pitfalls.
What it is: LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 175 million members and growing rapidly. LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals.
- Research tool. When you’re looking for work, it is important to research the companies you’ll be interviewing with. LinkedIn provides a great way to learn about the specific people that work there and especially those whom you could be interviewing with.
- To be found. If you’re searching for work, then you don’t want to be invisible. There are lots of talent acquisition specialists and HR professionals looking through LinkedIn every day for potential new hires. If you’re not on it though, or haven’t kept your profile updated, then you could be missing out on new opportunities.
- Virtual rolodex of your contacts. LinkedIn makes it easy to keep track of all of your professional contacts. You’ll receive e-mail updates when your contacts change jobs or make adjustments to their profiles. This saves you time and easily allows you to keep track of the people in your network.
- Follow-up tool. As you meet new people in your professional life, it is important to have a way to keep in touch afterwards. Many of these don’t necessarily make sense for Facebook, since they’re more of an acquaintance than a true friend at this stage.
A word of caution: What it isn’t.
LinkedIn should not be viewed as a replacement for face to face contact. Most people get jobs through personal contacts of friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately, I’ve seen people mistakenly try to use LinkedIn as a type of shortcut to personal networking. Some folks get a little overzealous by actively trying to connect on LinkedIn with people they don’t know, but this usually does more harm than good. Instead I would suggest asking someone you do know well to help make an introduction for you to someone else that you’d like to meet.
LinkedIn is a tremendous resource to turn to when you need new or different work. Your contacts in LinkedIn are a great starting point if you find yourself suddenly out of work, or just in need of something different. If you’re unemployed, I would highly suggest updating your profile to show that your most recent job has ended and to mention that you’re now currently seeking new opportunities. Making this change will immediately alert your network of your new status. I would also personally reach out to those in your network, too, by sending them a note through LinkedIn to mention that you’re seeking work in case they have ideas for you.
Connecting with someone on LinkedIn shouldn’t be seen as the end of the process, but the beginning. Developing and maintaining good relationships takes time, and there is no substitute for regular contact. If used properly, LinkedIn can be a great tool to help you stay organized and focused in these efforts.