How to Use LinkedIn Groups to Build Relationships

Job seekers often update their profiles on LinkedIn, but there's so much more potential if you delve deeper into this professional tool.

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Lindsay Olson
Job seekers often update their profiles on LinkedIn without delving any deeper into this professional tool. But there are many features that can help you build relationships, ones that can lead to new career opportunities. A good place to start is LinkedIn Groups.

Understanding Groups

More than 100 million people use LinkedIn for professional networking. Some are college graduates, some are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. And of course, there’s everyone in between. Standing out can be difficult if all you’ve done is filled out your profile. LinkedIn Groups provides a valuable way for you to be heard and make new connections.

[See 6 Creative Ways to Showcase Your Resume Online.]

LinkedIn Groups exist for just about any industry or topic you could imagine. Focus on ones that will help you with your goal: finding your next job. Look for groups in your industry and groups with influential people in your field. You can also search groups to see if there is one created for people who work at a company you want to work for. To discover new opportunities, take a look at the groups hiring managers and other industry professionals belong to. While LinkedIn limits you to joining 50 groups, focus on just a handful, as you’ll want to interact with them each week, and need time to do so.

Participating in Groups can help establish you as an expert in your field, make you more visible to potential employers, and help you build relationships with key contacts.

3 Ways to Benefit from Groups

Use LinkedIn Groups just like you would an in-person networking group: You’re not there to sell yourself, but rather to build relationships. Don’t jump into a Group announcing that you’re looking for a job. Instead, sit back and observe at first. Participate where appropriate. Build trust.

[See A More Strategic Approach to Applying for Jobs.]

1. Participate in Discussions

Active Groups have a lot of dialogue around topics in your industry. If you’ve got your two cents to share, by all means, do so. Share your opinion and links that relate to the topic. Post relevant articles to spark discussion within the group. In the PR and Communications Jobs Community Group recently, members discussed a blog post about age discrimination in the industry. Today it has more than 500 comments, and several of the participants have partnered through this discussion to start a cause-related PR agency.

2. Get Advice

You probably could use professional advice occasionally, right? Use your LinkedIn Group to find it. Ask questions or simply to start a conversation. If, for instance, you’re in a group for sales professionals, you might ask how other members use social media to build relationships. You’ll get all kinds of answers, and if it’s a good question, the dialogue will continue for a while.

3. Link to Other Members

As you get to know other members of your Group, send them a LinkedIn invitation so you can get to know them outside of the Group. Naturally, connecting to people who work for companies you’d like to work for is a smart strategy, but don’t push it. Keep in touch via email, and once you feel the relationship is solid, consider asking whether any opportunities are available.

What Not to Do

It’s important not to push your wares to the Group without warrant. A Group is designed to help people discuss and share common interests, and it’s simply not the place to be forceful. It’s fine to share blog posts you’ve written, as long as they relate to the topic. And don’t go overboard; if you’re the only one who is posting content, ease up and visit another Group.

Users can flag you if they think you’re posting unrelated or inappropriate content, and getting banned from a LinkedIn Group certainly won’t help you find a new job!

[See How to Use the New Apply with LinkedIn Button.]

Final Tips

• Aim to check in to your Groups two or three times each week to stay active and involved.

• If you’re the most active person in the Group, you will get Top Influencer status, which can give you more exposure.

• Don’t join more Groups than you can feasibly participate in.

• Join Groups long before you start job hunting!

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.