You probably have received the first memo: Being on LinkedIn is of key importance in your job search. It is crucial that you have a complete profile that presents your personal brand, accomplishments at each position you have held, skills, academic background and more.
Here's the follow-up memo: It's not enough to just create a static profile and let it sit there, hoping that someone who can be of assistance to you will stumble upon it. You can bolster your job search through knowledge you learn and visibility you attain when you take advantage of one of the key social aspects of the site: groups.
There are more than 1.5 million LinkedIn groups, ranging from just a few individuals to many thousands of members. At the discretion of the owner, a group can be open so anyone can join, or it can have restricted membership for which you must be approved to take part.
At any one time you can be a member of up to 50 of them. There are numerous groups for just about anything you can imagine, including: locales, industries, skill sets, job functions, professional organizations, alumni of both academic institutions and specific companies, sports, hobbies, etc.
Some of the best groups focus on getting a job and include: "Career Rocketeer," "Job Openings, Job Leads and Job Connections!," "Job-Hunt Help," "About.com Job Search and Careers" and "Knock em Dead Secrets & Strategies."
Groups all share these common features:
a. You can see and access all the members of any group of which you are a part.
b. Each group has its own logo, and the logos of your groups are by default shown on your profile. However, you can hide any you wish by going into the "Your Settings" option located in the "More…" menu within each group.
If you're job hunting, you might want to have two or three logos visible to show that you are available. Having much more than that may send the "I'm desperate" message, which you want to avoid at all costs.
Also located in the "More ..." menu is the ability to regulate the kind and frequency of group notifications.
c. All the comments made in group discussions are searchable. When you write intelligently and share information of value, you boost your chances of being found by recruiters who regularly scan such messages to find thought leaders.
Here are six strategies you can employ to leverage the power of LinkedIn's groups:
1. Join as many as possible, up to the limit of 50. You can search for groups of interest to you by clicking on the "Group" drop-down menu at the top of LinkedIn's homepage. Create a basket of different types of groups, and try to join groups with many members. For example, the Linked N Chicago (LiNC) group boasts nearly 80,000 members with more than 100 new discussions each month, versus a very niche group that has only 20 members and which might not be useful to you unless you happen to know that its members are key to your job search.
2. Demonstrate your expertise by contributing to group discussions where you can make a substantive contribution. By doing this, your words get seen and you build your brand as a helpful expert.
3. Begin group discussions that will be of interest to others. You might begin a professional discussion with a question like: "Which of these options to do X (list two or three possibilities) do you find gets the best results?"
4. Avoid posting questions that simply demonstrate your neediness. It is not OK to post repeatedly: "I've been looking for a job for X months without success. Can you help me?"
5. Find "hidden jewel" jobs by clicking in a group's "Jobs" tab. This tab is different from the Jobs tab found at the top of LinkedIn's pages. Often employers or recruiters will post in these places to get a small, "in the know" quality candidate pool.
6. You can do an advanced search, within your groups, for people from your target companies who are in your field of expertise. Examine the discussions they have begun or to which they have contributed. You can learn about them and the issues they face, and this can be great information to have in your back pocket when you're going into a job interview.
Above all, remember that networking is about building relationships and learning, whether you're doing so online or in person. When you show yourself to be the kind of person who helps others in your groups, you add to the value of your own brand, and make others eager to be of assistance to you in return.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.