LinkedIn is a tool – nothing more or less. The more you use it, the more proficient you will become. Once your profile is complete, there are any number of strategies you can employ to plumb its value. Here are a few key ones you can easily utilize:
1. Find companies in your geographic area, and follow them. Start broad, and then add more parameters to narrow the list to a manageable field. First click on the advanced search, then highlight companies on the left-hand column. If you aren't located in a place that is listed, add yours. For example, if you type in "Greater Boston Area," nearly 30,000 results appear. Next you could refine the search, one step at a time, by your industry, skills, companies where your first and/or second-degree connections work and so on.
When you get to a reasonable number of results, systematically click on each of the companies of interest to you. When a company page opens, you can click to follow it. This way you'll keep up to date, get a good sense of what jobs are open and know who's who in your target companies.
2. Find jobs that are hiding in plain sight. The "Jobs" tab on the main menu features paid job ads, but like any other job board, that section is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Other jobs are so out in the open that they're ignored. When you take the time to scroll through the updates section on LinkedIn's main page, you will often find posts by hiring managers, recruiters and HR staffers that might read something like, "my company is looking to hire a XXX," then giving a link to the job posting.
To have access to these kinds of listings, it's important that you create links to people within the kinds of companies you seek employment. It's never too early to expand your network on LinkedIn, because the larger your network, the more you will have access to the updates of people with important information upon which you can act.
Still another way to find often ignored job postings is to search within each Group's Job tab. Unlike paid jobs found in the main menu Jobs tab, here you will find discussions about openings, as well as specific job postings that can be put up for free by any member of the group. They can't be accessed any other way.
You can join up to 50 groups at any one time, and by balancing them among industries, job functions, your particular skills, as well as alumni and other types of groups, you can access each one to find these often unnoticed job postings. You might create a system where you access a certain number of groups each day, on a rotating basis. Yes, it's painstaking work, but that is your job as a job hunter.
When recruiters or HR staff wish to create a highly targeted pool of candidates they will often bypass the paid jobs in favor of a highly focused mention of a particular opening in places that people with the necessary skills and experience are likely to frequent.
3. Seize opportunities to engage your contacts. LinkedIn blasts out messages to you when any of your first-degree connections has a birthday, work anniversary or gets a new job. These are all based on what one puts into their profile. LinkedIn prompts you to send its boilerplate message to that person. Don't do it. Instead, capitalize on those moments as legitimate opportunities to rekindle personal connections. Without appearing desperate, you can interact with the other people and find valuable information including job opportunities.
For example, when one of your contacts obtains a new job, you might offer your congratulations and then go on to initiate a conversation to find out what's going on at both his or her new and old companies. Often, you can uncover opportunities to pursue in one place or the other. By simply beginning a conversation at appropriate moments, you keep your relationships real. This is what networking is all about.
These are just a few strategies that you can employ when you are up and running on LinkedIn. It's well worth your effort to learn the ins and outs of this key social media site, and to think creatively about how to use its features to further your job search.
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.