By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting
Question: How can LinkedIn help me? I have an account but no idea what it does.
“All jobs are relationship driven,” said Ben Baldwin, Research Learning Specialist for the National Park Service at Rocky Mountain National Park, at a recent CU Boulder Career Services Panel. While you may think that networking sites like LinkedIn provide an easy way to make business connections, the truth is that they are driven by relationships, and that means putting in actual facetime (not just virtual facetime), is essential to making them work.
Unlike other social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn is targeted specifically at individuals looking to cultivate professional relationships. The trick to using LinkedIn effectively is to nurture your online relationships in the same way you would any other.
A recent article on Forbes.com suggests that you when you find out that a new “link” or someone connected to a contact of yours has a similar interest, you should ask him or her out for lunch or coffee. Explain your interest in a similar field or position and request an informal informational interview. Developing more contacts like this will help you later when you are applying for a job and need advice, a reference…you name it.
If you are new to LinkedIn or have not used your profile much, make sure you are actively searching for people you know to connect with on the site. By finding friends, classmates, former coworkers and family members on LinkedIn, you establish a foundation of people who can then open their networks to you. JVA’s Business Development Manager Christy Bergman used her existing network to help her when she began planning her move to Denver. “[I] found out that there were many Denver contacts just one-step removed from people I knew and could ask to make an introduction,” she says.
The Forbes article also suggests that pursuing new contacts, having meetings with links and sending emails to current and potential contacts lets “recruiters” know that you are looking for work. The simple act of expressing your interest alerts friends, clients and human resources personnel to your profile. Make sure that before you send out any emails your profile and resume are up to date. If potential employers are looking at your profile, they want to find out as much as possible as quickly as possible to see if you are an ideal candidate for their company.
Once you have updated your profile, connected with people you know on LinkedIn and invited other contacts to join, you can use LinkedIn’s advanced features to search for contacts you may have connections with at companies you are interested in working for. The trick is to make sure, even if you are currently employed, that your profile is always up to date. You never know when new friends, clients, or other young professionals seeking to interview you might come along.