I recently had a chance to meet the younger sister of a high school friend who was in transition for the first time since college graduation. “I used to always have jobs lined up for me and never had a challenge finding work.” Heard that one before, right? How about, “I received all of these LinkedIn invites, but I thought they were such a nuisance!” Indeed, the only positive thing to come out of not digging our wells before we are thirsty is to finally realize the power of LinkedIn in helping us build out our personal brand, professional networking, and ultimately being instrumental in helping us land a job.
Since I began blogging in July of 2008 to share with the world my advice on many things in social media, I wanted to devote this blog post to give all of you in transition the same advice that I gave my friend’s sibling as to how I would go about looking for a job in 2011. Enjoy the tips & advice, and please feel free to add to them in the comments. Thanks!
1.) Decide on Your Keywords
Keywords are important for your job search for two reasons: A) They will help you better search for potential jobs and B) They will guide you in refining your own LinkedIn profile so that you can use these same keywords to better describe the work that you have done and thus be more discoverable. Don’t know what keywords to use? Search for job openings on LinkedIn Jobs or online sites such as Monster and see which types of jobs most appeal to you. Look at the keywords that they use. Analyze. Emulate. Done.
2) Don’t Forget about Internet Job Boards
I’m going to cheat here and give you a tip that isn’t necessarily directly related to social media: Once you have your keywords chosen, it will make it much easier to use Internet job boards. Despite the fact that they say the hidden job market is responsible for a majority of jobs created, Internet job boards should not be ignored. The issue is how much time you should spend on them. With keywords in hand, sign up to receive daily email alerts from the largest Internet job board aggregators Simply Hired and Indeed. Now you only need to spend a few minutes a day to cover the latest updates on Internet job boards. Done.
3) Get Reacquainted with LinkedIn
I am assuming that you might have signed on to LinkedIn way back when and haven’t used it since. Now is the time to get reacquainted with the platform. I have published plenty of LinkedIn and job search resources already to help you in this blog. You can buy my book about using LinkedIn if you need a reference and guide book. And where LinkedIn back in 2009 used to be a pretty static platform, 2010 saw them introducing new changes and tweaks on a frequent basis, and the pace continues in 2011. So get reacquainted, but keep the following in mind:
- While the user interface has changed, the key functionality of your profile being the centerpiece of your existence has not. Your LinkedIn profile should not be your resume as it is not about your past: Your LinkedIn profile should be about your branding for your future.
- One new addition to LinkedIn worth mentioning are the “Skills” that you can add to your profile. Considering that 40% of LinkedIn’s revenues come from their Hiring Solutions software, it can only be assumed that they are building out the ability to search through these skills to help corporate HR departments pinpoint the right talent. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure that your profile includes these as well.
- LinkedIn has given you the ability to pay for a new Job Seeker Premium Account. While this account does provide some advantages, I really don’t think that you need to pay to be successful in your job search. I know that when I was in transition it made me feel good paying for services because it felt like I was doing everything I could to find a job. That being said, the best things you can be doing on LinkedIn, like networking with other professionals and gathering intelligence on target companies and hiring managers, are free. You don’t need to pay to play on LinkedIn’s playground.
- While some preach that you should advertise the fact that you are unemployed, I believe that putting titles like “Actve Job Seeker” after your name only devalue your brand. It is unfortunate, but studies have shown that companies prefer the passive job seeker over the active job seeker. I know how you want to let the world know how you are actively looking for a job, but don’t use your profile for that. Instead, use your profile to focus on your strengths and value that you will undoubtedly bring to your next company.
4) Getting the Word Out
Once you’re all set up with the above, chances are you’ll want to get the word out to your network about your job search. The easiest way to do this is to send out a Status Update to your network, but before doing so, make sure your privacy settings are set so that the whole world doesn’t see what should be information for your network only. You can also message everyone within LinkedIn who you are connected to, but can only send out a message to 50 connections at one time. Here’s an idea: Why not sign up for a free email marketing service like Mailchimp (which I use and love), ask those in your network if they are OK with you sending them emails using this service, and send them an update about your job search status but also including information which they may find resourceful? Keeping mindshare in your network is important because you want to make sure that those who know you will go out of their way to mention you when the appropriate opportunity arises. If done right, a newsletter is a savvy way of doing this, and it could have many more benefits for your career in the future as your mailing list membership grows.
5) Increase Your Connections
The concept that the more connections you have on LinkedIn the easier it will be to get in touch with, as well as be contacted by others, should be a no-brainer by now. But do you have enough connections yourself? How many LinkedIn connections should you have? My answer is: Multiply your age by 10. Think about it: Don’t you meet more than 10 people a year in your professional or personal life? Most people meet many more than that. And if you think about your high school, college, and past employers, there are plenty of people that you could be connecting with. If you uploaded your contact database two or even one year ago, it is time to do so again. LinkedIn is nearing 100 million members, so you will probably be able to find a lot more of your contacts on LinkedIn than you could before.
6) Companies: Research and Follow
If you haven’t checked out Companies yet, you should. LinkedIn made a major overhaul of it recently, and this is where you should be spending your time not only researching companies, but also finding who in your extended network can help you get your foot in the door. I would expect that, next to Advanced People Searches, this will be where you should be spending a lot of time. You also have the ability to follow companies and be the first to hear not only about new job opportunities, but also about recent hires and departures, all of which is data that may help you in your job search. Even as I write this blog post, LinkedIn announced a better way to search LinkedIn Companies, so be on the lookout for other enhancements in the future!
7) Search for Hiring Manager of Target Companies
Now that you have found your target companies, it’s time to make the sale to the buyer. What do I mean? Job seeking is just another form of sales, so you need to navigate through the corporate organization and ascertain who the decision maker is that you need to ideally meet. Hint: Unless you’re in the Human Resources division, the decision maker is NOT the recruiter or HR person. Instead, look at titles and divisions within the company and try to figure out who your reporting manager would be if you worked there. That is the person that you need to try to influence into starting a conversation with you. Even if there is no available job at the time, if the hiring manager likes you and feels you are a strong candidate, “hidden jobs” get created. Building out long-term relationships with potential hiring managers on LinkedIn is free career insurnace: Buy into it!
8) Join the Maximum 50 LinkedIn Groups
As a job seeker in 2011, you want to be as approachable as well as be able to message as many people as possible. Similar to the benefit in growing your network, you should join the maximum number of Groups allowed, which is 50. Obviously the benefits of joining a Group go far beyond the messaging capability as there are discussions forums which allow you to truly engage with others and network in virtual break-out rooms, but at the least, just by the art of joining 50 groups, it will make it easier for potential companies and recruiters to get in touch with you by potentially the hundreds of thousands.
Which LinkedIn Groups should you join? Just by doing searches on the more than 800,000 groups that are available, you are going to find a plethora of groups that you would want to be affiliated with. If you’re looking for some ideas, try looking for these types of groups:
- Alumni – For every college or university that you attended
- Companies – Many companies have official or unofficial groups for alumni
- Disciplines – Whatever your profession is there are plenty of groups out there to join
- Industries – You should join groups that represent industries in which you have experience or would like to work in
- Big Groups – Just as you should connect with some LinkedIn super connectors to expand your 2nd and 3rd degree network, you should also join some of the bigger general groups that exist. Two such groups are Executive Suite and TopLinked.
- Windmill Networking – If you’re a fan of this blog, you’ll want to join my Windmill Networking LinkedIn group for Social Media Education and Open Networking
If you read a lot about your industry or discipline, like to discuss it a lot, or perhaps have your own professional blog, you might want to consider investing some time into Twitter. I wrote a few months ago about how job seekers in 2011 should concentrate on Twitter rather than LI to better differentiate yourself, so check out that post for the ultimate Twitter job search guide. However, without a content platform or a social strategy, you might not find Twitter to be an effective use of your time, although at the least it should be used as an excellent source of realtime information to help you keep up on the latest industry information as well as a great social tool to network with similar industry professionals.
10) Check Out About.Me
LinkedIn and Twitter are great ways to showcase your personal brand, but one of the best ways of showcasing yourself in a simple and visual way may be on about.me. This is a relatively new site that was bought by AOL after being public for a short time. about.me is simple, but it gives you full control as to how people can learn more about you. Many people use their LinkedIn profile URL as their placeholder on the web, but you have to fit your information into LinkedIn’s format. about.me allows you to be creative and showcase yourself any way you want to. Obviously, you can include a link to your LinkedIn profile within about.me as well to help lead potential recruiters to your professional resume. If you’re curious, check out my about.me profile for an example of what is possible.
There are many other ways to integrate social media into your job search strategy, but these were 10 tips that stood out when giving advice to a first-time job seeker. What other job search advice would you give on utilizing social media in 2011?