As a sales and business development executive who has personally experienced being in transition during this recession, I can relate to other executives and their current job search in this dismal economy.
Not only has the economy dipped at an unprecedented rate for a prolonged period of time, the job search environment has been radically altered. Where networking with other executives may have provided more plentiful job leads in the past, this recession may be proving to be a little more difficult. The executive recruiters that you may have fostered relationships with in the past may not be calling you when you most need them. And because the higher up you are in the food chain the fewer jobs there are, it may start to feel a bit lonely at the top.
What hasn’t changed is that the “hidden job market” is still where a majority of positions are being filled, even more so at the executive level. If you have not attacked that market, it will make it even more difficult to find your next position. Of course, the only way to attack that market is to 1) get in front of decision makers and hiring managers and 2) expand your network to help you get in front of these same targets. For this purpose, LinkedIn will be the most valuable online tool that you can utilize.
I like to refer to LinkedIn as being a huge database of people, a place to find and be found. I talked about finding others in the above paragraph, and this is very easy to do on LinkedIn. Utilizing the Advanced People Search you can easily pinpoint decision makers in the organizations that you are targeting. How you contact them on LinkedIn should be just as you do in person: asking for a referral from a trusted connection. And for that purpose, LinkedIn has an Introduction functionality that you can use. If you want to research more companies to add to your target list, move over Hoovers: the LinkedIn Companies database is growing and includes a lot of very interesting data that you can utilize to analyze where you might be a good fit.
You’ll notice that I have not even mentioned the Jobs section of LinkedIn until now. Just as we all sometimes get lucky in Las Vegas, some are lucky enough to find a job on the Internet. Job boards are not the preferred way to look for a job, as the chances that you will find a job on them are slim. Furthermore, once you list your profile, you get contacted by the people you have no interest in. And muddling through the lower-level jobs yields very few executive jobs. The Ladders, obviously, is the exception here, and I am one who has found a job on The Ladders.
But the LinkedIn Jobs boards are different. LinkedIn is, at the heart of its platform, a place for you to connect and develop relationships with other professionals. And because of this, LinkedIn is a very attractive place for recruiters to be. LinkedIn hosting a robust Jobs board section is a natural extension of this phenomenon. And the quality of the Jobs board is high, very high. You won’t see the “garbage” that other sites often post. In terms of volume, you definitely won’t see as many jobs posted here as on the other infamous jobs boards, but you should know that there are many jobs that are posted on LinkedIn that aren’t posted elsewhere. Case in point: I did a search for “VP” this morning within 50 miles of my home here in Orange County, California (by the way, Orange County, with a population of 3 million, still is considered part of “Greater Los Angeles” on LinkedIn). Only 19 results came up. But 8 of the 19 were exclusive to LinkedIn. And they were all of very high quality. In other words, if you are not using the LinkedIn Jobs board you may be missing out.
What else do I like about the LinkedIn Jobs board? Check out this screen that recruiters see when they post a job to LinkedIn: “Receive on average 30 applicants.” You hear the stories that other job sites get hundreds if not thousands of applicants for each job posted. LinkedIn gets only 30 on average. 30 people on average is not a lot of competition. Searching for your next position on the LinkedIn Jobs board may be the best kept secret out there! (until this blog post, of course 😉 )
Details of how to use all of these LinkedIn applications to their fullest extent will be made available in my upcoming LinkedIn Book, which I am happy to announce is tentatively slated for an October 2 publishing date. I am even happier to announce that you can see the front cover of the book for the first time by clicking on that LinkedIn Book link. For a preview, if you haven’t read it, check out how the editor of my book found her job on LinkedIn utilizing the advice in the book.
An interesting note on job boards, though, is that social networking sites are starting to replace them as the premier source to find candidates. And that is why you shouldn’t be using LinkedIn only for the above activities: you need to realize that social networking, like LinkedIn, is free career insurance that you should buy into and can never have enough of.
LinkedIn itself advertises that “Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members.” But it is not enough to just sign up for the service and wait for things to happen. LinkedIn is, at its heart, a social networking platform. And Windmill Networking treats all social networking platforms the same with the notion that you should maximize your presence on each site for whatever objective you may have. Don’t stop at just connecting with ex-colleagues that you already know or even simply trolling the Jobs boards. If you are in transition, you need to maximize your presence on LinkedIn. You need to be become both more visible as well as become a better Windmill Networker.
Let’s start with understanding the importance of becoming more visible. You have to understand that:
* LinkedIn is fueled by recruiters and corporate HR organizations
* Because of this fact job-seekers are flocking to LinkedIn to be found
* LinkedIn, and social media in general, are slowly replacing the “traditional” methods of looking for talent
In other words, if you are not visible enough on LinkedIn, you may not be found and may be missing out on potential career opportunities. As I mentioned in the first part of this blog, LinkedIn is a huge database. And you need to ensure that you are found on it. Period.
How to Become More Visible on LinkedIn
Recruiters will utilize the Advanced People Search (or the LinkedIn Talent Advantage software platform with even more functionality) to find potential candidates. In order to be found, therefore, you need to:
* Completely fill out your profile, including relevant work experience. Each position that you worked at gives you additional companies, titles, and keywords that will allow you to be found. Don’t be shy here and don’t stick to a rigid resume format. This is an exercise in Search Engine Optimization for YOU!
* Connect and expand your network. The more connections you have, the higher the chance that you will be found in search results. You do not necessary have to become a LION, or LinkedIn Open Networker, like I have; simply connecting with the 10 LinkedIn LIONs & Super Connectors that I recommend will help you greatly expand your network. My friend expanded his 3rd degree connections by 1 Million people just by connecting with one person on that list. That’s 1 Million more people that now may find my friend more easily when they search.
* Establish relationships with relevant recruiters. Many recruiters are LinkedIn LIONs because it is in their inherent interest to build out a large network. This also makes it easier for you to connect and develop relationships with them, as they will often accept your invitation. Search for key recruiters in your industry and locale. The Ladders offers this as part of their premium paid service; LinkedIn enables you to find recruiters for free. Take advantage of it.
In connecting with people that you might not know, you are including others in your LinkedIn network that might not be part of your physical network. And that is exactly the objective of Windmill Network: to empower you to maximize LinkedIn and meet the people you need to in order to reach your objective. In doing so, you are creating a unique virtual network that can now supplement and hopefully become part of your physical network over time. You are now starting to Windmill Network!
The Stigma of “Social Networking”
Social networking may have been something that was not looked upon positively in the past. After all, “Social networking was just for the unemployed, right? And that is why everyone is on LinkedIn, no? Just to look for a job? As they say, you know when someone is looking for a job when they revise their LinkedIn profile.” These are words that I used to hear a lot of in the past.
I believe this has been the prevailing argument until now. But this recession, and the growth of social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, where Gen X & Baby Boomers are joining the sites by storm (my 80+ year-old dad just friended me on Facebook yesterday), social networking is going mainstream. Executive search firms like McDermott & Bull and career management sites like Netshare and ExecuNet are providing social networking “meetups” as an integral part of the services they provide to executives in transition. All generations are starting to realize the inherent value in social networking of digging your well before you’re thirsty; however, it is often the case that they don’t realize this until they are unemployed.
The Social Networking Aspect of LinkedIn
With this in mind, there are many other things that you can do while on LinkedIn that will indirectly aid you at finding your next job: networking beyond just recruiters. As many say, it is now what you know but who you know. Obviously LinkedIn can and should be used to help you connect with others that can not only help you on your journey, but also lives that you can touch through sharing your experience and expertise by Paying It Forward, which is the guiding principle of Windmill Networking. These activities include:
* Joining LinkedIn Groups in your industry or profession and participating in conversations. There are hundreds of thousands of LinkedIn Groups, so I am sure you can find one that is relevant to you. Here is my advice on what LinkedIn Groups you should join.
* Answering questions on LinkedIn Answers and sharing your expertise with others. You may learn a few things along the way and meet some truly inspirational and remarkable people to add to your LinkedIn network.
* Writing LinkedIn Recommendations for all that you feel deserve recognition. Even if they don’t ask you for one, I am sure they will be ecstatic to receive one.
The beauty is that all of these activities will lead to a greater presence on the social networking site, allowing you to kill three birds with one stone:
- Be found by even more potential people as your “footprint” will now be seen by many others.
- Pay It Forward in assisting others.
- Solidify your personal branding. Your “LinkedIn Brand” will be defined by everything that you do or don’t do on the site. Every Group you join, every question you answer, every recommendation you give, and even your profile language should be consistent and advertise who you are. In doing so, you will be come better “branded” and differentiated from others in a positive way.
A presence on LinkedIn is an integral part of the Executive Job Search in this day and age. Take advantage of LinkedIn and truly leverage your presence on the social networking site to the maximum. It will help you not only find your job, but also aid you in building out your network for the next time you are in transition. After all, your next job may not be your last one. It is a fact of life that we should all better prepare ourselves for. Why not start today?