Years after it started, I am amazed at how many of my friends don’t use LinkedIn, despite it having more than 120 million members in 200 countries. LinkedIn is the number one professional networking site on the web, and not using it can seriously hinder your job hunting prospects. One of the best uses for LinkedIn is finding out who knows who. Let’s explore.
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, people switch jobs and careers so frequently that you just never know who knows who from a previous life – both personally and professionally. I used LinkedIn religiously for this when I was job hunting. Here’s how:
– First, I found a job I was interested in applying for – this could be from any number of resources like job listings, listservs, websites, or personal recommendations.
– Second, I looked up the company on LinkedIn. What’s important to note here is that even if the company doesn’t maintain an active presence on LinkedIn, it will notify you as to who in your network has worked there before – all the way out to three degrees. So if you are connected to Susan, and Susan is connected to Jamie, who currently works at that company, you’ll be able to see this on Jamie’s profile.
– Next, I made a list of all the people in my network who had connections with anybody with connections to that company. While you may be tempted to rank them in order of who knows the highest level person at that company, you need to remember that networking is about relationships first. So rank these connections based on who you have the strongest relationships with first.
– Then, I sent an email to my top 3 people, casually mentioning that I was interested in applying for XYZ position at Company ABC, and I saw they were connected to Person A. Did they have a good relationship with that person? Any chance that person would be willing to chat with me about the position, or tell me more about it?
I performed this series of steps with every single job I applied for. Approximately 1 of 3 people I emailed had a stronger-than-average relationship with the person I had mentioned, and then 50% of the time I was able to either be connected to that person via email, set up a lunch date to learn more about the position, or else be redirected to someone else who could help me.
Getting more information about what a company might be looking for, or else getting face time with someone – anyone – at the company who can put in a good word for you, is a crucial component to job hunting in a professional world that operates so heavily on relationships. It’s ok that you don’t know the person you’re being connected to – what you are capitalizing on is the strong relationship you have with your first connection.
There are, of course, some things to be careful of. For example, you may have one person in your network who is a networking machine, and is connected to 5 or 6 people who have positions at places you’d like to work. Unless that person is a mentor or a very, very close friend, avoid asking him/her to connect you to every single one of their interesting contacts. Pick the 1-2 jobs you really want and have a reasonable chance of getting, that way you aren’t wasting your “recommendation” from this person. It’s also important not to fall off the face of the earth once you have an “in” with someone who works at your target company. Be sure to keep your connecting person in the loop on your progress with the new person, and as well on the status of your application. And of course, be sure to thank them, whether their efforts bear fruit or not.
LinkedIn is not just another social networking site that requires endless updates and exhaustive maintenance. Instead, it’s a tool that can be used in a targeted and effective way to capitalize on your already existing relationships to help propel your career forward. And in case I haven’t offered enough links to it in this post, here it is again. If you don’t have a profile yet, sign up for one today!