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Asked by David on February 4, 2015

Is LinkedIn a reliable way to network for new jobs? If it is, how should I approach people I don't know offline, on LinkedIn?

Answered by Dana, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on February 5, 2015

I can’t begin to express how delighted I am that you’ve asked this question! Having worked closely with the site for many years, I can assure you that it is a fantastic way to network, but it all depends on the type of position you are seeking, and your overall approach.
 
First off, what type of job/industry are you geared towards? LinkedIn can help you in three ways…
1) Put you in touch with others who already work in this field, or in your desired role.
2) Put you in touch with recruiters and hiring managers who are seeking talent for this role.
3) Put you in touch with referral sources, who can help relay you to recruiters and hiring managers.
 
Also think about:
1) Is my field well-represented on LinkedIn? For some fields/jobs, LinkedIn may be limited.
2) Are there different networks which might be better for my purposes? (Community associations, alumni organizations, other social sites like Facebook and Twitter, etc.)
3) Even if I can’t find a lot of people in my field via LinkedIn, who are the people on LinkedIn that can help me get to those target individuals? Who can bridge that gap for me?
 
To start, I would begin by making sure your own LinkedIn profile is 100% accurate, up-to-date, and compelling. Layer in keywords related to your desired position and industry. Add examples of work you’ve completed if appropriate, events you’ve participated in, places you’ve volunteered, etc. Ask your peers, professors, and colleagues to provide you with written recommendations (simple skill endorsements can help, too). Encourage them to write these recommendations by first providing them with your own personal written recommendations. If you’re unsure how to recommend someone on LinkedIn, simply search “recommend someone on LinkedIn” and you’ll find a wealth of instructions and templates on the web!
 
Use the Advanced Search function to identify others who work in your field, and take a close look at their LinkedIn profiles. What info do they include? How do they describe their qualifications, or what they do? What LinkedIn groups have they joined? What companies do they follow? Who are the champions in this industry? Who is just starting out?
 
Build up your capacity to connect by joining as many relevant LinkedIn groups and associations as possible. This will enable you to search their member lists, and connect to the best-networked individuals who can help you the most. Don’t forget to join groups related not only to your chosen field, but also your college (the actual school, your major, and also their alumni network), your city and state, any extracurricular activities you’ve participated in, and new grad/young professional associations, as applicable. There are even massive LinkedIn groups which offer you an enormous range of connection possibilities, with hundreds of thousands of members (e.g. LinkedIn HR, with 956,000+ members: https://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=3761). Be sure to join some of these very large groups, to maximize LinkedIn’s impact potential.
 
In terms of how to approach others on LinkedIn, it’s always best to connect with those you already know, or have interacted with previously, and send them a personalized message once they have accepted your initial invite to connect. Excellent contacts may include your professors, co-workers, peers, family members, and anyone else in your circles who may be a professional asset. Also add interesting people you’ve met at conferences, events, and perhaps those who have spoken at your school. Consider adding folks from Academics Advising or Career Services at your college, too.
 
Frequent the pages of the companies you follow, the LinkedIn Influencers you monitor, and the groups you’ve joined. Participate in their conversation streams. Connect to those you have conversed with, those who have posted thought-provoking comments or content, and seek out others with expertise or connections that are beneficial to your job search.
 
Send invites to fellow group members, and be honest about why you are connecting. Let them know what you share in common, that you are open to their expert advice and suggestions, and that you admire their work history/current company/group affiliation, etc. And always offer to reciprocate. End messages by stating something similar to, “And if there is ever anything I can do for you, I’ll be glad to help.” People are much more likely to respond positively to your inquiries if you show that you are grateful for their time and knowledge, and you are happy to return the favor.
 
If you are using the free version of LinkedIn, you will be somewhat constrained in terms of connecting to people you do not know. You may want to consider upgrading your LinkedIn account during your job search, so that you have Inmails available.
 
Hope this helps!

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Answered by Heather, Hiring Expert at The Hershey Company, on February 5, 2015

Yes, it is!  Make sure your picture is professional & your profile is updated. Start networking with people in your field and/or industry. You can send them a brief message that introduces yourself & your mission. Make the message short & sweet! The bigger you build your network the more recruiters, talent acquisition & hiring managers have a chance at seeing your profile. Another approach I like to share is to pick the top 10 companies you’d like to work for that are relevant to your experience & start networking with people that work there. Good luck!

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Answered by Steve, Hiring Expert at Caterpillar Inc., on February 6, 2015

Definitely, LinkedIn is the probably the best tool you can use to build your professional network.  First, ensure that you have an idea of the companies you are targeting in the locations that you are targeting.  You can then use the advanced search function in LinkedIn to search for people at these companies.  You will first want to target those with the job titles of recruiter, sourcer, or something similar.  These are the people who will be searching LinkedIn for talent.  Once you find these people, send a request to 'Connect' with them on LinkedIn.  Once they accept, this allows you to correspond directly with that person and you can ask them about opportunities at their company, etc.  

The next layer of your search for people with which you can connect would be employees at these companies who are leaders in the field that you would like to get into.  These individuals can be used as resources on what types of skills they are looking for, informational interviews and more.  The bottom line is that networking is critical to finding that best job for you and building your career, and LinkedIn is the most popular site out there to do this.    

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Answered by Emily, Hiring Expert at Praxair, Inc., on February 6, 2015

This is a great question.  LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool that anyone looking for a job should use.  Think of LinkedIn as a kind of Facebook but for the professional aspect of your life instead of the personal one.  If you are brand new to LinkedIn, the first thing you will need to do will be to create a profile.  Upload a professional picture and an updated copy of your resume and fill in any gaps with your experience, skills and education.
 Once you have your own profile complete you can begin to reach out and network with people and companies you are interested in.  I would suggest you begin networking with people you have something in common with – for example, past coworkers or alumni of the same school.  It is much easier to get someone to connect with you and (and you’ll be more comfortable to ask for an informational interview) if you have a common interest or connection. 
 Networking is a critical part of getting a job in today’s market.  Keep in mind that LinkedIn works like a web – It’s not just who your immediate (1st degree) connections are but who they in turn are connected to (your 2nd degree connections).  Build up your connections and don’t be afraid to reach out to recruiters or sourcers or talent acquisition members at companies you are targeting.  They are most likely looking for candidates and will be happy to connect with you.  It’s important not to stop with just sending a connection request – Be sure you send a follow up email (called InMails) asking about a certain position or if they would have time for an informational or exploratory call.  Recruiters can get dozens of connection requests a week so you want to stand out from the crowd and make sure that you are making your interests known. 

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Answered by Jennifer, Hiring Expert at The Schwan Food Company, on February 10, 2015

Linked In is a great way to network! I would suggest personalizing your message when you reach out to potential employers. It needs to be something that grabs their attention for example your connection to the company, someone you may know that works there, why you love their products, etc. This tells me the person has spent the time to specifically target our company and has put some thought in to it. I always respond when I get personalized messages.

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Answered by Sonya, Hiring Expert at Archer Daniels Midland, on February 17, 2015

Yes, networking through LinkedIn is a great way to try and land a job with a certain company. I would search for the company you are wanting to work for then connect with recruiters, HR, hiring managers etc... Once they accept your connection, send them an InMail and introduce yourself, give them your contact information (email address, phone number etc...).

Best of luck!

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