Answered by Dana, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on Thursday, 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!