Understanding social media

How to get LinkedIn

When it comes to connecting with others in your field, finding job leads and building your career, it’s hard to beat LinkedIn. As the world’s largest professional network with more than 70 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is a valuable free tool that lets you establish a professional profile, stay in touch with colleagues and friends, find experts and ideas, and connect to jobs, sales leads and business partners.

Sharon Aschaiek, Special to QMI Agency

“LinkedIn lets you take control of your personal brand, present your expertise in a number of ways, and connect with people globally,” says social networking guru Neal Schaffer, president of California-based social media strategy firm Windmill Marketing, which consults for Fortune 500 companies.

Suitable for job seekers, students, entrepreneurs, consultants and more, LinkedIn offers loads of ways to boost your professional prospects and connect with employers. A new survey by American social recruiting platform Jobvite reflects the significant shift of employers away from traditional forms of recruiting to social networking: of the more than 600 people interviewed, 92% of those hiring in 2010 said they currently use or plan to recruit via social networks.

Making the most of LinkedIn, Schaffer says, requires planning, commitment and some innovative thinking.

Your LinkedIn profile will consist of information on your current and past positions and educational background, a summary paragraph, and your photo. When building your profile, he says, make sure you have a strong understanding of your unique strengths and talents, so that you can effectively play them up.

“Try to figure out what makes you different from everyone else. You want to differentiate yourself in every aspect of your profile so that you stand out,” says Schaffer, who’s also the author of Windmill Networking: Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn. (To download the first few chapters of his book for free, and to get future updates from Schaffer, join his mailing list at http://windmillnetworking.com/book.)

He advises populating your profile with keywords that will resonate with employers you want to attract — keywords you can learn by studying companies’ job ads.

The next step is to build your network, which can be done by searching for past and current co-workers and friends, using LinkedIn’s ability to browse your webmail, Outlook and other address books for contacts already on LinkedIn, or viewing LinkedIn’s list of your colleagues and classmates currently on the network.

To take your network building to the next level, Schaffer says, you can connect with LinkedIn Open Networkers, or LIONs — members who positively encourage connections from any other member, whether or not you’ve had a previous business relationship with them.

“LIONs have 500 plus connections — and many have many more — and they have a lot of visibility in their industry, so it’s a valuable connection to have,” says Schaffer, himself a LION — or “Super Connector,” as he calls it — with more than 16,000 connections (to learn more about connecting with LIONs, see sidebar).

A way to enrich your profile, gain key insights about your sector and better share with your network is to add an application, and LinkedIn has plenty of them, including ones that let you poll your connections, share presentations, get legal news that’s relevant to your business, find professional conferences and meet-ups in your area, and much more.

Users can also join LinkedIn groups, which are targeted to different professions and fields, and take part in discussions with other members.

“The more you participate in these discussions and build relationships, the more people are likely to want to connect with you on LinkedIn,” Schaffer says.

Schaffer says that people should dedicate about 30 minutes a day to building their LinkedIn presence, and his website, www.windmillnetworking.com, is full of great tips on how to make the most of the networking site. Those interested may also want to check out LinkedIn’s Learning Centre at earn.linkedin.com.

“Spending time on the general Internet looking for jobs is not what you want to be doing,” Schaffer says. “LinkedIn allows you to build meaningful and targeted connections and stay current on activities in your profession.”


Get connected with a LION

LinkedIn Open Networkers (LIONs), or Super Connectors, are LinkedIn members with 500 connections or more who welcome invitations to connect from other members, whether or not they know them.

Connecting with LIONs allows you access to their extensive networks, which can significantly enhance your job-seeking and career-building prospects.

LION Neal Schaffer, who has more than 16,000 connections, invites LinkedIn users to connect not only with him, but with nine other Super Connectors he knows — altogether, they have almost 300,000 contacts.

To connect with these LIONs, click here.

3 steps to using LinkedIn to find a job

1. Create a target list of companies on LinkedIn for which you want to work.

You know the industries and types of companies that you are interested in working at. Use LinkedIn Companies to find companies where you want to work that are in your target industry and look like they will be a good fit.

2. Search for the hiring manager for your target position at each company

Search the LinkedIn database using Advanced People Search for people at your target companies that you may be able to meet for an informational interview.

3. Contact whoever in your network that’s directly connected to that person and ask for an introduction

The golden rule in professional networking is that a “warm lead” or introduction from a trusted associate of your target person will always be more effective than a cold call. LinkedIn tells you who connects you with the hiring manager. All you need to do now is ask for the introduction.


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