While there's a multitude of factors that come into play when you’re trying to land a new job, building your professional network and calling upon personal relationships for referrals is certainly a huge component. In fact, an estimated 80% of open jobs are filled through networking rather than via job boards. With a stat like that, it’s hard to ignore the facts: simply applying to a job posting isn’t going to boost your odds of scoring an interview.
So, stop anxiously carting your cellphone around, coddling it like a newborn baby, in hopes that you’ll finally receive a call about your application. Sure, it may ring; but it may also fall into the toilet when you forget it’s sitting in your back pocket.
If you really want to stand out from the competition and make an impression, you need to get off the bench and actively participate in your career, rather than sitting passively on the sidelines. By putting yourself out there, you’re opening up the doorway for new opportunities that may have never crossed your path otherwise.
Here are 5 ways you can start using LinkedIn to step up your networking game.
Never Underestimate the Alumni Bond
First and foremost, if you’re not already a member of your school’s alumni group on LinkedIn, it’s time to join one. The same applies for any sports team, fraternity/sorority, or professional organization you’re a member of. There’s an inexplicable kinship that exists between those who share an alma mater – whether it’s an individual from your graduating class or someone who said farewell to college life 10 years before you even heard of the freshman fifteen.
Your alumni network is such a rich community; don’t discount the value it can bring. Make an effort to engage with your fellow alumni, actively participating in conversations, commenting on posts, and offering your own help and insight where you can. After all, this is a two-way street.
If you’re looking at a job posting, LinkedIn will show you if any alumni work at the company, which could be a great way to get a foot in the door.
Showcase Your Personal Brand & Value
When you send a connection request or comment on someone’s post, there’s a good chance they will check out your profile. Manage your online reputation by creating a LinkedIn profile that best represents your professional value and personal brand. By doing so, you'll garner positive attention and take control of the message you're communicating to potential employers.
Share samples of your work, publish articles, craft a compelling summary statement, and make sure you’re using a professional photo for your profile picture – I promise your epic keg stand isn’t going to impress potential employers. Put your strengths on display, be social, and always keep your profiled updated to reflect where you are in your career.
Make the Right Connections
If you’ve had your sights set on working for a few particular employers, start connecting with the individuals who are currently employed with those companies – especially the ones specific to your field and interests. While there may not be any openings at this time, you can still start building relationships with the people who work at these companies. By creating some digital dialog and connecting with these individuals before something opens up, you’ll establish yourself as a viable candidate when a role does become available. Don’t be afraid to ask people at your dream employer or those who may be established in your industry for advice. You never know what you might learn!
Aim to Be the Life of the Party
What’s fun about attending a party only to hang in the corner or talk to one friend? If you’re going to use LinkedIn to your advantage, you need to partake in the conversation. After all, LinkedIn is a social networking site, so why not socialize? When you actively engage with others by commenting on articles, sharing valuable content, joining industry groups, and making your voice heard, your network will begin to grow and people you’ve never met before will begin recognizing your name. If you want to be noticed, give people a reason to notice you.
Take Your Application a Step Further
Oftentimes, LinkedIn job postings will include the information of the person who posted the role. If this is the case, after submitting your application, send a note directly to that person. Craft a brief, personalized note to let that individual know which role you’ve applied for and convey your enthusiasm about the prospect of discussing the position further. Always highlight something you may have in common – you both began your career at XYZ company, you both volunteer for the ASPCA, you are both members of a particular group, etc. If you have a connection in common that you have a good relationship with, ask for an introduction.
LinkedIn is a fantastic opportunity to forge connections with individuals in your field or within an industry you’re interested in transitioning into. All you need to do is get involved, follow these best practices, and start building meaningful connections with other professionals.