Could you walk into a crowded room and begin talking with peers in your industry about your job performance and accomplishments? Would you know how to tell a prospective employer or co-worker about your skills and abilities? Would you be comfortable putting your career history on display for anyone to see? To be competitive in today's job market, you need to be more personal and revealing and, most importantly, you need to go "where the action is."
LinkedIn is an online social network that you can use for professional development, to bounce ideas off of others in related fields, to catch up with colleagues and to ask experts questions about industry best practices. It's a social media site, but it's not like Facebook or Twitter. LinkedIn users don't post pictures from their recent vacations or make quirky remarks to get responses from their friends. Instead, LinkedIn users create and maintain profiles about themselves and their professional lives, then they begin to form powerful networks of people who know them professionally.
Your profile starts with your résumé and builds from there. Profile tools help you craft a "career biography" that tells a much more detailed story than the average résumé. From there, you start to build your network of "connections." You can search LinkedIn's database for past and present co-workers, previous and potential clients, colleagues at other companies, people you've done business with in the past or just people with the same degree or who work in the same field as you do. People in your network can refer you to other LinkedIn members and offer recommendations. You can follow companies and join groups devoted to different subjects, industries or causes.
Here are some ways LinkedIn can help you grow in your current position, change careers or return to the workforce:
- Build your network before you need it. Having a strong network is a form of job security. Don't focus on what people in your network can do for you, but instead on what you can do for them. If they value you, they will promote you to people in their networks and help you grow yours.
- Get recommendations from your colleagues. This is the modern equivalent of the letter of recommendation, with much more flexibility. Your current manager can highlight your strengths, and people who work for you (or used to) can talk about your leadership qualities.
- Find out where people with similar backgrounds are working by searching for people in your area who have your skills. This can help you identify potential employers and available positions. You also can see where people who used to work for your company have landed, which might suggest employers looking for people with similar backgrounds.
- Look at a company's LinkedIn profile and take note of the people who work there. This can give you an idea of the type of people the company hires and suggest the types of education and experience they may value.
- Find connections at the company that can help you get your foot in the door. In trying to secure a position with a company, you ideally want to work directly with the HR director or the manager making the hiring decision. You can use LinkedIn to get to those people through others in your network.
- A good LinkedIn profile can create a buffer between your personal and professional lives. Employers are increasingly turning to social media as an added way to vet potential job candidates. Load your profile up with stuff you want people to see.
- Build "street cred." LinkedIn gives you the ability to market yourself as someone who knows your field. Join groups related to your field and ask and answer questions. The more you help people out, the more your network will grow. A strong presence on LinkedIn will make your more visible to potential employers.
If you haven't looked for a job in some time, some of this advice could be quite scary. Many mid- or late-career job seekers struggle with the more open and transparent nature of the job market today. You may not feel comfortable at first sharing information about yourself or bragging on your accomplishments, but as your network grows, the opportunities will come.
This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not imply an endorsement of Linkedin or related products by the Ohio Department of Aging or the state of Ohio. Always use caution when using social media sites or sharing personal information online.
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