Networking and job hunting have come a long way in the last 20 years. New research tools and the immediacy of the Internet bring job seekers directly in contact with companies and employers, allowing us to build networks that our counterparts of the past would only envy.
LinkedIn continues to be the most direct and powerful online tool, one that’s certainly worth the energy if you’re job hunting. But be sure you don’t make one of the most common LinkedIn mistakes: being passive about your search. Setting up a profile and adding connections is a good start—but it’s just the beginning. To get the most benefit from LinkedIn, you have to become a proactive user, reaching out to others, participating in the community, and continuously working to build your network.
Here are six proactive ways to boost your job search on LinkedIn:
1. Complete your profile—and then some. Add more than just your company and title. Think of LinkedIn as a resume with a personality. Use the summary section not only to show who you are as a professional, but as a person. Play around with the applications to present your work and interests in interesting ways.
Keep in mind as you work on your profile that other LinkedIn users, including hiring managers, recruiters and your fellow job seekers, use keywords to find people with certain skills and interests. What words might a recruiter use to find people with your talent or skill set? Be sure to incorporate those keywords into your profile.
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2. Add as many connections as possible. When you add connections, your network grows exponentially, thanks to one of LinkedIn’s best features, the third-degree connections. These include not only who you know, but who your connections know. This makes each connection you add even more valuable. In addition to having more helpful contacts for your job search, being connected with more people helps you appear as a third-degree connection for other LinkedIn users.
If you’re just getting started, re-connect with old colleagues, friends, and family members. Connect with people in your e-mail address book, and then branch out from there. Once you’ve added your closest connections, think about how you can reach out even more. When you meet new people at in-person networking events or through work, make a note to connect with them on LinkedIn. Building your network takes time and consistent effort.
3. Personalize your invitations. LinkedIn offers a standard greeting when you look to make a new connection, but it’s much more effective to send a personal message. Remind the person where you’ve met and why you would like to connect.
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4. Take advantage of the search function. Once connected, you’ll have access to more people in your search results and introductions—you just have to dig around a little. You can also use LinkedIn’s search function to research potential companies located in your area or recruiters who specialize in your industry.
5. Participate in LinkedIn Groups. Through LinkedIn Groups, you can connect directly with the people who work at your target companies, as well as recruiters and HR Managers. Like-minded professionals gather in these topic-oriented groups to share industry insight, communicate about job opportunities, and meet new contacts. Groups present a great networking opportunity because you can message privately anyone who’s in the same group as you without being directly connected to them. And participating in a group will boost your visibility because your contributions show up in both the group feed and your individual feed.
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6. Update your status often. Share information, ask questions, and mention your job search in your status updates. LinkedIn’s status updates are similar those on Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to share anything in 140 characters. Updates appear in your connections’ news feeds when they log onto the site. To stay on your connections’ minds, it’s smart to make yourself visible. Status updates are an easy way to incorporate your name into the daily updates of your professional connections.