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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On-line 101

I was going to cheat today and post an oldie instead of a job search related topic. But I just came back from two meetings; one with the outplacement counselor and, a presentation on on-line networking. Other than the fact that one of this week’s outplacement assignments is developing yet another version of my resume, I am energized. The networking meeting gave me some insight as how much I know. I suppose there should be no surprise there, as networking was a big part of my previous position, but a job loss is a job loss, and I’ll take any confidence booster.

That said, a lot of people in the meeting were not familiar with LinkedIn. When I started this blog I hoped that along the way I might help others by documenting my job search experiences. Since consistency and format were lacking with the presentation today, I thought I’d create a quick synopsis of what I know about LinkedIn for you job seekers out there. I’m not an expert, but perhaps some of this will be of assistance to those who are just beginning.

LinkedIn is a professional networking site. Members of LinkedIn form connections by creating an on-line profile and building a network of professionals they trust.

Rule number one with LinkedIn is to scrutinize what you put on there. Prospective employers and business contacts will use it to learn more about you. Check for accuracy and typos. In some ways it’s a mini-resume, so proofread it—again and again and again.

Before you get started, it may help to use “The Learning Center” at the bottom of the LinkedIn home page (www.LinkedIn.com) where there is a “New User Guide.” In addition, links exist to teach you the best way to develop a LinkedIn profile and how to use LinkedIn to find a job.

Once you develop a profile, you may start inviting individuals to be a part of your network. Current members may be identified by searching by name, by company and in some cases by title and user groups. (For example, my former employer has an group for past employees, and I am a member of my college alumni group). Play with LinkedIn by clicking on links until you get a comfort in regard to how it can be useful.

Notwithstanding that I used LinkedIn in my previous job as a recruiter to identify potential candidates; here are some examples of how I’ve used it now that I’m on the other side of the desk.

1. Finding folks. I wanted to network with someone from my past, but did not have an email address. I knew where this individual worked.

• First, I “Searched Companies” using the drop down box on the top right on the LinkedIn Home Page. Bad news though, I misspelled the first name so I got no results.
• Then I used “Search People” using the last name only. Bingo. I found the person listed by company, and sent a LinkedIn invite. Head’s up, I’ll be meeting that person soon for coffee, to do some investigating with regard to future opportunities.

2. Researching jobs. I identified a job title about which I was interested in learning more, so using the “Search Jobs” feature I typed in the title. Oh dear, there were more than 50 pages of results. Clicking on “Advanced” on the top right, next to "Search" brings up options allowing a search to be refined. By altering the title and choosing a location, I culled the results down to a manageable twenty-five job possibilities. I examined the skills required and the companies with openings for that job title.

3. Someone checked my profile. On the right hand column of the profile page, there is a blue highlighted box called: “Who checked my profile?” Today, information indicates that five people have checked my profile in the last week. Unless the searcher allows their name to be identified, it’s not possible to confirm who actually checked me out. However, by clicking on the link underneath, I found a list of people that are employed at the same company as the person who was researching me. While I couldn’t determine who specifically was looking, I know someone from that company was. Using logic, I thought, well, if they are interested in me, I may be interested in them. Clicking on the profiles of the individuals employees, I identified information about the company. Then I Googled it. It may be something that I am interested in exploring.

4. Helping others network. Last week someone who lost his job the same day I did found a job on line he was interested in at “A Company.” He sent me an email asking me if I had any connections at “A Company.” I typed “A Company” in the “Search Companies” drop down in LinkedIn. A list of LinkedIn members employed by “A Company” popped up. One of those employees, an executive in the Human Resources Department, is connected to a member of my LinkedIn network. I contacted my connection and facilitated an introduction between the job seeker and him. While I introduced the two via email outside of LinkedIn, there are tools with which to do so within the resource also. The thought process here is that a recommended candidate has more credibility then a resume received out of the blue. The next step hopefully will be an introduction for the job searcher to the Human Resources executive at “A Company” by my LinkedIn contact.

I’ll stop here. However, I encourage any of you who are feeling nervous about LinkedIn to play with it. As long as you use professional judgment with regard to what you include on your profile, it is an excellent, mainstream, supplementary networking tool.

Just remember, the outplacement folks will tell you that as good as it is it can’t replace face to face.

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