Creative use of linkedin.com as part of a comprehensive strategy can greatly improve your odds of landing the dream job. Rolodex power: Tom Peters says in his book The Pursuit of Wow!, “Your power is almost directly proportional to the thickness of your Rolodex, and the time you spend maintaining it.” LinkedIn can be Rolodex power on steroids! This article will highlight four mistakes and present solutions and tips to integrate LinkedIn into your career strategy.
Mistake #1 No Strategy. Andy Lopata in an article titled “Connecting is Not Enough” (24 January 2009, www.thenationalnetworker.com says, “You must go and network is a common cry. The only problem is that it’s rarely followed by the question, Why?’. People network blind, participating because others tell them that it’s a good thing to do, losing faith because they don’t know why they are there.”
SOLUTION #1a Develop a comprehensive career strategy and be clear how LinkedIn is a part of that plan. A strength, weakness, opportunity and threat (SWOT) analysis will help you ensure your career strategy is comprehensive and focused on your dream job. LinkedIn networking, Q&A, and groups can help build on your strengths and minimize or eliminate your weaknesses.
SOLUTION #1b Brand. Brand. Brand. The following want add highlights the need for branding and basic competence in your field. “Wanted: Lifeguard. Must be able to swim.” Use LinkedIn and all other tools at your disposal to consistently build a brand that demonstrates you are a perfect fit for your dream job. Brand. Brand. Brand. Don’t be fake, but choose what you do and how you do it.
“I see the more formal LI (LinkedIn) as my online office, FB (FaceBook) as my online living room and Twitter as the front porch.” (Rod Jurado CPT, The Profitable Group). MySpace- the basement? Online the office, living room and basement are all together and a search could find them all. If your MySpace is private, anything posted could be shared by a friend. Never put online anything that will undermine your brand.
Mistake #3 Misunderstanding the process. Many see networking as a list of names and wonder why networking does not work for them. If they tried to drive their car without the motor or plant seeds without watering them it would not work either. Names are important, but relationships and friendships are the gold.
SOLUTION #3. Here is the process: prospect contact connection relationship. Step one, you start prospecting on LinkedIn: this is looking for possible contacts, inviting them and if they accept the invitation you have a contact (visualize as a handshake). The next step is to engage the new contact with a welcome message filled with helpful information for them, an offer to help them, a suggestion they connect with someone (with that someone’s permission) in your network and not a word about how wonderful you are or what you want. A contact who replies to your welcome message (not all will) gives you the opportunity to help again. If you exchange 2-3 emails with this contact they are now a connection. Continue with the process of helping and as you exchange more information, ideas, and prospects (people who can be invited to become new contacts) you are building a relationship. The payoff: people in your network who you have relationships with will not hesitate to put in a good word for you after telling you about a job opening. You get to this magical place by finding out what your contacts and connections need and helping them out. Help them again next week, next month and if they respond you are on your way. If not, that is why you have 100+ connections and growing so you always have a fresh supply of wonderful people to build relationships with.
Mistake #4 Underestimating the time and effort. Networking starts with contacts and ends with relationships. Networking in person or on LinkedIn take time. It takes effort. Email and phone conversations may occur at the speed of light but relationships grow at the speed of trust and that is much slower. Connections need to get to know, like and trust you and you them. Networking is relationship building and it takes time.
SOLUTION #4 Make friends before you need them (Harvey MacKay “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty”). Networking should be an ongoing activity starting now and ending never.
Here are some tips for using LinkedIn.com effectively to network your way to your dream job.
Tip #1 Do not take sides in the Quality vs. Quantity of contacts debate: you need both! Visualize the Contacts as seeds you plant a garden with and the relationships you develop the harvest from the garden. Without seeds (Contacts) there is no garden and without care of the seeds (relationship/ friendship building) there is no harvest (high quality career leads).
You need to continue to build the number of people in your network. Networking is like planting a garden and while the seeds are in your hand you cannot know which ones will grow. Don’t prejudge, spread a wide net and catch as many contacts as you can with a reasonable effort. How many is enough? Always be on the lookout for more, but if you have 200 and you are building relationships with half of them that is a fine start.
Tip #2 Fill out your LinkedIn profile completely.
Tip #3 Use Q&A. Founder of OnlineBuisnessNetworker.com, Flyn Penoyer has this to say about Linkedin’s question section “I firmly believe that one of the best (and least utilized) tools on LinkedIn is the Question & Answer forum. By answering questions in the Q&A forum, I’ve had many people tell me they found my answer helpful and asked me to join their network. Now that’s a quality connection!” And a quality branding opportunity.
Tip #4 Attract don’t assault Contacts. Help. Help. Help. Search out Connections that may be able to help others in your network and suggest they connect. “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” (Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone) Find out why they are building a network and help. Do you know of resources inside or outside LinkedIn that they could use: send it to them without being asked.
Tip #5 Splash someone with humor! For example, put a pun in your status line. Here are some examples for you to use tonight: 1) Every calendar’s days are numbered 2) When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds 3) When two egotists meet, it’s an I for an I 4) A bicycle can’t stand on its own, because it is two-tired.
Tip #6 Recommendations. Rod Jurado, founder of the profitable group, said, ” My goal is to recommend 10% of my network. I’m amazed at the responses because I never ask or worry about the return favor'” Churchill said: “You earn a living by what you get, you earn a life by what you give.” Give an endorsement away when you truly can.
Tip #7 Be clear and specific. Take full responsibility for your communication and its results. “The best advice I can give on networking is as follows,” says Mark Dowdy, Executive Recruiter with the HTW group, “People have a natural desire to help, but often aren’t given enough information to be able to target what they need. Therefore, time and experience have taught me that the best (and fastest) way to network is to state in very explicit terms, without assuming ‘oh, that goes without saying,’ exactly what it is you need and/or are looking for. If you got back what you perceive to be ‘bad results’ from your efforts, don’t blame the people that tried to help. Take a step back, analyze what information you shared, and revise/edit as needed to get better results. In short, specificity matters.”
Tip #8 Call someone. LinkedIn has limits; it is part of the strategy- mostly finding and connecting. After you connect and find common ground, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call your new friend to tell them about a person in your network who is in their field and has a lot in common with them. Traded four emails, now consider calling.
Tip #9 Opportunity knocks daily on the LinkedIn home page. When you see status changes on your main LinkedIn page take action! EVERY day you will see opportunities to congratulate, commend or reach out in a creative way to the status changes, profile changes, recommendations made, posts made and questions asked and answered.
Tip 10 Connect in multiple ways beyond LinkedIn. People who have common interests with you should be connected to you on multiple platforms: Skype, land line, cell, email, FaceBook, and Twitter to name a few possibilities.
Tip #11 Eagle eyes. Soar above the land of ideas and be always on the alert for ideas you can share with your network. Your brand will be defined by the generosity, ideas and contributions you make to your network. Your dream job will grow out of the friendships you have with people in your network.
Robust, simple, effective: LinkedIn.com can be the flagship networking tool in your career strategy.