Why You Should Link Up with Linked In

Last week’s post on networking made a passing mention of the importance of using social media for networking purposes, in particular Linked In. Since then I have happened on some useful slides about using Linked In (and Twitter) to develop professional contacts by a colleague at the University of Manchester, Helen Buzdugan  Duly inspired, what follows is an attempt to pass on some thoughts about the ways you can use Linked In to develop your own career network.  You may find it useful to open a Linked In account to follow some of the references, if you have not already done so.

While many careers advisers advocate the use of Linked In to students, repeated surveys show that student use and awareness of Linked In is at quite a low level.  This is a shame as Linked In – sometimes alluded to as “Facebook for suits” – is one of the key arenas that budding professionals can use to build up influential contacts.  The difference is that it lacks the frivolity and some of the less desirable aspects of Facebook as it centres on professional life.  It’s all about the work you, not you the party animal.

Linked In does include job adverts which are filtered to match your Linked In profile, but much more subtle is the way that you can use it to find unadvertised opportunities and befriend new contacts in particular companies or industry sectors.

Finding People

Using the Linked In advanced search facility, you can look for people who are already in careers that interest you and approach them for advice, company or sector information or to request information interviews.  The Linked In Career Explorer facility allows you to check out profiles of other people who have been involved with the same colleges or companies as yourself so you have something in common straight away.

A bit more subtly still, you can look at people’s past career profiles to see what route they took to get to where they are now, which can shed some useful light on the steps you could consider to get to a similar position yourself.

As per good networking practice, Linked In helps you tap in not just to your contacts but their contacts and their contacts’ contacts, any of whom you can readily message on the system. An extra dimension is that people will look at your profile too, opening up at least the possibility of getting headhunted.

Searching For Companies

It’s dead easy to find companies in a particular geographical area or of a particular kind.  Not all companies have a Linked In page of course and a tool like the Direct Marketing tool of Keynote is a more comprehensive way of producing company listings. But where Linked In scores is on the sheer amount of information you can access by viewing companies who have built a significant profile.

For example, looking at the BBC page straight away gives you details of their current vacancies, and the Insights section tells you of people who have made recent career moves into and out of the company. What astounded me was the fact that, even though I have made no great effort at extending my use of Linked In and have no special interest in broadcasting, their Careers section showed that I have 27 first or second level contacts within the Beeb, only two of whom I have ever met!

Joining Groups

For the would-be job applicant, there are two kinds of groups that can be worth investigating – regional and professional.  A very good example of the former is the Cumbrian link group, a meeting place for a large number of professionals and employers who engage in frequent discussions on local themes – a great way of finding out the key influencers and topical themes in the county.

If you are interested in finding teaching jobs in the UK, there is a Linked In professional group on exactly that theme. Observing and contributing to group discussions can be a great way of making contacts and getting yourself known.

Last of all…

Linked In isn’t the only social network that is useful for developing your career.  Following the ‘horses for courses motto’, there may be others that will be more useful for specific career directions or companies. But Linked In has a very strong presence in the Business, Finance, Commerce and Law sectors to name just a few and as the lead professional network available online, is always worth checking before you look elsewhere.

University of Cumbria students who want to know more about Linked In will find information on the Blackboard Jobs&Careers tab.