By Jan Melnik
Job seekers at virtually all levels today are finally embracing the value of a fully developed LinkedIn profile — both for active job search and for passive networking. As compared with several years ago, most people are over the stigma that a presence will label them as job-seeking or, worse (from their perspective only), out of work. People recognize the value this tool brings to networking and remember that it is just that, a tool to support effective ways of reaching out and maintaining connections (and, yes, job search).
If we accept, then, as a given that a LinkedIn presence is essential, what’s the next step? In coaching sessions, I’m frequently met with (virtual) blank stares. Without further prodding, many of my clients seem content to remain passive: ”Okay, my LI is ‘up’ with well-developed, branded content consistent with my messaging, I’ve reached out to colleagues, clients, vendors, former managers, etc., and built a respectable group of connections, and I’ve even uploaded a recent professionally done headshot.” And that’s it (they think). While it is true that in ever-increasing numbers executive recruiters are trolling LI looking for talent and may/do reach out, those engaged in otherwise active job search are leaving a huge stone unturned by not using the valuable features LI provides.
When I point out the tabs-at-the-top of LinkedIn, I’m consistently surprised by the number of execs expressing surprise: they’ve not spent any time or even thought to ‘hit any of those buttons.’ The three I’ll spend the most time coaching on in a one-on-one LI training session: Groups, Jobs, and Companies. The biggest takeaway I impart is how to find and use the connections-in-common with each category of interest.
In this article, I’ll focus on Groups. For instance, if I’m working with a CMO whose industry background has been aerospace and defense, I’ll encourage her to use the search feature in Groups to identify possible organizations to ‘join.’ I stress the need to be discriminating. While LI (today, anyway) allows up to 50 ‘memberships,’ it’s impossible to monitor, actively contribute to, and demonstrate thought leadership on that many forums. Pick a handful of engaged groups that can bring value while allowing you to potentially help others. Examine a few key criteria: How may members in the group? How active is it (LI will tell you this)? How many people in your network already belong? Are these 1st or 2nd degree connections?
For this example, the group “Aviation & Aerospace Professionals” appears the most robust with more than 38,000 members, “very active” discussions (813 in a recent month), and it might be a good place to spend some time. Then go to the thread for that group and read. Anything catching your interest? Do topics seem lively, well-developed, eliciting involvement? Lurk for a while, then dip your toe in by sharing an opinion or thought on a thread. Of course, a savvy job seeker *isn’t* going to announce that fact. Rather, as thought leadership is demonstrated through intelligent, thought-provoking posts, people will notice… and when they visit that person’s profile, it will open the door to a contact if there is interest/opportunity.
For this same aerospace CMO client, we find among the 1300+ possible associations/groups of interest another much smaller forum: Aerospace Marketing & Business Development. While there are only about 1400 members, the conversations in this portal are niche-specific. Probably another good place to check out. Use the connections you have within those groups to begin a separate dialogue by sending a message (or an invitation to connect if you haven’t already done so). Of course, it’s essential to personalize your message and not simply accept LI’s ubiquitous: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
This is just the start in connecting the dots between Groups and the other two important areas on LinkedIn for networking, Jobs and Companies. Be sure to leverage your LI power!