If you regularly read this blog or others like it, this post is not for you; it's for you to send to the people you know who think they have no need for professional social media. Considering that just around 40 million people in the United States are registered on LinkedIn, chances are that you know several people who have avoided the business networking site. For professionals, the time has come to get connected.
A friend's experience inspired this blog post. She was happy and secure in her job and saw no need to maintain a LinkedIn profile, foster a network, collect recommendations or join LinkedIn groups. Then she was unexpectedly laid off and joined the 13.7 million people who are unemployed in the United States. At a time when being noticed is tougher than ever and working your network is vital to discovering openings and snagging interviews, my friend is starting from square one.
Her lack of a profile or network puts her at a disadvantage compared to people who can get the word out to a wide network. Of course, email can be used to broadcast a message, but LinkedIn offers something far more valuable--the ability to see and leverage connections for introductions, referrals and information. Krista Canfield, spokeswoman for LinkedIn, recently noted, "There may be hundreds and hundreds of other people applying for the same position you are. But if you know someone, a personal referral is like a golden ticket that can put your resume on top."
LinkedIn helped me to prepare for my interviews at USAA before I landed my new job. I found I was connected to a person who used to work on social media at USAA and that he was a "2nd degree contact," which means we share a mutual LinkedIn contact. I asked for an introduction via LinkedIn and arranged a phone call. The insight I gathered helped me to ask better questions during the interview process and gain confidence the position at USAA was right for me.
Participating on LinkedIn can provide professional assistance and education for the employed, but for the unemployed it offers a great many benefits. Aside from the ability to work a network for information and introductions, LinkedIn users can:
- Access a job board to help surface available positions that may match their experience,
- Maintain an "online resume" that others may visit to see skills, experience and job history,
- Seek out information about potential employers using Company Profiles and Company Buzz,
- Add specific skills to their profiles, promoting areas of expertise and revealing companies and jobs that use and need those skills,
- Access groups of professionals, permitting the opportunity to learn, ask questions and meet new like-minded professionals, and
- Collect (and provide) recommendations from peers.