Rx for job searchers: An hour a day on LinkedIn

Growing companies are changing the way they search for talent. Rather than posting ads and waiting for candidates to apply with cover letters and resumes, the vast majority of recruiters and hiring managers now proactively search for talent via social networks such as LinkedIn.

A good number of organizations also use Twitter to announce job openings and to engage with potential candidates. And let’s not discount Facebook. Job leads and business opportunities are shared between friends and family on Facebook every single day.

What this means is that your online image is every bit as important as having a targeted resume. Maybe even more so! And being forthright about your recent layoff may not be as helpful as one might imagine. It could work against you. The currently employed seem to hold more fascination for recruiters than active job seekers.

Yes, we still need to play the traditional cover letter and resume game. But only about 20 to 25 percent of one’s overall job search time should be spent applying for posted positions. The majority of our time should be dedicated to networking in person and online to engage with people and to develop our careers.

Advice about how to create or polish one’s profile can be confusing. Learning the technical ins and outs of various social networking sites is often overwhelming. And we are not all marketing experts. Effectively promoting our own skills and services is especially tricky.

According to Viveka von Rosen, author of the forthcoming, “LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day, ” LinkedIn is not only a great place to post your education and experience, but one of the best sources for researching opportunities and connecting with people.

Von Rosen offers a few basic tips to get started. “Remember that your LinkedIn profile is an online presence. Use the summary section to clearly explain why someone should hire you. Spelling and grammar count. Create your profile in a Word document so that you can correct typos before you post online. Just as websites need to be content rich, your profile should include industry specific keywords to ensure you show up in searches. Lastly, most people don’t have a large enough network. In order to be visible you need to grow the number of contacts in your niche industry.”

Once your profile is updated and your contact list is growing, von Rosen suggests the following power tips to raise your visibility:

Join groups in your target industry. Alumni groups, location based groups, and groups that reflect your personal interests and passions are also recommended.

Post discussions and comments to the groups you join. Be seen as a thought leader and an avid contributor in your field.

Follow companies and groups.

Discover the key influencers in your skillset using LinkedIn Skills and reach out to them.

Use the Advanced Search to find potential mentors and employers.

Answer questions in LinkedIn’s Answers in order to demonstrate expertise.

Regularly post status updates to reflect your current projects and interests.

Link to your personal website or blog. Every time you post a new entry it will be reflected as an update to your LinkedIn profile.

Continually update your profile with new skills, publications, patents, volunteer work, and projects.

Add a photo. Use Photoshop to soften lines if that is a concern. You have a 60% better chance of getting a connection if your profile includes a photo.

Gather recommendations and testimonials from colleagues who are willing to speak to the value you provide.

According to von Rosen, “Many people consider LinkedIn to be no more than a resume on steroids. But in order to use it successfully, LinkedIn needs to be an interactive rather than a passive tool. Just as you would not want your website to become stagnant, your LinkedIn profile needs to continually be refreshed.”

Von Rosen adds, “Online networking is all about forming and building relationships with key people who can help you take your job search or business to the next level. In order to convert social media contacts into true connections, you must take relationships deeper and create rapport with people. Whether we are connecting in person or online, the goal is to build and nurture relationships.”

What about those of us who simply don’t want to self-promote on the Internet? Does this equate to career suicide? There is a growing sentiment that if you are not on LinkedIn there must be something wrong. Yet, it is important to note that there are exceptions. Some business sectors, such as manufacturing or education, have yet to fully embrace social media. Resumes and cover letters may soon become obsolete in some industries but they remain absolutely necessary for gaining access to many types of jobs.

LinkedIn rightfully claims to be the world’s largest professional networking site. It is much more than just a job-hunting tool. It is a great contact manager making it easy to keep tabs on a large number of people. LinkedIn can also help us stay abreast of what is going on in our industries. Finally, LinkedIn allows us to connect with people from all over the world thus expanding contacts beyond our local regions.

The most successful people embrace networking, online and in person, as a life skill rather than a job search technique. Like it or not, we are all in a perpetual state of career development. An hour a day on LinkedIn may be one of the best ways to ensure our own continued success.

Carrie Pinsky is a Fort Collins-based career and HR advisor. She can be reached at carrie@pinkskywriting.com.

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