|Your Resume on Steroids: Using LinkedIn to Get a Job|
As of August 2, 2012, LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 175 million members in over 200 countries and territories. Jobvite’s Social Recruiting Survey 2012 reveals that 92% of employers use social networks to find talent, (up from 78% five years ago) and LinkedIn continues to be the most popular option. Seventy three percent of employers surveyed report that they successfully hired candidates through social media, and of those hires, 89% said they hired from LinkedIn.
“As a job seeker, you have a new best friend, and your best friend’s name is LinkedIn.”
In his book, Breitbarth emphasizes that LinkedIn is NOT Facebook. Despite the fact that LinkedIn is often referred to as “Facebook for businesspeople,” Breitbarth says that what businesspeople appreciate and respect about LinkedIn is that it has significant processes and controls that keep it from becoming like Facebook.
To productively harness the potential of LinkedIn, users must begin by clearly identifying their purpose and goals, and then use LinkedIn as a tool to strategically achieve those goals. Doing so requires job seekers to develop, foster and further a personal brand that showcases talents and expertise, and ensures that opportunities to advance are not missed.
Personal branding is, essentially, how people present and market themselves to others. Breitbarth notes that job seekers need to approach their careers in terms of differentiation (standing out in the crowd) and marketability (providing something other people want or need). A sound brand strategy will reflect four important factors that will work collectively to provide job seekers with a strong presence in the virtual world:
1. A robust professional network.
2. Endorsements from respected colleagues.
3. Previous accomplishments with cataloged results.
4. A diversified and unique skill set.
Build Your Network Thoughtfully
In the book The Start-Up of You, co-author and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman writes that “networking has been replaced by intelligent network building.” Although the number of people in an individual’s personal network is important, the emphasis is less on the quantity of connections and more on the quality and especially the trustworthiness of those connections. Breitbarth encourages job seekers to strive to develop rich and diverse networks that include people they can count on for help, as well as a diverse cross section of people in various industries, disciplines and geographic regions. LinkedIn functionality can assist job seekers in searching for new connections to increase the reach, value and productivity of their personal networks.
About LinkedIn, Breitbarth says connections are the gasoline in the tank that make the engine work. He says if you are messing around as a job seeker with 20 to 50 connections, you are doing just that – messing around. Serious job seekers likely know and trust 250 people who are on LinkedIn and every one of them should be pursued for a job seeker’s personal network.
Breitbarth adds, if connections are the gasoline in the tank, then groups are the oil that lubricates the engine. LinkedIn Groups are places where job seekers can find new connections, follow people, send messages, engage in conversations, be found and get exposed to people of similar industries, interests, backgrounds and geographic regions. LinkedIn currently offers more than one million different special interest groups. SLAS alone manages one main/general LinkedIn group of nearly 4,000 members and 16 subgroups for academic drug discovery, ADMET, automation quality control, China, data analysis and management, drug repurposing, informatics, label-free technologies in drug discovery, labware leachables, microplate standards, phenotypic drug discovery, sample management, screen design and assay technology, stem cells and primary cells, students and early career professionals, and technology transfer and CRO/CMO project management.
Present Yourself Powerfully
How LinkedIn users present themselves is also mission critical. According to Breitbarth, how job seekers construct their LinkedIn profiles is the key to creating a “resume on steroids.” This important section should be accurate, complete, interesting, specific and it should reach well beyond the typical resume-style summary of education and employers.
According to Breitbarth, because LinkedIn essentially functions as a search engine, it looks for keywords. Well chosen keywords can help optimize a profile for search results. Job seekers should describe their skills with industry-specific terms to improve their chances of being found in a search. Another way for job seekers to display their skill sets is to add the optional LinkedIn profile section called Skills, which enables up to 50 skills to be showcased in a profile. Other potentially helpful optional sections include Publications, Certifications, Courses, Languages, Projects, Patents and Test Scores.
Breitbarth encourages job seekers to think in broad terms and use the Summary, Job Experiences, Educational Experiences, Charitable Experiences, and Honors and Awards sections of their profiles to share stories about specific accomplishments as well as details on actual results achieved.
Credibility can be demonstrated through recommendations from respected colleagues, employers, clients, co-workers, professors, other students, leaders of organizations, or anyone who can honestly and meaningfully comment on a job seeker’s strengths.
When debating whether or not to include something in their profile, Breitbarth suggests that job seekers ask themselves 1) Will it add to my credibility and help tell my professional story? and 2) Will it help more people find me when they search LinkedIn? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, Breitbarth recommends the information be included.
Breitbarth also encourages job seekers to use Box.net files or SlideShare to enhance their personal profiles with items such as resumes, portfolio highlights, articles they have written and perhaps even a slide show that outlines their career. Job seekers may also want to post a video resume to YouTube and link to it from their profile.
Don’t Sit on the Sidelines: Get in the Game
Breitbarth notes that with most things in life, your return is directly proportional to what you put into it, and LinkedIn is no exception. He recommends that job seekers be proactive and dedicate an hour a day to LinkedIn to add meaningful and trustworthy connections to their networks; find and join appropriate groups; follow important industry leaders; mine their network connections’ primary and secondary connections and ask for introductions; be visible by issuing status updates to their networks about topics of interest and related current events; participate in group discussions; use the LinkedIn Jobs tool to search for opportunities and save searches; and re-evaluate their own personal profiles.
SLAS Members Liming Shi and Andy Zaayenga agree with Breitbarth’s advice. They have high regard for the value of LinkedIn, and they emphasize that people shouldn’t wait until they need a job to establish themselves. “Invest in LinkedIn now for the long-term,” says Shi, who is chair of the SLAS Technology Transfer and CRO/CMO Project Management Special Interest Group. “Get yourself up and running, so if and when you really need it, it will be ready and you’ll be able to mobilize quickly.” Zaayenga, who is a member of the SLAS Board of Directors, adds “Don’t be complacent, even if you think you’re in a solid position. Nobody’s safe in today’s environment.”
Shi and Zaayenga also agree that there are many other professional benefits to LinkedIn beyond searching for jobs. “Think of it like walking into a room with everyone you know and asking a question,” says Zaayenga, who has more than 8,000 professional connections in his personal network. “You will receive answers, suggestions, advice. It’s an extremely effective tool for gathering information and for sharing information, getting the word out about something.”
“Keep in mind that it’s a two-way street,” adds Shi, who has more than 500 professional connections in his network. “You must build your network of connections and then treat them nicely, with respect. Maintain communication so when you need information, you’re more likely to get willing responses.”
Shi adds that when using LinkedIn “credibility is extremely important. Users should be accurate and responsible for everything they post. Inaccuracies or boasting can be counterproductive.” Zaayenga agrees and adds that “everything a person posts lives for eternity, so always maintain a polished, professional presence. Don’t post something that might give someone a reason not to hire you.”
Zaayenga has used LinkedIn when making hiring decisions. “Whenever I receive a resume, the first thing I do is look up that person on LinkedIn to get a better idea of what they’re all about and what they have to offer.” Zaayenga strongly advises users to curate their presence and notes that “incomplete, amateurish or misleading profile information sends the message that the person is not a serious professional.”
For job seekers in particular, Shi says “timing is everything, so never give up. Keep trying; keep talking to people. Use your connections to talk to the right people.” Shi started a new job this year and credits LinkedIn for connecting him with many good people to get a lot of job information he wanted. As recommended by Breitbarth, Shi searched his connections’ connections and then asked for introductions or for more information until eventually “something clicked.”
To maintain momentum, Breitbarth summarizes 10 “Gotta Do’s” for LinkedIn users:
1. Gotta use Advanced Search Function once you have a lead or target.
2. Gotta look at profiles of the new people you are going to meet or call.
3. Gotta add “trusted connections” consistently.
4. Gotta beef up your profile.
5. Gotta review connections of your first-degree network.
6. Gotta look at the company page.
7. Gotta keep track of what your network is doing and help them.
8. Gotta look up competitors (individuals and companies).
9. Gotta join some groups.
10. Gotta spend some purposeful time each week on LinkedIn, with a strategy/plan, or don’t waste the time; instead, do some other form of networking.
“Give it a shot,” says Shi. “Get set up and then just get moving.”