LinkedIn boasts 400 million users, but not all of them regularly use the site. The number of active users varies from one source to the other (25%? 52%? 49%? All these sources are from 2015).
But what we know is that many people don’t really know what to do there. Maybe it’s your case. “What in the world am I supposed to do, now?”
Let me show you how, as a job seeker, you can spend 15-30 minutes productively, a few days a week, on LinkedIn. Be warned, though. It’s a slow process. I’m not promising you a job in 10 days! LinkedIn is the ultimate online networking tool, and you’ve got to use it appropriately. It’s not as much about finding a job as it is about connecting with a lot of relevant people. And it’s these people who could, in a few weeks or months, hear about or offer you an opening, because they’re in the right field or company.
So this article is about networking.
The basics of networking on LinkedIn
The first obvious thing is to look at your newsfeed. See what other people in your network are doing and sharing. You can like, comment or share that stuff. If you want to comment, think of something to say which could add to the discussion. Especially when it’s an article. “I really like the part where you mention X…” is a much better comment than “Nice!” It’s more engaging.
But you’ll quickly be done with the newsfeed. You need to find a few places to hang out. The “Interests” tab is the best starting point.
For now, we’re only going to talk about two elements under “Interests”, LinkedIn’s publishing platform (Pulse) and LinkedIn groups.
LinkedIn has its own publishing (blogging) platform. It’s called Pulse. It started out as a place where “Influencers” (hand-picked by LinkedIn) were publishing long-form articles. Then, starting in 2014, it started to open up to people who’ve never been on the cover of magazines or built a software empire. Today, anyone can use it as a publishing tool. Which means that tons of new articles appear on Pulse every day. These articles are a good place to learn, of course, but also to connect with like-minded people by joining the discussion.
You can tailor what appears in your Pulse (see image below) by choosing influencers, topics, publishers, etc. It’s a bit easier to do on mobile (there’s a dedicated Pulse app). If you want to do it on your computer, click the “menu” icon (the 3 line-sandwich) and go to “Discover more”.
Another cool place to hang out, found under the “Interests” tab, is LinkedIn groups. Now, what you need to know about groups is that they’re more like a forum. Which means if users aren’t interacting, you won’t get much out of it. And that’s a big problem with groups. Some have grown stale. Some are just filled with self-promoters, even spammers. But some are really thriving communities. Participating in just a few relevant groups will put you in contact with people you might eventually add to your connections.
There are groups for many, many topics, locations and industries. The number of members doesn’t matter as much as how active the community is. To figure out how active a group is, you’ll need to join some groups and see what’s happening inside. Look at the 10 most recent posts. How many have likes and comments? (Trust me, you’ll find a lot of zeroes.) Is it half? That would be good. But only 1 or 2 with some activity? Forget that group.
Groups have an incredible potential, but like any internet forum, they’re hard to manage. And LinkedIn fiddles with how groups work, trying to reduce spam and improve moderation, but the results aren’t spectacular yet. However, some groups are active and well-moderated, and they’re a great professional space to hang out.
And a great thing about groups is that it brings you “closer” to people. LinkedIn won’t let everyone email everyone. You’re only allowed to use their message system (for free) with people who are direct connections (what they call “1st degree connections”). BUT, you can also contact members of the groups you’re a part of for free. However, you’re just allowed 15 such messages per month. (This rule has been effective since 2015). And you have to be part of that group for 4 days to start messaging people. Yeah, “4 days”. I would have gone with 3 or 5, but what do I know?
So Pulse and groups are two spots where you can spend some time. But if you want it to be valuable, you need to have goals. Goals like “Interact with 3 people” or “reach out to so-and-so”. Don’t just go there as a consumer. Put on your networking hat. It doesn’t have to be “aggressive” networking. But it does have to be intentional.
Now, over time, you’ll become an active part of those groups. Your connections will grow, slowly but surely. So when you come across something that’s valuable to your peers or industry, share it through an update (from the Home page, it’s right under your picture) or within a group. If people engage with you, get the conversation going. If you have a good feeling about those people, ask them to connect.
OK! But when do I ask people for a job?
Well, you don’t want people to feel like you’re bugging them all the time. So light touches are best. “Can I send you my resume?”, asked out of the blue, is irritating. But “keep an eye out for me” is less intrusive. Put yourself in that person’s shoes. If you’re a nagging presence, they won’t want to hear from you. But if you’re always providing cool links, making people aware of the latest trends, and generally being positive and upbeat, people will see you as a strong potential colleague or employee. And they’ll think of you when the time is right.
That’s how LinkedIn can work for you. It’s not a quick fix solution, but a consistent investment can really pay off.
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