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A Guest post by Mike

I was laid off about a month ago. Given the state of the economy and my “older worker” status, getting a new job could have been a lengthy ordeal or a mission impossible. Thanks to LinkedIn, I accepted a new position less than three weeks later.  It was not just any job.  It was, it is – my dream job.  By many important measurements, it is a much better job than the one I had.

The unadvertised position

I found the listing for the job in a weekly digest e-mail from one of the LinkedIn Groups I joined a few months ago.  It was the only place the job was ever listed.  There may have been some word-of-mouth, but there was no newspaper listing, no Monster, no Career Builder, and no listing on the company’s website.

Learning LinkedIn

Now let’s step back two years or so.  Near the end of 2008 I had a token profile on LinkedIn and was connected to about a dozen people.  Then I took an introductory class from Steve Tylock at the local library and read his book, The LinkedIn Personal Trainer.

Up to that point, LinkedIn was an appealing concept, but I didn’t know what to do with it.  One of my friends had hundreds of connections, yet when I asked him how I could do more with LinkedIn, his answer focused on connecting with more people.

Steve, on the other hand, focused on using the tools within LinkedIn.  So far as connections were concerned, he emphasized over and over the importance of connecting only with people we know and trust.  His approach allowed me to see LinkedIn as a vehicle which could take me where I wanted to go.  Steve and his book gave me driver-ed training for LinkedIn.

Moving forward

At that point, I was already looking for a new job and had been looking for some time.  I had found one opportunity after another through diligent face-to-face networking, and one after another, they fell through.

I continued my personal networking, but I also began developing my profile on LinkedIn, adding important items such as a personalized URL, more job history, a photo and a headline.  I didn’t fill in every blank, and I never indicated on my profile I was looking for a new position, not wanting to jeopardize the job I had.

How I use LinkedIn

Aside from gradually adding new connections, my success with LinkedIn revolved around two features, Advanced Search and Groups.  Here are some observations about how LinkedIn worked for me, how I utilized the tools, and how I went beyond LinkedIn to get the job.

  • Advanced Search was an immediate help for me in my old job.  I was calling primarily on marketing VPs, marketing managers, brand managers, and promotion managers in media and consumer products companies.  It’s very hard to identify and reach people in that arena, partly because they don’t usually pick up the phone, and partly because hundreds of other salespeople are trying to reach them as well.  Advanced Search helped me identify names, and get titles, job descriptions and personal information (college, hobbies, travels, activities) which often helped me develop rapport with people when I did reach them.
  • Even when I could not find the right name/title in LinkedIn, I could almost always find someone who could give me the right name.
  • In addition to calling on people in media and consumers products, my work reached into manufacturing, retail, education and pharmaceutical.  I found that a majority of mid and upper-level contacts in all of these industries are in LinkedIn.  If they are not there, there’s almost always someone close to them who is.
  • I let key people in my network know I was looking for work.  I fielded several opportunities as a result.  Just one of my direct connects forwarded three opportunities over the last year or so.  None of these opportunities worked out, but it’s important to note than any one of them could have led to an ideal job.
  • Those personal referrals to an opportunity, some of them accompanied by an introduction to the hiring decision maker, were probably the best quality leads I got.  However, it’s a numbers game.  Some time ago I read that new opportunities are more likely going to be the result of your indirect connections than your direct connections, simply because there are so many more indirect connections. That was true in my case, finding the opportunity in a Group e-mail.
  • Because of my LinkedIn profile, I fielded a few opportunities from headhunters.  As with the opportunities found by my direct connects, any of these could have been golden.  I’ve gotten two jobs via headhunters in my career.
  • I connected my Twitter account to my LinkedIn profile and used Twitter to post activity updates in my profile almost daily while doing my normal routine in Twitter.  Twitter helped me widen my network via Social Media Club of Rochester meetings and one-to-one coffees or lunches.  Many of those new acquaintances became LinkedIn connections.  Any of these activities could have helped me find the perfect job.
  • I’ve read warnings about joining too many groups.  The rationale is that it’s too time consuming to read all the update e-mails. I am in more than 30 groups.  It seems to me the additional reach to opportunities more than justifies the time invested, though I did learn to request a weekly digest rather than daily updates.
  • One point in support of limiting groups is that many groups are regional.  A few of the marketing, promotion, or innovation groups I joined list dozens of openings a week – and they are mostly in the greater NYC metro.  A few more are in some of the other top 25 cities.  They would be no help to anyone who isn’t ready to move to one of those places.
  • The key to my new job came from a western NY regional group.  So my experience points toward joining local groups, or groups in a region where you’d want to re-locate, as well as groups which may help you with new information regardless of their geography.
  • Job or business opportunities aside, LinkedIn Groups can be your vehicle to continuous learning in almost any field.
  • LinkedIn can bring you the opportunity, but you still have to close the deal.  In my case, that included an initial e-mail, some phone calls, completion of a lengthy questionnaire and quiz, more research on the company, sending a resume, and responding to additional e-mailed questions.  The next hurdle was to spend the day at the company, and interview with the owner and a half-dozen other employees.  Then there were more written questions and a request for references.
  • I talked with each of my references in advance to prepare them.  I suggested slightly different talk tracks for each.  As it turned out, I think this preparation was a very important step – not because of what they said, but because it helped them respond quickly.
  • Reference requests were made by e-mail.  All three references responded within two days.  My employer mentioned to each of them how much he appreciated their prompt reply.  Within an hour of reading the third reference, he sent me an e-mail and then immediately called me with the job offer.  I accepted on the spot and made it official the next day as I visited the office with my signed offer letter.

Wrapping it up

There’s more I could have done with LinkedIn – giving and requesting more recommendations, adding a summary, and putting more of my achievements into job history items, for example.  But for me, the value of LinkedIn is not so much in adding custom wheels and a vanity license plate. The value is in where you choose to drive it, and how much time you choose to spend behind the wheel.

Steve’s thoughts

Mike recently clued me in about his success, and I followed up asking if he might write the experience up for me – and he graciously agreed.

I’m always happy to highlight real LinkedIn stories, and Mike’s is a winner.

And for those of you following the connection myth series – no – Mike is not a connection of mine.  We know people in common, but before collaborating on this article, we just didn’t have a strong enough relationship.  Yes, he attended a seminar I held, but I still didn’t know him.

Huh – imagine that – being able to work together without having a LinkedIn connection.  Learning more about each other, and finding out new things.

We better keep quiet about this, there are some people that think you can only get exposed to new people and ideas if you connect to them – hey – that should be a good myth to take on next…-)

To your continued success,

steve

Steven Tylock
http://www.linkedinpersonaltrainer.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevetylock