By Ed Han
Congratulations on completing your education!
By now you’ve had the opportunity to catch up with old friends, make some plans to do fun things, and started working on a resume. Or perhaps you’ve pulled up stakes and headed out somewhere new, enjoying the freedom of being young and having no obligations to hold you down and starting a new adventure, making new friends.
Whatever the case, sooner or later you’re going to need a job. And not just any job -- the kind of job your education was supposed to help you get, that you spent the past few years making sure you could get.
Here’s the thing: this part is hard. If you haven’t already out, you will find that the vast majority of employers want you to have experience before hiring you. Yes, it’s paradoxical: to get experience they want you to have some.
Now, those who’ve been in the workforce for a while can make use of their networks -- but you don’t have much of one…yet.
That’s where LinkedIn enters the picture.
It isn’t Snapchat, YouTube, or Instagram. In fact, LinkedIn is pretty much in a class by itself when it comes to social media that’s work-related. It was designed to facilitate professional networking and it’s so good at it, there are de facto no rivals.
LinkedIn is useful to you because being on it will help you find a job. There are a few reasons for this:
Recruiters in a hurry turn to Google and LinkedIn to find qualified job candidates.
Searching online for qualified candidates is usually quicker and much more effective than screening the hundreds of job applications that result from job postings to find those who are actually qualified for their jobs.
There are two primary reasons that LinkedIn makes you more findable as a job candidate:
So, having a solid LinkedIn Profile puts you in position to be found whether they are searching the Internet with Google or searching only inside LinkedIn.
Read 7 Ways to Attract Recruiters on LinkedIn and Choosing the Best Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile for more details.
Not having a LinkedIn Profile raises eyebrows in many circles. Why don't you have a LinkedIn Profile? Do you not understand how important it is? Are you hiding something? What's wrong with you?
In addition, these days, one of the first places an employer or recruiter checks to verify the contents of a resume or job application is LinkedIn. Having a solid, complete ("All Star" in LinkedIn's terminology) Profile, assures them that the facts on your application are correct.
The assumption is that what you make public to friends, family, colleagues, and the world at large is apt to be more accurate than what you submit online.
Read Social Proof: Linked(In) to Your Resume for more information.
Make no mistake, in spite of the millions of job postings online, networking is the most effective (and quickest) way to connect to a new job.
Maybe there’s a family friend, let’s call him Uncle Bert. Uncle Bert isn’t actually related, but he might as well be, he’s just as much a part of every family gathering as everybody else, and was always fond of you.
But do you know what Uncle Bert does for a living, or with what employer?
Or perhaps at your graduation celebration Aunt Jane congratulates you, gives you a great big hug, and tells you to call her if you need any help finding a job. Use LinkedIn to connect with Uncle Bert or Aunt Jane (if they’re on it), and see who they might know.
And now you have a reason to call Aunt Jane or Uncle Bert. One really easy way for them to help you is by introducing and connecting you with the people they know, either via LinkedIn or otherwise. What about all the other people you know who’ve been in the working world for a while now, like your best friend’s parents, or your own? And don’t neglect older siblings, cousins, neighbors, and even your professors and other students.
These are all people who know and like you, so help them help you. And a few years down the road, when someone you know is in the same position you are right now, you know how to respond.
This is networking. It’s precisely the kind of thing that LinkedIn is built to do because it is so essential to careers and to job hunting.
If you ask any hiring manager, HR professional, or corporate recruiter what the best source of new hires is, they’re going to tell you -- hands down -- that employee referrals are where it’s at.
The employee referral -- when an existing employee of an employer recommends someone for a job -- is the gold standard for sources of hire.
This is how you ideally want to become a candidate to an employer. And as you grow your LinkedIn network, bear in mind that network growth targeted towards particular industries or employers is an important strategy.
Most people in the business world have a LinkedIn account. A profile can include a person’s education and work history, and may even display the Recommendations they were given by others on LinkedIn.
Together, these pieces of information put you in a great position to find commonalities with a hiring manager and understand what traits he or she values.
However, you can only see the person’s full profile if you or someone you’re connected with--1st or 2nd degree connections, in LinkedIn parlance -- is connected to that person.
You will find that a lot of people have worked for a lot of businesses -- you might be surprised by how much job and employer changing has been going on the last decade or so. But this also means a lot of people potentially have the kind of information you really want.
You can search on LinkedIn for people who are former employees of a given business, and they’re often gold mines of information. Use LinkedIn's Advanced People Search to find that option.
This is the kind of information that lets you ask great questions in your interview; the kind of information that shows you’re smart and know how to do good research; the kind of information that says yes, they need you to join their team.
A job search is a hard process, no question. But LinkedIn is a powerful tool that makes it a lot easier.
Ed Han is a recruiter and wordsmith and social media fanatic. As a veteran of several industries, including publishing, financial services and fashion, Ed helps facilitate a job search group in Princeton NJ and has served as the online community manager for the regional HR networking group Whine & Dine. Connect with Ed on Twitter @ed_han, and circle him on GooglePlus where you will often find that Ed has posted a "LinkedIn tip of the day."