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How to Use LinkedIn Like Your Career Depended On It

Job seekers should follow these tips to find work through this online network

(This article previously appeared on CareerEnlightenment.com as a three-part-series: "Why You Should Use LinkedIn — Like Your Career Depends On It," "Who LinkedIn Is For, and Who It Isn’t For" and "4 Essentials for Reaching Out to Strangers on LinkedIn.")

If you’re searching for work and have noticed things are different nowadays, well, you’re not alone.

Today, 12 million unemployed Americans struggle to face this new job-searching reality. In the past, you might mark your progress by declaring, “Hey, I’ve applied to 20 jobs this week for the fourth straight week in a row. I’m doing everything I can.”

These days, what matters is how good you look online and how many new contacts you’ve made on the LinkedIn online social network for business, not how many job applications you’ve sent out.

(MORE: How to Use LinkedIn to Promote Your Personal Brand)

The 6 Fields Using LinkedIn the Most

Jobvite’s 2013 State of Recruiting study found over 94 percent of companies use social media to recruit and LinkedIn is their top tool.

And according to ZoomSphere, here are the six top industries represented on LinkedIn:

  • Higher education
  • Information technology
  • Financial services
  • Retail
  • Software
  • Marketing

Three years ago, when I started my blog CareerEnlightenment.com, only about 46 percent of recruiters had hired through LinkedIn. Today, 70 percent have.

Yet for many job seekers, LinkedIn remains background noise, something to deal with every couple of weeks or so, if at all. They approach LinkedIn as if it’s homework. That’s a huge mistake.

Those savvy enough to really put some polish on their LinkedIn profiles and focus on building a network through this site can expect recruiters to e-mail them on a weekly basis. (New to LinkedIn? Watch the 10 free video lessons on my blog: “Getting Started With LinkedIn In Just 10 Minutes.”)

(MORE: 3 Ways LinkedIn Just Made It Easier to Find a Job)


Know Your Message

Unlike the old strategy of blasting out resumés and job applications by the dozens, today, you have to think about the message you’re communicating to your target audience online.

For example, when you first fill out your LinkedIn profile, your headline automatically populates with your most recent job title. Let’s say that’s “Quality Control Engineer.” Guess how many other quality control engineers will show up on a keyword search? A ton!

But if your message is “I take the quality of our products seriously, and have fun doing it | Quality Control Engineer” now you’re different from the others.

What is your core message and how will your target audience respond to it? Know the answer to this question before you fill out your LinkedIn profile. (In my free six-day email course, The Missing Manual to LinkedIn Success, I show you how to identify your core audience and position your message to get their attention.)

(MORE: How to Ask for a LinkedIn Introduction and Get One)

LinkedIn Is Not Your Online Resumé

It’s important to remember that your LinkedIn profile is not your online resumé. This business-network profile a digital extension of you and your personality. It is your “avatar.” (I’ll bet your resumé doesn’t even come close to that.)

Here are four reasons why simply copying your resumé onto LinkedIn won’t work:

1. The context is different. Your resumé is read as you apply for a job; your LinkedIn profile is often read by employers and recruiters before you’re invited to apply for a job.

2. The medium is different. Your resumé might read well on paper but look horrible on a computer screen, due to things like its spacing, line breaks and impersonal tone.

3. You need “social proof.” That’s the name given to the testimonials, endorsements and recommendations of your abilities that appear on social networks like LinkedIn.

The number of connections you have on LinkedIn shows you’re engaged. Just having a profile isn’t enough — you have to use it to network.

4. You’ll want to add real-time updates. On LinkedIn, you can post status updates. A resumé is static.

How to Use LinkedIn to Get the Job You Want

Below are four steps to proactively use LinkedIn to find work.

Step 1: Build your list of potential employers. The way to do this is by visiting LinkedIn and scrolling over the Interests menu. Then, click on Companies and choose the middle tab to search for places you'd like to work. Pick the location, industries and company size you're most interested in. Next, play with the other filters until you narrow your list down to 10 or fewer possible employers. (You may discover companies you've never heard of. Cool, huh!?!)

Write down these companies as the foundation of your job search strategy.

Step 2: Understand the needs of employers. You'll be requesting informational interviews in Step 3, so prepare for them by researching issues those companies are facing. That way, you'll be able to ask intelligent questions.

Use LinkedIn's company pages to learn which products they sell. Read industry-related blog posts and articles from Alltop.com. Join industry-specific groups on LinkedIn and see what people are talking about.

Step 3: Arrange to go on informational interviews. Alumni from your college can be great sources of informational interviews. Visit LinkedIn's Alumni Tool and use it to identify three to five alums working in the industry or at the company you're targeting.

Step 4: Query decisionmakers. Go back to your list of target employers from Step 1 and then do an Advanced People Search to find decisionmakers who work there. To do this, visit LinkedIn's home page and click the word Advanced next to the top search bar. Then, enter one of the companies on your target list and type in the job title of someone in a position to hire you (be sure to select Current). Find two to three possible contacts, read their profiles, join their groups and send them LinkedIn InMail messages. (For advice on what to say, read my post "4 Essentials for Reaching Out to Strangers on LinkedIn.")

Take these steps and you'll boost your odds of snagging a job in 2014.

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