Making the Most of your LinkedIn: An Insider’s Tutorial – Part 2

LinkedIn Map 3

Here, as promised, is the second part of my tutorial on how to get the most out of your LinkedIn account, with a few more tips on what you can do:

Groups

A good way to get your profile going and expand your network in the right direction is to invest your time applying to join a good selection of relevant groups. LinkedIn limits the number of pending group requests you can have at any one time, and the overall number of groups you can belong to (currently around 50) but you can always leave groups or withdraw requests, so there is leeway to feel your way around.

You can access the groups pages by either clicking on the top tab or by selecting “groups” from the drop-down menu on the main search box on the top right-hand side.

Type in a keyword relevant to your current professional role(s) or that you are interested in finding work in. Searching for a wide category such as TV or Film will bring a lot of groups, and more specialist searches such as “sound recording” “animation” or “video editing” tend to have fewer matches.

Groups

You can see how many members a group has before you decide to join. It is worth joining a few generic large groups with several thousand members, because even though they don’t become part of your network automatically, if you do decide to invite them, indicating that you belong to the same group is a valid invitation category on LinkedIn.

At the same time, numbers aren’t everything, and finding a group of 50 professionals that are based in your area and work in the field you want to break into could prove invaluable.

Some groups are open, which means you are approved as soon as you ask to join, and others are closed, which means that the group administrator will have to approve your request.

Once you join a group, go into the settings and adjust how often you want to receive notifications. I have mine set to send me email notifications only when group members contact me directly, reply to one of my group posts, and a digest from the group manager no more than once a week. If you join over 30 groups (and you should) getting daily emails or notifications every time a member posts a new topic will quickly overwhelm your inbox.

In your “My Groups” settings (under the “Groups” tab) you will also be able to choose which group icons are displayed on your profile and in what order.

Once you are accepted into a group, it is a good idea to post a short discussion topic introducing yourself to the group, and saying what you are after (if anything). If you are looking for work, make sure to say so.

Job Search

You can also access this either via the drop-down option on the search box or through the top tab. LinkedIn jobs has vastly improved in recent years, and for certain industries (particularly media) it does have a lot of relevant vacancies.

Like most job search engines, LinkedIn lets you filter your results by location and keyword, but a lot of jobs don’t tend to specify salaries (again, standard in the Creative Industries) and the option to filter results by salary is only available to premium account subscribers.

If you are actively looking for work, it is worth investing in a Jobseeker Premium account for a month or so. It costs about $29 per month, and for this you get more filtering options and greater disclosure (you can see people’s full names and more profile details than you can with a free account). You can also choose to feature your application when applying for jobs through LinkedIn, which means you will show up at the top of the list that is sent to recruiters.

If an employer allows you to apply via LinkedIn (as opposed to directing you to their own website) you can apply for a job in about 3 seconds flat. Access the vacancy you’re interested in, then hit the yellow “Apply Now” button, and it brings up a window where you can upload your current CV and paste a cover letter (obviously it is much better to personalize your cover letter to suit the employer and job you are going for if you have the time). You can also choose to include your direct contact telephone number. This then sends your CV, Cover letter and LinkedIn profile to the company, and you’re done!

Apply Now

Usually you are then redirected to a window showing you similar vacancies to the one you have just applied for, and the suggestions are often good, so take a minute to browse them.  Most big companies will still require you to complete the application on their own website, however, in which case the yellow button on the vacancy page reads “Apply on Company Website”.

Apply on Website

But while having a premium account makes it easier to apply for more jobs and grab a recruiter’s attention, there are several tricks a proactive jobseeker can use to get in touch with the right people and companies, and build their network in the bargain.

If you have a wish-list of companies you’d like to work for, go to the drop-down box, choose companies, and search for them. If you know their name enter that, but you can also do keyword searches under company.  You can then use the various filters on the left-hand side to narrow down your results. If you are looking for work, it is useful to filter companies by location.

Once you find a company you are interested in approaching for work, click on them to be taken to their LinkedIn page, and select “Follow Company” (big yellow button on the right-hand side of the page). That will likely trigger a notification for them that you are interested in their company. This is a good first step.

It also means that LinkedIn will keep you updated on major news about that company. From their page you can also see who works for the company and their job titles (not everybody that works in a company will be on LinkedIn, but it gives you a good idea of their size and makeup).

If the company has any jobs posted on LinkedIn, usually there is a “Careers” tab on their page which lets you see what is available. Otherwise, target someone specific to send an enquiry to.  Choose someone who works in a relevant department, or if it’s a smaller company and you’re feeling cheeky, it might be worth approaching the owner or CEO.

Take a look at their profile. If they have a Twitter account linked to their profile, follow them. They are much more likely to accept your LinkedIn invite if you attack on several fronts and show a real interest. If that company has a dedicated group on LinkedIn, request to join that too.

Follow Company

Once you’ve chosen who you want to approach, go into their profile. On the right-hand side there should be an option (either a button or a link) to “invite them to join network”. Sometimes, however the option is just not listed, usually if they are out of your extended network. But before you give up, go to the search box, select “people” from the drop-down menu, and search for that person’s name.

When they come up on the actual list of results, don’t click on their picture or name (which will take you back to their profile page) but instead hover on the right-hand side of their summary box, and there you might find the option to invite them to join your network.

If that also fails, looking towards the right-hand side of their profile might reveal how you are connected to them, so if any of your first or second degree connections is part of their network, you can request an introduction.

Adding Contacts

Once you do bring up the “Invite to Join” window, write a very short message (no more than 3 short sentences) introducing yourself and saying what you are after (For example: I am a recent graduate keen to gain experience in graphic design, and would love to discuss any opportunities you might have coming up in the near future).

The word limit on an invite to connect is only 300 characters including spaces, and longer messages will not be sent until you cut them down to size. Do not include any links, as that will also block the message. You will need to choose a category saying how you know that person.

LinkedIn actively discourages “Cold Contacting” but if you are polite, selective and relevant, most people do not actually mind. Therefore if you do not belong to the same group (the “group” tickbox will only appear if you do share a group in common) and you do not genuinely know one another already, I find it best to choose either the “colleague” or “we’ve done business together” categories.

You then need to select one of your job titles from the drop-down box (none of this is optional) so choose your most recent or relevant one.

Invite Window

If they ignore you, it does not mean that your effort has been wasted. You have, after all, learned about the company, and chances are you showing up on their radar now. Go to their website and see if they list a direct contact for the person you are after. If not, send an email to their generic “info” email for the attention of that person.

If the person has accepted your invitation, the confirmation email from LinkedIn will list their direct email address. Follow up with an email to them thanking them for connecting with you and explaining what you are after and detailing your skills.

Be bold and suggest a meeting if you are in the same city, they might be willing to have a coffee and discuss the possibilities.

A big advantage of having a premium account is that it gives you a limited number (use them wisely) of InMails, which allow you to approach just about anybody, and guarantees a response, in that if the person you sent it to does not respond, LinkedIn will give you another inMail credit.

This gives you the chance to write your enquiry without a tight word limit, and looks very good for the person receiving it. It is still worth sending a separate invitation for that person to join your network, however, as the InMail does not do that automatically.

InMail

Once someone joins your network, you can go to the “contacts” tab and click on “my connections” where you can see a full list of who is in your network. Clicking on that person will bring up their email address, or you can message them directly via LinkedIn.

You can also send bulk emails to as many as 50 contacts at a time, but be careful with those. Nobody loves spam, and LinkedIn as a rule is a very considerate social network that does not look kindly on clutter.

If you have a concise and relevant request to send to 50 people, please do (although I always untick the box at the bottom that allows recipients to see each other’s names, as this will make it clear that you have sent out a mass request) but always consider how it will look.

LinkedIn Map 4

As a rule, don’t be afraid of approaching anybody on LinkedIn. Most people are receptive to requests, and will politely decline or ignore if they feel they are not appropriate. Grow your network assiduously.

The more contacts you have, the more people and opportunities you will have access to. I am also very keen to hear your own experiences of using LinkedIn, so please do send in your comments.

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Alice Bonasio is a Brazilian/American/Italian writer specializing in Digital Cultures, fashion, and all things Brazilian. She has been published in Gamestm, Edge, The Escapist and 360. She is currently finishing an MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at the University of Warwick. She lives in England and is a PR Executive for one of the UK’s hottest tech start-ups, The Filter. Visit her website, contact her on LinkedIN and follow her on Twitter.

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