Why Should I Bother With LinkedIn Anyway?
I am a big believer in networking as a way to provide “career insurance” for ourselves throughout our careers. I remember my first job out of college, I was working paycheck to paycheck at a job I hated, but I was terrified to quit because I didn’t know if I would be able to find another job fast enough to pay my bills. I always heard that getting a job was all about “who you know” and I didn’t feel as if I had any networking contacts who I felt comfortable asking to help me find a job. However, eager to make a change, I began doing research on how to properly network and make those contacts that could help me in my quest to make a career change. Fast track to 2 years later, after increasing YPC involvement and learning how to connect with people via LinkedIn, I now have a lot of networking contacts within the Chemical Engineering community that I could reach out to if I suddenly lost my job. Although I am satisfied with my career right now and am not looking to make a change, it’s nice to know that if an emergency ever occurred and I found myself without a steady paycheck, I have a community to reach out to, and feel confident that I could have some interviews set up pretty quickly. Even if you don’t need the connections at this point in your life, think of LinkedIn as a professional alternative to facebook to keep in touch with people in your professional life. How many times have you used facebook to get back in touch with an old friend? You can do the same with LinkedIn if you ever needed to get in touch with old co workers or colleagues in the future. Since LinkedIn currently has over 100 million professional, employed members worldwide, it is a fantastic (and free!) place to start when looking to establish networking connections.
Networking is not only important for providing a sense of “job security,” but is also extremely important for helping us to determine what our career goals are. Early in my career, all I knew was that I wanted to be employed, but I had no idea exactly what direction I wanted my career to go in. After I began to network with lots of people with different job disciplines from different industries, I realized that I really wanted to work within the business discipline of chemical engineering, and I recently got a job as an inside sales representative to pursue this goal. It probably would have taken me a lot longer to figure out what my passion was if I didn’t put forth the effort networking with different people to determine what I wanted in my career.
If you are wondering how to properly use LinkedIn to make connections, the first step is to create a profile and start adding people that you know. Joining LinkedIn groups such as college alumni groups and professional associations such as AIChE are extremely beneficial, since it increases your “extended network” on LinkedIn. Then when you are interested in learning more about a certain company, all you have to do is search “Company X” and select “People” on the drop down menu. LinkedIn will then show you who you are connected to from that company. This includes friends of friends and people in the same groups as you, which is why the more connected you are on LinkedIn, the better. Since LinkedIn also shows you how you are connected to this person (for example, you have a mutual friend or are both AIChE Members), you can reach out to them and explain how you know them, which prevents you from coming off as a social media “creeper.” Also, if you are a job seeker, do NOT send your resume or ask for a job on the first contact. Just introduce yourself, how you know them, and ask if you could ask a few questions about the company or a certain position. People respond much more to those asking for advice rather than asking for a job right away. Then once you establish the relationship with this person, it will be more appropriate to ask if they can alert you of any potential openings within their company, or ask for tips on how to make your resume stand out.
Another benefit to using LinkedIn for job seekers, many companies will post job opportunities on LinkedIn that are not posted elsewhere, or use LinkedIn to search for potential candidates, instead of blindly looking through the massive amounts of resumes being sent in. In fact, 93% of companies report that they use LinkedIn and other Social Media as part of their recruiting process, with LinkedIn being the #1 choice of employers. Applying for jobs online has made it easier to apply for jobs, but you really need a way to stand out from the crowd and make a personal connection to increase the chances of your resume being seen. You can also follow companies on LinkedIn and stay up to date on any news relevant to that company. This will be extremely beneficial if you snag an interview, so that you don’t have to scramble to research the company website the night before. For more info on these statistics, check out the article here.
In conclusion, LinkedIn is becoming a more and more important aspect of our professional careers, and there are multiple benefits to having a profile. For more ideas on how to get started, check out one of my favorite career websites: The Daily Muse and search “LinkedIn.” They have lots of amazing articles on how to make your profile work for you.