LinkedIn: Using the right tools for the job
THE platform may have changed, but the same old rules apply when it comes to job hunting. It’s all about connections, connections, connections. Jason Widjaja shares the knowledge he has gained in his LinkedIn adventures.
For the uninitiated LinkedIn is the third largest social networking site in the world, weighing in at over 100 million professional members worldwide, just behind the ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter.
In Australia, LinkedIn now has more than 2 million members, with a new member joining every second. This translates into a market penetration ahead of any other country in the Asia Pacific, including the traditionally internet savvy markets of Malaysian, Singapore and the Philippines.
LinkedIn’s distinctive feature is its strong commercial focus – it may be best thought of as an online resume-sharing, job hunting and networking tool rather than an online social space. However, just as being in a business environment requires a bit more rigour and preparation than a hangout with a bunch of friend, LinkedIn profiles require a minimum level of detail such as educational background and references – similar to that of a resume – before it is considered “100% complete”.
So is the effort worth it? Are there advantages of having a fully complete LinkedIn profile?
LinkedIn provides members’ visibility of the professional profiles of your friends and contacts, as well as a searchable database of industry personalities that might be of interest. This information is powerful and can be harnessed in many ways. For instance, a commerce graduate from Monash may have missed the graduate recruitment cycle and is looking for an entry level position in accounting and assurance, ideally within the Melbourne CBD.
With LinkedIn in hand, the next step would simply be to do a search overlaid with filters such as Monash University for education, <5 years for experience, Accounting for industry, and within 10 km of post code 3000 for location.
This should turn up a pool of professionals working in the very firms that you are targeting, often including some you were previously unaware of. And if some of them are acquaintances from university, so much the better. Just drop them an email asking for permission to seek their advice on career moves – most people are happy to oblige. Volunteer to visit them at their workplace at a time of their convenience, and buy them a good cup of coffee.
I would consider myself someone who cringes at the word “networking”, and have no love for the stilted, awkward conversations that can sometimes take place in “networking events”. Yet I’ve found the meetings I’ve arranged through LinkedIn to be a much more palatable experience – with a clear agenda and potential value to both parties on the table, the stage is usually set for an informative meeting of minds. It’s a win-win situation because the person you meet is often eligible for a tidy referral bonus if he/she happens to know of a position that you would fit in.
Some tips for such meetings are:
- Treat these meetings with the same gravity as you would a first round interview – be early, dressed in business wear appropriate to the industry and do your research beforehand
- Come armed with a stock list of open ended questions ready to help you elicit that level of insight beyond what’s on the company webpage (how do you feel the working environment / culture is like, what’s the hiring process like, what does ____ (the role you are interested in) do in their daily work etc.)
- Bring a printed resume, and if the opportunity arises, show it to the person and ask which positions within the company would suit someone like yourself (those will be the same positions you can keep an eye out for in job ads)
- Always finish by if your contact knows other people who might be able to help you out
Yvonne Tan, a brand consultant who got on the LinkedIn bandwagon while doing her post graduate studies in Melbourne, uses LinkedIn to “check out the latest updates of my contacts, the latest news in the industry, and the career path of certain acquaintances I have met”. The familiar coffee catch up is a regular feature for her as well. “I might consider catching up with that person, if the company or industry the person is working in interests me,” she says.
In my personal experience, I started my job search about 8-9 months before graduation, attending industry events and sending out that first tentative LinkedIn coffee invitation around the same time. It went well, and opened the door to other meetings – I was in almost 20 meetings by the time I graduated.
In the process, I realised that almost unknowingly, I had accumulated sufficient industry knowledge to speak intelligently on a variety of industry specific questions – this would later prove to be crucial as the firms I interviewed with regularly required multiple rounds of panel interviews. And as a career changer with neither permanent residency nor extensive local work experience, every little nugget helped. It eventually paid off – while following the LinkedIn trail down to roles I was interested in, I managed to land a role in a great company that ticked all the boxes.
For international students on the job hunt who are avid uses of Facebook, yet have never tapped into the world of LinkedIn, perhaps it’s time to apply your choice social networking skills to the world of LinkedIn.
Jason Widjaja is a consultant with a boutique management consulting firm based in Melbourne, and has since paid it forward – he has been contacted by, and met, over a dozen job seekers through LinkedIn and shared the knowledge gained in his LinkedIn adventures.