Hi everyone! My name is Elise Lake, and I’ve been a follower-turned-friend of Angela’s for several years. Angela and I work in the same industry and met through the power of networking, so I was honored when she asked me to guest post about a topic that’s particularly relevant amid COVID-19 – leveraging LinkedIn for your job search.
Our relationship began when I started following Angela on social media due to my role as the marketing manager at a major cultural institution in our shared metroplex. From Angela’s blog I learned she was moving to Northwest Arkansas, a place where my husband traveled frequently to meet with his client. Not long after Angela moved, my husband was offered an opportunity to relocate permanently and The Thrifty Pineapple served as my sneak peek into what my life in a new area might resemble.
I wasn’t a stranger to moving due to what made sense for our family — since graduating college I’d worked in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, and once again found myself ramping up my job search in a community where I had few connections and was unfamiliar with the professional landscape. Through necessity, I’ve fine-tuned a variety of networking strategies that have resulted in amazing opportunities and LinkedIn is my favorite tool.
I knew messaging Angela on LinkedIn would be worthwhile – we both worked in marketing/communications, had ties to DFW, were in similar stages of our careers and she often talked about her passion for connecting with readers. Thanks to my LinkedIn Premium account I was able to send her a direct message (called InMail) to inquire about her recommendations for local companies, and she promptly responded with excellent suggestions.
That initial message was in January, I moved in March and in July we got together for chips and queso, which turned into a crazy game of “it’s a small world” as our professional lives overlapped considerably. Since then, we’ve been dear friends and professional advocates — all thanks to the power of LinkedIn!
Below are a few of my top tips for leveraging LinkedIn for your job search, which have helped me get my foot in the door, establish impactful professional relationships and land a lifelong dream job.
Leveraging LinkedIn For Your Job Search
1. Complete your profile
If you already have a robust LinkedIn profile – awesome! If not, here’s your gentle nudge to ensure all elements of your profile are current. LinkedIn provides a free way to proactively introduce yourself to the professional world and serves as your digital first impression, so having it updated and polished is essential. Be sure it details relevant information about your various positions, experiences, memberships/affiliations and professional/volunteer engagements.
In my experience as both a job seeker and hiring manager, there are two effective ways to highlight this information: you can take a resume-style approach and list bullets summarizing your successes and responsibilities, or you can summarize each position in a higher-level, executive summary type paragraph. I’ve found pros to both approaches – leveraging bullets is a nice way to distinguish a variety of work you’ve done within roles and lends itself to showcasing quantifiable successes (increase in ROI/growth, number of attendees, budget spend, time invested, etc.) On the other hand, the short and sweet approach of the paragraph style can quickly paint the big picture and help you combat the TLDR (too long, didn’t read) fatigue so many recruiters and hiring managers face when reviewing dozens (or hundreds) of profiles and applications.
My profile includes a hybrid of both approaches as my “About Me” section includes a broad overview of my expertise, lists my core competencies and highlights my Meyers-Briggs personality type and top five StrengthsFinder strengths (I’ve been asked these in interviews and applications, and even taken the test as a part of a former employer’s company culture). Below that, I bullet key information from my various roles to show the diversity and impact of my contributions.
2. Upgrade to LinkedIn Premium to send InMail messages
If you pay attention to LinkedIn, you may have noticed a promotion to take advantage of LinkedIn Premium for free for one month. When you’re a Premium member, you have benefits like sending “InMail” messages to users who are out of your network, increased visibility into who is looking at your profile and your submission is prioritized when applying for jobs via LinkedIn.
I always upgrade my account when seeking a new opportunity (sometimes through one of the frequent free trial promotions, other times through my own small investment), and it’s been an effective way to introduce myself to relevant individuals within companies of interest. Each month (depending on the level of your account) you’re allotted a certain number of InMail credits, which roll over if you don’t use them all. Be strategic in rationing them (but also don’t let them go to waste), and always be respectful and buttoned up with your messages.
The approach I like to take (and appreciate receiving when I’m on the other side) is mentioning the reason I am reaching out; offering a brief, personal background; and closing with a call to action question. Since this is essentially a digital cold call, it’s important to be highly professional and kind. Nothing puts a bad taste in someone’s mouth like a job seeker who comes off as pushy or entitled, especially when they’re a complete stranger. One successful type of call to action I’ve used is asking for a ten-to-fifteen-minute phone call, and making the purpose of the call clear. Fair warning: there’s a good chance many of these messages will go unanswered – that’s okay and to be expected. These can be a bit of a long shot, especially when the person you’re messaging has no mutual connections with you or feels no obligation to respond. Even if you don’t hear back from them, it doesn’t mean you’re not on their radar.
If you have specific companies in mind, but don’t know exactly who to contact, search by a desired company name followed by the department of interest. Through this approach I was able to make a correct guess on who the hiring manager would be for my dream role. After formally submitting my application, I sent her an InMail message letting her know I’d applied; provided some highlights of my background and my deep, personal interest in the role; then ended by asking for 15 minutes of her time to chat about the position.
Though I never received a response to my message, she later told me that on the day she received my InMail, my application was shared with her and prioritized as the top in the stack. Also on that day she also received an email of recommendation from one of her former colleagues from a past job who happened to be one of my former college professors. The reason this former colleague emailed her was because thanks to the power of LinkedIn, I discovered they worked together previously and I asked if he would be willing to send a note on my behalf.
Thanks to this trifecta of good fortune, I landed an interview, gained an amazing manager-turned-mentor and secured a job of a lifetime. To make things even more serendipitous, my application arrived just in time as the team was planning to extend an offer to another candidate, which reminded me that everything happens for a reason and hustle pays off. None of this would have been possible without my LinkedIn Premium account – it was worth its weight in gold (as well as my personal and professional happiness).
3. Search for connections, companies and roles
As mentioned above, the search tool in LinkedIn can be your best friend. When you click on the search bar, you’ll see options to target your search by “people, jobs, content, companies, schools, groups and events.” I most frequently use this functionality to research companies of interest, and from there I’m able to see if I have any first-, second- or third-degree connections of employees at said organization. If someone is a first-degree connection, it means you are already “friends” with them on LinkedIn. A second-degree connection means you and that person have a mutual friend in common.
When we relocated to Atlanta, I was interested in applying to a specific integrated PR/marketing agency. I searched the company’s name and saw a second-degree connection worked there. Our mutual friend was one of my close friends and college roommates, so I sent her a text with some background information and asked if she would be willing to make an introduction. As a result of said introduction, I had a casual, informational phone interview to learn about her experiences at the agency. At the end of the call I asked if the company offered formal informational interviews through the HR department, and she asked for my resume said she’d check on my behalf. The next evening, without notice, I received a call from the HR director who interviewed me on the spot. That resulted in an invitation for an in-person interview at their office, which I was able to schedule during a packed couple days of pre-planned interviews in Atlanta with other companies. After a whirlwind of a trip, I ultimately accepted an offer with that company and was grateful every day for my amazing colleague and the friend who introduced us.
Years later when both my colleague (turned friend) and I had moved on to different roles in different cities, she reached out because she saw I had a first-degree connection at a company to which she was applying. I happily made an introduction and loved being able to “pay it forward” in her own job searching journey.
Fast forward to a few more years to when I arrived in Northwest Arkansas and was interested in another agency, which by coincidence was where the founder’s daughter of the Atlanta agency had worked previously. Though we’d never met, she and I had many mutual connections and she was gracious enough to chat with me on the phone about her experiences and share my resume with a current employee. This certainly helped in my job search as I ultimately secured a dynamic and rewarding role.
Let these anecdotes be real-life lessons in the importance of maintaining relationships and not burning bridges with former colleagues, classmates, professors and acquaintances as you never know what the future holds.
4. Leverage the Easy Apply button
The job search can be exhausting, especially when you’re crafting highly specific cover letters, tweaking your resume for each position and networking diligently. A great way to feel like you’re making progress is by using “Easy Apply” to submit applications to jobs posted on LinkedIn. Simply press the “Easy Apply” button, and LinkedIn will populate information from your profile to create your application. You can even save your resume in your preferences, and LinkedIn will automatically add that to your application unless you replace it with a different version.
Depending on the company and role, there may be more components for you to fill out, but it can be as simple as clicking one button. A benefit of having LinkedIn Premium is that your application is prioritized when the recruiter reviews candidates. It also provides a snapshot of how you compare to other candidates. Thanks to Easy Apply, I’ve landed interviews and learned about companies and positions that may not have been on my radar otherwise.
5. Filter, filter, filter
Just like shopping online, using the filtering tool is a great way to narrow your search! I often filter by a combination of city, industry, job title, company, alma mater, experience level and connections to show me targeted opportunities that fit my interests and needs. Job searching can be overwhelming, but being able to target relevant information, roles, contacts and LinkedIn features (Easy Apply, less than 10 applicants, in your network, fair chance employer) can make it seem less daunting. The majority of my job searches have occurred during very busy seasons of my life and happened late at night and on weekends, so I needed to be as efficient as possible.
Encouragement for your job search
As with all forms of social media, kindness matters, and with LinkedIn, professionalism is key! Don’t get discouraged if the job hunt takes a while, if you apply for what feels like countless roles or you don’t hear back from your networking outreach. I’ve been in these positions myself and walked alongside loved ones in those trenches – it can be extremely disheartening, especially when magnified by a pandemic. However, as someone who has been a hiring manager and decision maker, I know just how impactful intentional outreach can be. Now go give your LinkedIn profile a little TLC so you can put your best foot forward and stand out among the crowd!
Elise Lake is a strategic communicator, copywriter and connection-maker who has a passion for networking and helping others achieve in their professional lives. In addition to copywriting and strategic marketing support, she’s available for 1:1 coaching; resume and cover letter critiques; and interview prep. If you’d like her assistance in your job search, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.