Creative Ways to Use LinkedIn in Your Job Search

Part one:  Look into Career Paths, Research People and Follow Companies

Are you guilty of logging in to LinkedIn to just look at people’s profile pictures, check out the latest updates and browse? Not to worry, you are not alone. In my experience in career consulting many people tell me they have LinkedIn accounts but have no idea what to do on the site.  People tend to grossly underestimate the value of actively engaging on LinkedIn. Most use LinkedIn to search for jobs and network with others. I advise all my clients, if they are in the job market, to log on to LinkedIn several times a week, if not daily. With millions of users LinkedIn is an awesome place to gain information about career paths, skill sets and industry news!

How to discover career paths:

To learn about career paths on LinkedIn

  • Search your connections for people who are doing what you aspire to do and review their profiles.

  • Read their profile in reverse to determine what they did prior to their current job. This will help you see how they attained their current position.

  • Make note of what qualifications they have, the keywords used in their profile and what types of activities they’ve been involved with.

While everyone’s career path will be different, use this approach to gather ideas for new ways to find the job you seek.

If you do not have any connections with people who hold positions which you aspire to, search for new connections in relevant industry specific groups. LinkedIn has a fantastic “groups feature” which provides a place for industry professionals or people with similar interests to discuss business, share content, ask/ answer each other’s questions and sometimes post jobs. If you join the right groups, you could learn about industry trends, and have current information about the industry for which you are interviewing. This will aid you in arriving to your interview prepared to discuss the work and ask good questions.

Research People and Follow Companies:

Another best practice for using LinkedIn while job searching is to follow companies which you plan to (or desire to) interview with to research the company. This is a strategy I have personally employed, here’s why:

  • Companies will often share different information on their LinkedIn Company page than what is presented on their website.

  • You can also see their current and former employees and read company status updates.

  • Prior to the interview, find out whom you’re interviewing with

    • review their profile on LinkedIn

Most people go to interviews with no information about who they will be meeting; while the prospective employer has read your resume and likely Googled you. With the access that LinkedIn provides, this should no longer be the case. Go into the interview armed with a little knowledge about what led your interviewer to their current position.  You may even have a few shared connections!  Use the information you find about your interviewer to “break the ice”.  Should you make it to the second or third round of interviews this will prove to be helpful as you will be introduced to more people at-varied levels within the company. If possible, make a habit of finding out who you will be speaking with and get to know each person that will interview you.

LinkedIn is an invaluable tool that could be used to give you leverage as you job search, network or consider learning a new skill or career.  When using the site, think of it as a free career counselor with endless information, right at your fingertips!

Part Two: Learn Skills and Read the News

LinkedIn turned 10 years old in June, and in the footpath of social media giants like Facebook, it has seen tremendous growth.  Even so, as a career counseling professional, after 10 years of growth, people still tell me they have an ambiguous understanding of the site and struggle to use it.  One of the things I advise people to do is to spend time on LinkedIn reading and learning in addition to networking.  When going through the interview process, spend as much time as possible on LinkedIn to prepare for your interviews and follow-up afterwards. LinkedIn has several very helpful features that people can use when job searching to gain a competitive edge, below I will describe three features that have proved to be beneficial for me.

Who’s viewed Your Profile:

LinkedIn has a section titled “Who’s Viewed your Profile” that appears on the right side of the screen.  This section which is updated frequently, will tell you:

  • How many people looked at your profile recently.

  • You will be able to see, if you are connected, what company or industry they work for and their geographic location

  • For premium account holders, you will see a more extensive list

As you are interviewing, check this area of LinkedIn often to give yourself an edge in the interview.  For instance, if you are interviewing for a position that requires several rounds of interviews, you can track your progress by paying attention to this section.  If you’ve had one interview with the department manager and you’re told the next step is to meet with a more senior level administrator; then you check your LinkedIn profile daily and find one day that another manager, regional director or VP has viewed your profile, that could be a very good sign!

LinkedIn Today:

Another very useful feature/section of LinkedIn is LinkedIn Today.  This section is found on your home page, just look for a link in your activity feed that says LinkedIn Today and has a small picture of a flame. With this feature, LinkedIn provides its users a place to read current events that are relevant to your industry or profession.  What you read here is totally customizable based on your profile information.  What will you find in this section?

  • Access to newspaper and magazine articles from trusted sources like USA Today, INC., or The Washington Post.  You can also read

  • Trending topics on the internet from trusted blogs like The Huffington Post, Mashable, NPR etc.

The point here is that you can read the news that is relevant to what YOU do for a living.  If you do this regularly, you could always be up to date on what is happening in any given industry.  This practice has helped me in the past to be an engaged participant in the interview.   When interviewing for my most recent position, I read LinkedIn today the morning of my interview to find that there was a very significant news event in higher education that day. I mentioned this during some “small talk” in my interview which intrigued some of the people I was eating lunch with.

LinkedIn Skills Section:

LinkedIn has what I think is a fantastic feature in their “Skills Section”.   As a career counselor I recommend using this section to build a strong profile while also learning more about your industry of choice.  This part of LinkedIn is still in “beta” so there isn’t a lot of information about it on the site, however, once you find it, it could be an invaluable tool!  This section holds great significance for people who are interested in an industry or career, but not sure what is required to work in the field, entry –level professionals who are interested in developing more skills for the chance of promotion and even people like me who educate others on career choices.  If you spend time toying with this section of LinkedIn, I promise you will learn something new!

How to find Skills on LinkedIn:

  • From the profile page, scroll down to the Skills & Expertise section, then click on a skill that is listed.  A small window will show

  • Click on the link in that window to see a full description of this skill.  This page is where you’ll find the goods!  This page will give you a definition of the skill, show you a list of companies who hire people with this particular skill, other people on LinkedIn who have experience with or possess the skill as well as a very extensive list of related skills.

For these and other reasons, LinkedIn is an excellent tool to utilize in a job search. Use the features of the site to stay ahead of the process, to prepare by learning about the company and use it as an educational tool to follow industry news.

Stephanie has been a higher education administrator for 13 years and worked in corporate sales for more than two. She spends her free time taking care of her 2 kids, writing for her personal & professional development blog and encouraging people to Aspire2HIgher in their career & personal lives.