Have you ever played “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”? This old party game basically involves naming a random famous person and then tracing how many steps it takes to connect that person to Kevin Bacon.
Not too well-versed in Hollywood trivia? No sweat. You can still find anyone’s so-called Bacon number by typing the phrase “Bacon number” plus the person’s name into a Google search box. So for example, I was curious about Miley Cyrus’s Bacon number, and Google informed me that her Bacon number is two, because Miley and Lucas Till both appeared in Hannah Montana: The Movie and Lucas Till and Kevin Bacon both appeared in X-Men: First Class.
Go ahead and test it out on Google. We’ll be here when you get back.
Fun, huh? So what does any of this have to do with your job search? It turns out that this concept doesn’t only work for Kevin Bacon, but for most people. Sure, we may not have all starred in movies together, but by tapping into the network of the people you know and the people THEY know, you actually have the potential to reach millions of people in just a few steps.
And this is where LinkedIn comes in. By creating a profile and connecting to people, you’re making it that much easier to get in touch with all these “loose ties,” and the potential jobs and opportunities they know about. Guest writer Chau Le shares her advice on how to use LinkedIn to get a job—regardless of your connection to Kevin Bacon.
I had no idea what LinkedIn was in 2009, my freshman year of college, and didn’t really care. A professional social networking platform? Boring. Facebook was different; it was a place for friends to connect and where you could post links to the cutest (and funniest) cat videos. I could spend hours trolling my Facebook friends. But what was the point of LinkedIn when you couldn’t post cat videos? It wasn’t until I was thrown into the workforce and suddenly bombarded with buzzwords and phrases like “networking” and “find the hiring manager’s email” that LinkedIn became the Holy Grail of job-hunting.
While LinkedIn’s platform is similar to Facebook in that it’s a forum for social media networking, the purpose is very different. The point is to connect to—and maintain relationships—with other professionals in your network, which means that generally the people using it are older and more mature. So as fun as that Saturday night party was, LinkedIn is not the place to post those crazy selfies.
Want to know how to use LinkedIn? Here are the first three steps all recent graduates should take.
Step 1: Glam Up Your Profile
That’s right, the first step to making your LinkedIn presence real is to spruce up (or in some cases, start) your profile, and that means including a professional-looking photo, preferably a headshot (smile!).
The next step is to start filling out your summary, work history, publications, and education. The summary is to let visitors and employers get a sense of your profession, and if you’re still a student, you can input your desired industry. Fill the work history out like you would your résumé, listing duties and accomplishments—but don’t just list what you did, be sure to describe the task and the result. Education is straightforward enough, and if you’re feeling energetic, you might go ahead and list the clubs you participated in.
LinkedIn tells you how “complete” your profile is based on how much information you’ve added, so pay attention to the percentage, and make it a goal to reach 90% if you can (it’s really gratifying, trust me).
When I first started using LinkedIn and figuring out its features, one of my favorite activities was checking out other members’ profiles to see how I might model mine. And upon doing this, my most frustrating experience was when I hit a profile that had no image, no information about his or her industry, or even work history.
Even if you have no professional experience, taking the time to insert a headshot, and even writing down where you’ve volunteered will help your audience get an idea of who you are.
Imagine how a potential employer might feel when she looks you up as a possible candidate for her company, and finds nothing. Even if you think a picture and some words cannot describe just how awesome of a person you are, it’s a lot better than appearing just as a name on a piece of paper or one of those sad silhouettes of people who haven’t uploaded a photo.
Step 2: Research and Connect
Admit it: you Facebook stalk. Thankfully, Facebook doesn’t show your crush who has been looking at his profile. LinkedIn, on the other hand, touts the fact that it allows you to see and track who’s been checking out your page, and that is a good thing. It might seem a little stalkerish, but checking out a hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile is a good way to get noticed. This is because your name has now shown up twice on his radar; once on the résumé you submitted, and again on LinkedIn.
One of my first interviews was with a start-up that I reached out to both through an email application, and on LinkedIn, and was able to directly connect with the co-founder. Most people, especially when they work at a small company, are more than happy to chat. After I created a good rapport with the co-founder, she made sure my résumé was thoroughly reviewed by the hiring team, which is how I got my first interview.
Don’t forget research! Before going in to meet your prospective employer, spend some time on LinkedIn learning about the recruiter or person who contacted you about the interview. Does your recruiter, Jane Doe, have mutual connections, share the same interests, or have a similar affiliation, like to a club or sorority? Keep these seemingly minute but important details in mind and be sure to drop a comment about how you also belonged to a sorority, or volunteered for the Humane Society in high school as well: make a connection.
Step 3: Join a Group
When you just scroll through the endless feed on Facebook, you can sometimes ask yourself—am I really friends with the people who are posting this? And what does any of it have to do with me? Random bits of information from your friends’ status updates constantly show up in your newsfeed. LinkedIn shows you updates from your connections, but you also have the ability to join groups of people who have similar interests or professions so you get updates that are more relevant to your interests.
As a travel writer, I’m part of a study abroad and travel blogging group, which is not only a great way to connect with a community, but to stay active on LinkedIn. LinkedIn shares your activity stats and encourages you to stay constantly networking, because it makes you more visible. Of all the social media platforms to be addicted to, LinkedIn is probably the most productive and excusable platform to be on.
When I first joined LinkedIn, I had trouble staying engaged—what else is there to do after you’ve filled out your profile? But by joining a group and talking about my experience abroad and future travel wishes with like-minded folks, not only did I find a great group of people, but my LinkedIn activity went back up. It’s a win-win situation.
Homework time! Not connected to LinkedIn yet? Start today. In my LinkedIn journey, I realized that many of my peers haven’t updated, or even created a profile. A paper résumé is still a must-have, but who wants plain potatoes when you can have them with butter and bacon? Most employers these days Google potential candidates to find out as much as possible before inviting someone in for an interview. The more you fill in your LinkedIn profile and keep it up-to-date, the higher it will rank in those Google search results, which also means any of those ill-advised selfies from the past will also be pushed lower and lower down the page.
Everyone wants more information before committing, and LinkedIn has created an advantage for both employers and employees. Remember that landing a job isn’t isolated solely to what you can do, but rather, the people who know just how good you are at creating a business plan or using Excel. The purpose of LinkedIn is to bring people together professionally, and to change the job-searching game to a more personal, socialized sphere—take advantage of this power!
Extra credit: So your profile is complete and you made sure there’s a professional picture of you smiling up at the world. What’s next? Be sure to add any publications you have to your page, and if you’re feeling like a LinkedIn superstar, the best way to really get involved—outside of joining a group—is to start using the blogging platform. Any LinkedIn user can write a post and publish it on the LinkedIn blog platform, which really helps to boost your LinkedIn presence.
I recently published my first blog post called “Does Your Degree Define You?” which helped increase my profile views, as well as bulk up my publications. I also found the blogging platform to be straightforward and very user-friendly.
About the author: Chau Le is an avid globetrotting polyglot, who has an unhealthy romance with Nutella, an attraction to writing, and an addiction to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Read more of Chau’s writing at http://thetravelingcherub.wordpress.com.