June 5, 2009
LinkedIn helps job seekers build a network of professional possibilities
Special to NWjobs
For any skeptics wondering whether online networking sites can actually lead to a job, meet Mark Donnigan.
Donnigan, a Marysville-based consumer-electronics sales executive, has been active on the Web site LinkedIn for three years. During that time, he has hired two technical employees through site connections and once landed a new job when he wasn’t even actively pursuing work.
And this week, he starts a new job as director of business development for MOD Systems in Seattle “that was initiated 100 percent from LinkedIn,” he says.
With more than 41 million members, LinkedIn is the behemoth of sites dedicated to professional networking. Members generally build their networks by inviting people they have worked with, but some use the site to initiate connections with people or companies in their industry. A connection can be made only if the invited person accepts. These are your first-degree connections; their connections are second-degree, and so on.
Cast your net
In addition to LinkedIn, other online professional-networking tools are available to help job seekers find and make connections. Sites include:
• Biznik. This Seattle-specific community of entrepreneurs and small businesses operates both online and face-to-face.
• Ryze. Members get a free networking-oriented home page; they can send messages to other members and join networks.
• Spoke. The open network allows members to connect with businesspeople (including non-members) in 2.3 million companies.
Members complete a profile, which, like a résumé, includes work and education history. Users can also write recommendations for other members, providing on-the-spot references from bosses, clients and co-workers.
Donnigan says he started using the site strategically a couple of years ago, issuing blind invitations to people in his industry and in companies he admired.
“I started reaching out to people I hadn’t worked with or done business with, but they were peers or there was some commonality,” Donnigan says.
One such contact Donnigan made was a founder of Vudu, an online video-on-demand service. Donnigan was recruiting for his employer at the time and sent out a job description to all his contacts. It didn’t take long for a job to materialize out of the connection — but it wasn’t the one he was advertising for.
Donnigan’s Vudu connection e-mailed him back, impressed with his resourcefulness. “He said, ‘I don’t know anybody for your job, but I want to talk to you because I want to hire you’,” Donnigan says. “I wasn’t even thinking this would be a cool company to work for when I sent a blind LinkedIn request.”
Though that job essentially fell into Donnigan’s lap, LinkedIn recommends other strategies for using the site to actively look for work:
• Keep your profile up-to-date. This helps recruiters with job opportunities find you.
• Add connections. Your chances of getting any job are much better when you know someone at the company. LinkedIn stresses, however, that the quality of your contacts is more important than the quantity. Invite people you know and trust.
• Get recommendations. Testimonials about your skills and effectiveness make sure you put your best foot forward. Users can request recommendations from their connections. Again, it’s important that you know those whom you ask to recommend you, and vice versa.
• Participate in the Answers section. Establishing yourself as an expert in your field can raise your profile and draw recruiter attention.
• Use the job-search function. LinkedIn’s job-search tool pulls listings from many sources but also has exclusive postings. You can also research companies.
All of these functions are free with personal accounts. Premium business accounts range from $25 to $500 per month. They allow users to send InMails — private messages to any user — and search references. InMails also can be purchased for $10 each.
Before Donnigan landed his new job at MOD Systems, he spent an average of an hour a day networking on LinkedIn and pursuing opportunities he secured via LinkedIn connections and groups.
During that time, he considered the site his contact manager, relationship center and a powerful career tool: “If Monster went away tomorrow, it would not impact my strategy one bit.”
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