“Wow, things have changed since I last looked for a job!” This is a common sentiment Alumni Career Services’ (ACS) coaches hear from alumni now in search mode.Methods of recruiting talent (and therefore being recruited) have dramatically altered the way positions are filled. Popularization of online networking, along with an overabundance of available candidates and the need to contain recruiting costs, have pushed companies to rethink the way they find and hire managers. Seeking to avoid the unwieldy number of irrelevant applicants produced by a job posting, employers have turned to methods allowing them to efficiently target only the most qualified candidates. Over the last year, LinkedIn has become a prime fishing pond for companies looking for specific talent.
Direct employee referrals and LinkedIn now rank as the top two ways to source candidates. A recent study reported that 95 percent of employers are using LinkedIn to find candidates. Employers search for and reach out to people that are in similar companies or positions. They also reach out to their own former employees or clients for referrals. LinkedIn enables recruiters to search in this way and to see who is connected to the kind of people they want to hire. They also may identify experts in a particular field by reading responses in the “Answers” section of LinkedIn. Employers also pay for the ability to do advanced searches and to manage their searches within LinkedIn, making it easy to use.
Chances are that you are already “LinkedIn.” In a survey that ACS conducted last September, 92 percent of Darden alumni said they used the forum for professional purposes. This is precisely why employers find it so useful. Realizing how important it is to be connected to our peers, colleagues and others, smart professionals join LinkedIn when they are not actively looking for an opportunity. So it’s not a database full of desperately unemployed people. Instead, it is a vibrant network of people representing doors of information and introductions. To put it in perspective, my 332 “connections” open up my world to over 67,500 second degree connections! Not everyone is looking for someone or able to help with a problem, but most know somebody who could be of assistance.
Don’t wait until you are looking for a job to build your network. Being connected when you are not looking for a job enables you to help others by acting as an “agent” for them. By enabling connections, you help both parties – building your value as a connection and increasing the likelihood that someone will help you when you are in need. Connecting to people on LinkedIn makes it easy to stay abreast of ex-colleagues, classmates and past clients. Consider Karen who had been out of the workforce for nine years. She joined LinkedIn and re-connected with her “long lost” co-workers, including her former boss. Karen’s LinkedIn invitation reminded the boss of this talented and cherished employee from his last company. The next day, one of his colleagues was looking for someone just like Karen and a key introduction was made between the two. Karen ended up with the job! It may seem serendipitous and unlikely, but it happens all the time.
Take action to make LinkedIn a powerful tool for building your career.
- Build a powerful Profile. Establish your brand, clearly demonstrating your value proposition to potential employers, clients, business partners and others. In fact, your LinkedIn profile is more important than your resume. The LinkedIn Learning Center can help you with the nuances of developing your Public Profile and how to make it work for you. Darden ACS can help, too.
- Connect with people you know well and those with whom you have crossed paths with professionally. “Connecting” is quite appropriate for professional relationships.
- Join relevant Groups on LinkedIn – communities of professionals who share a common interest, experience, affiliation or goals. Employers use Groups to identify people within a particular function or industry or who are alumni of a particular company or school. Group Discussions are used to share information, and Group Jobs enable organizations to list opportunities specifically relevant to that group. The University of Virginia Darden School of Business group has close to 3,000 members and serves as one connecting device for the community. Join the crowd!
- Use LinkedIn as a research tool. Search by Company and learn where people typically come from and go to after working at a company, current and past employees with whom who you have connections, typical career paths of employees, recent hires by the company, etc. It’s a rich source of information.
Kristin Doherty (MBA ’08) recently completed a successful job search. Sharing her good news with Alumni Career Services, she reported: “All of the interviews I had (except one) were through networking with classmates, former colleagues, professors, etc. I used LinkedIn daily and really maximized my network!” Finding a job in these uncertain times depends on maximizing one’s network. LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to help in this endeavor.
For career management assistance wherever you are in your career or in the world, contact Darden Alumni Career Services at AlumniCareerServices@darden.virginia.edu or +1-434-924-4876.
Connie Dato English (MBA ’91)
Director of Darden Alumni Career Services