In 2003, I was about to graduate from college and wanted to know everything there was to know about finding a great job. LinkedIn had launched that same year, but the thought of starting a job search on the online platform didn’t even occur to me. After all, LinkedIn only boasted 81,000 users that year — globally.
So, instead, I picked up a book at our school’s career center: Vault’s Guide to Schmoozing. To me, schmoozing meant that I needed to go to a bunch of career fairs scheduled at inconvenient times (which they were) and push myself to have a ton of awkward conversations (which I did) so I could end up with a ton of job interviews (which I didn’t).
In fact, four job fairs and countless handshakes later, I ended up with exactly zero job interviews. Fast forward nearly 20 years and more than 600 million LinkedIn users later, and I can only wonder who still sees the value of career fairs. At the same time, you can’t just upload your resume to LinkedIn and call it a day; you won’t get any more interviews than I did. As remarkable as social media has become, you won’t get the full benefit of using this tool to boost your job search unless you utilize it correctly. Here are some tips for the antisocial on how to use social media to land a job in the digital age.
Use Your Time Wisely
My first suggestion is to be strategic with your time. Many career advice books give you a laundry list of things you need to do more of in order to land a job. But the problem with these laundry lists is that they make everything seem important. Successful candidates don’t aimlessly spend their time on a dozen different activities. Instead, they are strategic and spend their time on the activities that are most likely to lead to attractive job offers.
Most candidates spend days, sometimes weeks, fine-tuning their resume, but only spend a fraction of that time improving their LinkedIn profile. This is backward: Most recruiters start looking for candidates either in their internal database or on LinkedIn. The resume becomes more relevant if you apply for a job. However, recruiters are flooded with unqualified job applicants from job boards, so, in my experience, recruiters tend to prioritize candidates they find on their own. If you want recruiters to find and engage with you, you should update your LinkedIn profile before you update your resume.
How you do it matters almost as much. Don’t catalog all your past roles and responsibilities. Instead, focus on the skills and achievements that are important for the job you are targeting. This will increase the likelihood that you will come up in LinkedIn searches from recruiters.
Once you’ve done that, start being more active on LinkedIn. Engage with content. Respond to messages you receive. Even if it’s advertising for a service you don’t need, respond with, “No, thank you.” LinkedIn’s algorithm for recruiters prioritizes candidates who are more likely to respond to messages.
My agency talks to eager candidates all day. Most candidates tell us they are flexible for the right role. However, in our experience, it’s better to be somewhat targeted in your search. Start by defining your search criteria in terms of geography, industry, role and responsibility, compensation, travel, and other soft factors you care about, such as the company’s culture. Set some hard parameters around your search. Exhaust that pool of opportunities, and then expand your criteria if you need to. Most of those who are successful in their job search adopt a systematic and targeted approach.
If you are looking for an executive role, chances are that your compensation expectations are quite high. Think about what types of companies might be able to afford your compensation. Coupled with your geographical constraints and industry preferences, you probably have a set of high-priority companies you should be targeting. Look for a source that lists the largest companies in the industry to geographic area you are targeting. In LA, for example, the Los Angeles Business Journal lists the largest companies by segment. Go through the list of companies in the segments of interest to you, and select the ones you can imagine joining.
Do What LinkedIn Was Designed To Help You Do
Once you’ve built an initial list of companies, go on LinkedIn, and find the person you’d be most likely to report to at each of those companies. This might be the CEO, COO, CFO, etc. Invest in a paid LinkedIn account so you can send direct messages to these individuals. A brief message such as this one will do: “I’m starting to look for a new opportunity. Are you available for a brief conversation to see if there might be a role at your firm that could be a good fit?”
The key here is to be disciplined. Set a daily target for yourself, and keep reaching out to folks until you have a few viable conversations. Even if you start with as few as five messages a day, but do it consistently, you’ll contact 50 people within 10 days.
Some candidates I’ve talked to ask me, ”Is it OK for me to reach out to prospective employers unsolicited?” My answer is to them is a clear yes! LinkedIn was specifically designed to be a sort of antisocial social club for job seekers. That is, it’s meant to provide networking opportunities for job seekers and employers who don’t want to schmooze at cocktail parties, but still want to network about career options. So, go make good use of it.