One of the biggest challenges I face when teaching new grads or students of all ages how to use digital tools is how much time they all spend doing so many other things. I’m trying to teach them about all the ways they can help their careers grow by using digital tools and all they hear is me telling them they have to spend more time doing more stuff.
Take LinkedIn, for example. Just about every class I encounter is full of folks who recognize the brand of LinkedIn online and many have even built profiles. But what I consistently hear from them is that they don’t spend much time on the site at all and have no regular times set aside to do so.
This is obviously a problem for LinkedIn as well, who really needs folks to be spending more time on the site in order to satisfy the financial demands of investors. Luckily for both of us, the platform has released some changes of late that speak to these very challenges and do a fair job of offering solutions. The three most obvious changes have come in the shape of how you find folks to expand your network, how you find groups to connect with, and how you connect with companies in general.
The first thing making it easier to find people to add to your LinkedIn network is the “People You May Know” tool. If you don’t know already, LinkedIn has the ability to look into your email accounts, find the email addresses of people you have emailed, and look up the LinkedIn profile of those people. If you have authorized them to do that, they will show you people you have corresponded with when you go to the tool. Otherwise, what you see there is built out of your profile – if you work for a particular company, it will show you people who work at that company you have not connected with.
This is great, especially if you are doing an internship at a company you really want to end up working at. In terms of timing, it might go like this:
Suppose you start your internship and have connected with many of your peer interns, but really want to connect to your boss or your bosses boss. One of the best times to ask for a network connection is right after having had a good face to face conversation. That way, in the connection invitation, you can say something like “Great talking about fishing today, I hope you are ok connecting here on LinkedIn as well.”
Hopefully they will be more likely (not less) to accept your request for connection because they have recent context for who you are because they remember the conversation. In either case, if you are ever involved in a good conversation with a bunch of people from a company you work at, go to the “People You May Know” tool right away that evening and make sure to send out those personalized connections.
The same could be said of any contact you might have with folks who are alumni of the school you go to or went to. Using the tool can help you easily recall faces and see lists of other folks to network with both online and off, so take the time to visit it after any networking event.
Groups on LinkedIn are also an important way to network and find others who share your skills, interests and career aspirations.
Often one of the most overlooked networking tools on the site, there are new ways to search groups and many new groups on the site as well.
Make sure to check back on the site regularly to find out what new groups might have emerged. Likewise, groups are most useful when you participate in conversations, so even if you don’t get emails telling you what discussions are new (I hate getting emails, I’d rather just go back to the site once a week during a planned work time to see what is new) take the time to interact and plan the time to see what is new. You never know, a well answered, well placed response to a question posed in a group might lead to that perfect job opportunity.
Lastly, the company search tool is another great reason to spend more time on LinkedIn. When it comes to connecting to companies using LinkedIn, you have to read this great post by Lindsey Pollak. According to a poll she did on LinkedIn, the number one mistake anybody makes in a job interview has to do with how much they know about the company. As she points out in her article about company pages, with all of the places you can go to do research these days, there really is no excuse for that. Do yourself a favor and get your research game on before you go into an interview. Using LinkedIn to do that just keeps getting easier and easier.
Hopefully you can see how these three changes make it easier to spend your time on LinkedIn more efficiently. No matter what, if you are seeking employment, internships, peer validation, or just to find community, time on LinkedIn is time well spent. Treat it like you do exercise and plan some time every week, stick to it, and chart the results. You’ll be pleased by what you see.