Networking has and remains today the best way to find your next position.  In the past, networking involved primarily lunches, business seminars, and holiday parties.  You met a person at some sort of social function or through a mutual acquaintance, called them for a meeting over drinks or a meal, took their suggestions as to how to improve your resume and who to contact, and then sent a thank you note for their time and information. 
The principles of networking have not changed.  People still find their best job opportunities by networking.  However, the forums and opportunities to network have grown exponentially.  Now, we meet for coffee instead of lunch.  Business meetings shamelessly advertise, “Networking Event – Don’t forget your business cards.”  And, we can now network far beyond our physical reach to people and companies outside our social circles. 
Of course, I’m talking about the internet and the newest craze, “social media.”  Unless you are fresh out of college or a “techie” by nature, social media can seem very daunting.  Equally as daunting are the messages to get on the internet and expose yourself to as many strangers as possible.  Fortunately, there are ways to access the information from the internet that mimic the traditional networking while still giving you the advantages of the internet.  If you were computer savvy enough to find this blog, then you are savvy enough to use these techniques to further your job search.
In this blog, I want to focus on the first and perhaps largest source of professional networking:  LinkedIn.  Recruiters live on LinkedIn; it’s one of our favorite sources for finding new candidates.  We post our new positions, identify individuals who would be a good fit, and check out the competition.  No jobseeker would turn down an opportunity to attend a party full of recruiters.  LinkedIn is your social media networking party. 
I don’t want to go through a litany of how to set up a LinkedIn site.  There is plenty of information on the internet with this information.  Rather, I want to highlight the three biggest mistakes people make with their LinkedIn site
TITLES:  TELL ME WHO YOU ARE.  Believe it or not, the biggest mistake that I see is how little thought people give to their titles.  “Joe Smith, President.”  “Tom Jones, Unemployed.”  “Bob Hughes, Sales.”  These titles tell me nothing about who you are and what you do.  By contrast, “Jane Thomas, Independent People Soft Consultant” gives me volumes of information.  With a single glance, I know Jane’s specialty – People Soft.  I know that she is a consultant and, thus, is always looking for her next opportunity.  I also know that she is “independent,” and I can contact her directly to make any arrangements.  I don’t have to deal with any hiring managers or other intermediaries. 
Titles can also help introduce you to potential opportunities by generating interest.  Think about the difference between these two titles:  “Frank Smith, Marriage Counselor” and “Joe Jones, Helping Couples Save their Marriages.”   They say the same thing, but Joe’s thoughtful title is likely to garner more inquiries than Frank’s.
GROUPS:  WHERE THE ACTION IS.  LinkedIn groups are underutilized by job seekers outside the consulting and IT world.  Groups on LinkedIn are no different than any other organization you may join in life – they connect people with the same interests.  I am a member of a variety of groups:  my university alumni group, recruiting groups, and groups specific to the type of individuals I recruit.  Noe that the groups in LinkedIn tend to be professional; you are not likely to find as many groups located to hobbies unless the hobby is one that generates income, such as like an amateur photographer. 
What is also helpful about LinkedIn groups is that there are usually several groups that serve the same population. For example, I was recently looking for an individual with experience with litigation software and e-discovery.  I found a number of appropriate groups:  e-Discovery 2.0, e-Legal, Legal IT Network, and E-discovery/Litigation Support Professionals Career Network, to name a few. 
Why do you want to join a group or multiple groups in your area of interests?  First, recruiters hang out in the groups and post their jobs in the groups.  For a jobseeker, these posts present great opportunities to apply for a position or to find a lead for a related position.  Also, groups offer a great way to network with other individuals in your field.  Just as networking in person can help you generate job leads, networking through LinkedIn creates the same type of connections:
– “Hi John.  My name is Diane, and I saw your post that your company is completing an implementation in Philadelphia.  Are you hiring anyone to assist with this implementation?  I am scheduled to roll off my current position . . . .” 
– Or “Do you know whether your company has any implementation opportunities in the Atlanta area?”
– Or even “Will you need a trainer once the new software has been implemented?  I have been a trainer in this software for the past 15 years and would love to discuss a potential opportunity to work with your company. . . .”
CORPORATE RECONAISSANCE:  LinkedIn has also become a great source of corporate information.  Many companies maintain corporate profiles, and each company’s profile page becomes a source of the activity of that company.   Following that company on LinkedIn is a great way to gain insight as to where the company is going and how you can add value to their organization.  You can obtain names of contacts within the company, and you may even obtain an excuse to talk with them.  “Hi Marci.  My name is Diane, and I just read about your recent success overhauling your human resources department.  I am a new candidate in the HR field, and I would like the opportunity to learn more about this initiative.  Can I take you to coffee next week?” 
Another advantage of LinkedIn as that companies are often “followed” by their employees.  Checking out the “followees” can provide a wealth of information. First, you can identify key individuals, such as directors and managers, through the list of “followees.”  The number of followees also can reveal keys about the corporate culture.   A large company with few followers may show that the employees are apathetic about the work environment.   By contrast, lots of posts related to the company’s progress and activity can show that the company is active and dynamic. 
THE BACKDOOR TO LINKEDIN.  One of LinkedInÂ’s biggest challenges is that users have limited access to the names of people.  With a basic account, you get the first names of your “links” but only partial names of anyone else. 
Fortunately, there is a “backdoor” to linked in – a web search engine (e.g., Google or Yahoo). By typing key information into the engine and the term “LinkedIn,” you will pull up the full name of the individual you need.  For example, I may be looking for a hiring director at ABC company.  Through my LinkedIn account, I can see that the hiring director, a Sue L, graduated from Syracuse University.  I pull up my web browser (Google) and type “’Hiring Director’ ABC Syracuse LinkedIn.”  From this information, I should be able to obtain the full identity of the contact I need. 
LinkedIn is a powerful networking resource and should be an important part of any jobseeker’s tools.  Using LinkedIn is no different than attending any networking function.  Be professional.  Put your best foot forward – show people who you are by telling them what you do and what type of work you want to do.  Use LinkedIn to find the people you want to meet for the jobs you want to have.  And impress the heck out of the decision makers with the knowledge you have obtained about their companies.
Happy Job Hunting!
Diane Weinberg is a Healthcare, Healthcare Technology Recruiter with Avery Partners, LLC.   A self-described “recovering litigator,” she, her husband Mike, their three boys, and two geriatric cats live in Sandy Springs, Georgia.  In her spare moments, she is an occasional blogger, and a supporter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.