A friend's experience inspired this blog post. She was happy and secure in her job and saw no need to maintain a LinkedIn profile, foster a network, collect recommendations or join LinkedIn groups. Then she was unexpectedly laid off and joined the 13.7 million people who are unemployed in the United States. At a time when being noticed is tougher than ever and working your network is vital to discovering openings and snagging interviews, my friend is starting from square one.
Her lack of a profile or network puts her at a disadvantage compared to people who can get the word out to a wide network. Of course, email can be used to broadcast a message, but LinkedIn offers something far more valuable--the ability to see and leverage connections for introductions, referrals and information. Krista Canfield, spokeswoman for LinkedIn, recently noted, “There may be hundreds and hundreds of other people applying for the same position you are. But if you know someone, a personal referral is like a golden ticket that can put your resume on top.”
LinkedIn helped me to prepare for my interviews at USAA before I landed my new job. I found I was connected to a person who used to work on social media at USAA and that he was a "2nd degree contact," which means we share a mutual LinkedIn contact. I asked for an introduction via LinkedIn and arranged a phone call. The insight I gathered helped me to ask better questions during the interview process and gain confidence the position at USAA was right for me.
Participating on LinkedIn can provide professional assistance and education for the employed, but for the unemployed it offers a great many benefits. Aside from the ability to work a network for information and introductions, LinkedIn users can:
- Access a job board to help surface available positions that may match their experience,
- Maintain an "online resume" that others may visit to see skills, experience and job history,
- Seek out information about potential employers using Company Profiles and Company Buzz,
- Add specific skills to their profiles, promoting areas of expertise and revealing companies and jobs that use and need those skills,
- Access groups of professionals, permitting the opportunity to learn, ask questions and meet new like-minded professionals, and
- Collect (and provide) recommendations from peers.
My friend without a LinkedIn profile is not alone, especially among older adults. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, while 86% of those age 18 to 29 use social networking sites, just 47% of those 50 to 64 do the same.
Avoiding LinkedIn is increasingly a poor and short-sighted decision for professionals. Doing so not only isolates you from vital information, it also puts you on the wrong side of a new and troubling social divide--it is a bright, neon sign that tells peers, bosses and potential employers that you are failing to embrace new technology and communication methods. Much as virtually every employee today must be web savvy, employers increasingly will need and seek out people who demonstrate at least rudimentary knowledge and skills in using social tools.
It can take months to build a healthy LinkedIn network, but it takes less than an hour to create a robust profile, the first step in the LinkedIn process. There's little excuse to get started today. Check out the LinkedIn New User Starter Guide for tips on how to get underway.