Monday, March 21, 2011

Why You (and the People You Know) Need LinkedIn Now

If you regularly read this blog or others like it, this post is not for you; it's for you to send to the people you know who think they have no need for professional social media.  Considering that just around 40 million people in the United States are registered on LinkedIn, chances are that you know several people who have avoided the business networking site.  For professionals, the time has come to get connected.

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:

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.


Davina K. Brewer said...

Augie, One of the first things any employer or HR director is sure to do is Google your name making that LI profile so important to job seekers. Takes a little time, gives you a chance to tell more than your resume can, ask for some references, share your blog, etc. That said, like any other social network I think you'll get back what you put into it. For LinkedIn that means answering questions, sharing and discussing in groups when you can make the time, really building those contacts or like you, using that to better prepare yourself for the job hunt, interviews. FWIW.

Augie Ray said...

Thanks for the additional tips, Davina. Excellent contribution!