Become an active member of groups. Similar to Facebook and MySpace, LinkedIn members may create groups that other members may join. There are six primary group categories (Alumni, Corporate, Conference, Networking, Non-profit, Professional) and an Other category. Some groups allow LinkedIn members to automatically join, while others require permission from the group owner. Some groups are linked to a specific geographic location, but the majority are open to membership from all over the world. Likewise, some groups may be affiliated with a professional association and may require you to be a paying member of the professional association before you can become a member of the LinkedIn group. These sorts of details can typically be found in the group’s description section.
To identify groups to join, begin by clicking on the Groups link from the left-hand navigation bar. Then, click on the Groups Directory tab. Type a keyword in the search box on the right side of the screen. Keywords to use might include your major, your field of interest, and your industry of interest. If you are moving to a particular geographic location and would like to join a group of professionals in that location, regardless of industry or field, you might search for a specific city, state or region. For example, a search of the keyword “Milwaukee” returns the “Link Up Milwaukee” group.
Keep in mind that the size of a group is not necessarily an indicator of how active its members are within the group. A group’s description is helpful, but you really cannot determine a group’s “personality” until you have joined. If after spending some time in a group, you decide it’s not a good fit, you can choose to leave if it
Once a member of a group, take some time to read the Discussions, News and Updates sections. Get a feel for the types of postings are submitted by the membership and take note of any “rules” posted by the group’s owner. This information will help you ensure that your contributions will be in line with the group’s expectations. Then, start contributing! The Discussion area is a good place to start. Comment on other members’ postings by offering information, advice, links, suggestions, etc. You can also contribute content through the News section.
A benefit of group membership is that once you get to know members through their posts, you can request a connection with those members. Click on the group’s Member tab. Scroll through the members or use the search function to locate the member(s) with whom you would like to be connected. Under the member’s name and title information, click on Invite to Connect. On the next screen, when asked “How do you know ____?” select Groups & Associations. You’ll be given a pull down menu of all the groups to which you belong; select the appropriate group. Write a brief personal note, rather than the generic note, indicating that you would like to become a connection and reference the group to which you are mutually members.
There is a lot of hype about using social networking tools, such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, as part of your job search. But once you’ve set up an account, it’s not always clear how the site can assist you in improving your job search. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting brief tips for how job seekers, in particular Lawrence University students and recent graduates, can begin to harness the power of LinkedIn to enhance their job search.