Just six months after I was hired by my last company, I received a high-performance recognition award at a departmental staff meeting. For the next three to four years since that pleasant surprise, my performance level continued to rise and expand to the point where I began feeling that my job, perhaps, was more secure than the next employee. Big mistake! One day, without warning, and no prior disciplinary issues, I was called into the director’s office, and it was hasta la vista, baby! I was literally taken out with my final check and severance pay-agreement in my pocket.
I’m sure that you all know that this is not an unusual occurrence these days. It can certainly happen to just about anyone at any time. A friend said to me over the phone, “gee Bill, you seem pretty calm about it!” That’s because I’m confident of finding an even better job because there are three things working in my favor:
1) I’m a certified professional résumé writer, which will help me get my foot in the door more so than the average job seeker.
2) I consider my interviewing skills to be on the same level as Muhammad Ali’s boxing skills; I can “stick and move” against the toughest of interview questions. I’ve been teaching job search techniques to clients in various agencies and career centers for more than 10 years. Now, it is time for me to practice what I preach. I’ve done it before, and it only made me an even better counselor because there is never a more powerful message than a personal testimony.
3) There is a major tool that I’ve been shaping and sharpening for the last four years just in case a day, like fateful one I encountered in should inadvertently arise. That tool is LinkedIn.
To date, I have close to 700 connections who themselves have connections of their own, ranging from 10 to over 1000, which automatically puts me into a network consisting of 12,730,694 professionals as of the date of this writing, April 19, 2012.
I remember discussing LinkedIn with my hometown friend Anthony, an MBA, who is not the least bit convinced that LinkedIn is worth his while. After all, he already has a large personal network of friends and business associates in his industry. This, I feel, is commendable because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (or the BLS) tells us that 85% of all jobs are found through some form of personal contact. What the BLS doesn’t tell us is that that number, 85%, swells into the 90s during tough economic times. With a LinkedIn account, Anthony’s large, personal network of friends and business associates in his industry can be magnified 10-20 times because LinkedIn is a 24/7 operation. It works while you are asleep. My advice to Anthony is to get with it and get connected.
Over the last few years, employers have been flocking to LinkedIn in droves observing and seeking potential job candidates. According to a 2008 CNN report, people with complete LinkedIn profiles are getting the highest response rate when applying for jobs through traditional channels.
I myself am using LinkedIn to sort out companies who can best use the skills I do well and enjoy most as I gather information about them that can potentially make me a more a credible and convincing candidate when a position does comes open. When I’m called for an interview, I make it a practice to try to get the names of the people who are going to be interviewing me, and look up their LinkedIn profiles to get clues on how I might be able to better establish rapport. I attempt to find the profiles of people who once held the position for which I will be interviewing to get a better picture of the background they are looking for, and weave that information in my interview strategy.
It amazes me when I meet job seekers with LinkedIn accounts who are totally inactive. A fellow workforce development professional was telling me about a client who has not used her LinkedIn account in months. When this client finally logged back on, through encouragement from her counselor, there were six recruiters who have been trying to get hold of her through a LinkedIn feature called InMail. Now this client had the embarrassing and useless task, I may add, of trying to turn back the clock and connect with those recruiters.
It behooves all of us, who are LinkedIn users, to keep abreast of what is going on with our accounts as we continue to build and expand on our networks because we never know where that may lead down the road. Even if you are gainfully employed and are not in the job-search mode right now, I can tell you from personal experience, right now is the best the time to start shaping and sharpening your LinkedIn tool because when the time does come when you need to look for another job, or seek a better one, you will be ready for action. So, get with it and get connected!