LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com) is a social networking site focused on professional networking around careers. The mission of LinkedIn is to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. When you join LinkedIn, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do.”
A survey was released by LinkedIn themselves in 2011 about the usage of the services it provides. This survey found that in general women were not using LinkedIn to the same level as men and were therefore missing out on networking opportunities that men were taking. Nicole Williams, connection director at LinkedIn in an interview with Media Post. said “women can sometimes shy away from networking because they associate it with schmoozing or doling out business cards, when in reality, it’s about building relationships before you actually need them.” LinkedIn itself is a leading Silicon Valley firms in terms of the number of women it has in executive positions within the organisation and targeted recruitment of women.
So what strategies can women (and men) use on LinkedIn to get the most from its services? Below, myself, Zehra Rizvi and Sarabeth Harrelson have outlined a few that we have become aware of. Please feel free to comment on this post to add your own ideas. This blog site is not sponsored by LinkedIn! This post is more an acknowledgement of the possibilities that LinkedIn allows as a tailored site towards networking.
Managing or Maintaining Links to Current Networks
We all meet people through university, work, volunteering and social events that we admire and respect. These are not all necessarily people that we would want to email personally to keep in touch with. LinkedIn allows you to request this person to be part of your network and this way creates a link between both of you that you can revisit at any time if both of you stay on LinkedIn. I think this is especially useful in the Aid and Development Sectors when often people are living geographically far from each other.
In particular it can be helpful to maintain links with alumni from your high school, college and university alumni. These tend to be people with the same or similar number of years experience as you in their chosen career. It can be interesting to see the different paths people are taking. Also, as you already have a personal link to these people it can be easier to reach out and have career discussions with them than others.
Developing New Networks Through One to One Connections
On LinkedIn you can search for people working in organisations you are interested in or working in roles that you are interested in. People do message people they don’t know to ask for a chat and advice. This can be a great way to get new information and create new networks.
Developing New Networks Through Groups
Joining one of the many groups established on LinkedIn can be helpful when looking to make contacts that you might otherwise not have access to. Perhaps you are interested in expanding your network in a new direction for example – you can search out groups that will allow you to do this. Some groups are quite active with vibrant discussion and others are more like an identifier, signaling that members have shared interests even though there isn’t a lot of group activity.
Some of the more popular LinkedIn groups in the Aid and Development Sector are as follows:
- International Humanitarian and Development Professionals
- Devex – International Development
- Humanitarian Professionals
All three of the above are mainly focused on job advertisement and searching for new work opportunities.
By actively participating in groups you can build a positive reputation. This may be especially valuable for those starting out who want to ‘build an edge’ and it’s a great way for people to get to know you when they might not have other ways to do so.
If you have other suggestions of useful groups please do reply to this thread and add your thoughts.
Researching a Specific Organisation
If you are interested in researching a specific organization you can use LinkedIn to research the organization, it’s current and past employees and its staffing structure. The following bullet points outline some of the analysis you can do through LinkedIn searches:
- Experience level of staff – will you be able to learn from senior staff members
- Progression within the organization – do people come in and out of the organization to new positions or do other people progress from one position to another position staying within the organization?
- Staff turnover rates – how long do people stay in their jobs in organization x. Does everyone stay for a few years or is six months the standard timeframe?
- Structure of organization – this takes more time but you can get a sense of the structure of an organization through searches on LinkedIn.
Linking with Recruitment Agencies
You can link up with a number of recruitment agencies through LinkedIn and the HR managers of the organisations that you think you would like to work for at some point. By searching for an organisations name you will find that many now have their own recruitment groups that you can follow. This means you will get an instant alert when new job is posted. It also means that these organisations know that you are interested in them. Many organisations now search LinkedIn for appropriate candidates and personally email them asking if they are interested in applying for a post.
Understand Career Paths in the Aid and Development Sector
You can use LinkedIn to look at others career paths. When you are thinking about your next move or are applying for a particular position you can look at others currently doing that position and what experience they have. Sometimes job specifications can be hard to understand. They say extensive experience but what does that mean? By looking at others in those positions you can gauge if you are applying at the right level or not.
You can also look at what people have moved on to after the position you are considering whether or not to accept.
Building A Strong Reputation
LinkedIn allows people to leave recommendations on your page, and allows you to invite people to do so. This can be very powerful when recruiters are looking at your page. Imaging what you would think if a person that has applied to work with you had 1, 5, 10 positive recommendations from people within the sector on their page? It’s a powerful message!
These are just some of the uses that Sarabeth Harrelson, Zehra Rizvi and myself could think of when we discussed this. Do you have more ideas? What strategies have you used?