Today, I’m going to share one of the greatest secrets to career development and job hunting.
And no, I’m not going to “guarantee” anything. Anyone guaranteeing they can get you into a company regardless of your skills or connections is spreading false information. But I can share something that will dramatically increase your chances…
I discovered this over the years, after having over 200+ virtual (sometimes, in person), short coffee chats with successful professionals of many industries.
That’s a lot of chats! Why did I do such a thing?
Well, I knew the importance of career development, and I figured picking people’s brains, especially those who have established careers and respected job titles, could really level up my skills and career. And I was right!
So what was this secret?
Most of the people I chatted with told me how they got their jobs. And the answer was always the same…
A good portion of it had to do with forming relationships with someone, basically, knowing the right person who believing in your skills and having that person vouch for you and refer you into the company.
You see, I learned that networking is a vital skill in the career world. It’s a skill that you need to develop to reach out to people, form strong, real, non-transactional relationships, and then prove your skillset.
Some people may get mad when they hear this because they think it’s not a ‘meritocracy.’ But that’s not exactly true. You still have to have the skills for the job and be a great candidate. A referral without those skills/credentials isn’t going to always get you far.
But companies are looking for verifiable talent, so every extra edge you can give yourself matters. And so, in a way, it is a meritocracy because networking properly is a part of the skillset you need to rise up in this meritocracy.
Now, most people get it wrong because they do networking in a slimy, transactional way. If you’re doing it that way, it won’t work and that’s not good networking. I try to form genuine relationships and stay in touch with these people. I’m not just out to get something from them and disappear into the wind.
So, here are some tips on proper networking through my favorite platform, LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is the world’s large professional social network.
Every reputable company is pretty much on there, even if it only has 10 employees.
Most successful business owners, CEO’s, and executives are on there.
That’s why I went out to find out everything I could about LinkedIn.
I did a ton of my own testing and experimentation, spend hundreds of hours on there, and consumed all the articles and videos I could find. This even meant some paid courses.
So let’s get to it:
How Is LinkedIn Different From Other Social Media?
Arguably, it’s not social media.
It’s a professional social network. Having said that, there are huge similarities.
It has a feed very similar to Facebook for people to post status updates, photos, or share others.
However, LinkedIn is less casual than Facebook. You are not supposed to be posting bikini party photos or vacations on the beach. If you do, you are frowned up. Updates are supposed to be more formal: articles, updates or motivational quotes.
Having said that, occasionally semi-casual viral stuff gets through and it gets a lot of shares, like fake stories about Steve Jobs on his death bed.
What Is LinkedIn Used For?
These are the big impact things you should use LinkedIn for:
- Forming strong relationships with awesome people
- Getting a job, lead or promotion through long-term relationship building and giving value
This is not what it should be used for:
- Sharing things to grow a following
- Being sleazy like a bad car salesman and immediately going for the kill
Entrepreneurs like Brendon Burchard and Neil Patel, who have money to test, have found that it’s very low impact to try and use LinkedIn articles or the LinkedIn feed.
It makes sense. LinkedIn’s feed is like Facebook’s but worse. Not as many people are on to see the feed, the shareability features are worse, and it’s cluttered with a decent amount of spammy or mediocre article links.
LinkedIn Articles and the LinkedIn feed has been used to succeed for thought leaders who already have a large following of hundreds of thousands like Richard Branson or Travis Bradberry. They have made posts that are consistently shared a lot and get hundreds of thousands of views. But 99% of you don’t fall into that camp.
Having said that, it’s still worth it to double up your article that you’ve already posted elsewhere (maybe your blog) on LinkedIn’s platform as well. Even 10 views may be worth that extra exposure.
The point is don’t waste too much time on writing original content. I have seen hundreds of profiles do this and get only 14 views.
Additionally, don’t be the guy (or girl) who posts a 3 sentence article that’s just telling people to donate or apply to a job posting. That’s really tacky and spammy.
Also, make sure you aren’t like most of the sleazy networkers on LinkedIn. Every so often, you will get a message from someone who is simply asking for stuff from you. You can stand out by giving value, forming a long-term friendship, and not being a value taker.
Let’s drill on how you do the big impact things you should be doing on LinkedIn..
There’s 4 big categories of things you should consider doing on LinkedIn:
- Optimize your profile
- Reach out and connect with the right people
- LinkedIn Groups
- Job Boards
There really isn’t much else to do on there, and if it is, it’s not that high impact.
How To Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
You don’t need to be a perfectionist. You get diminishing returns once you get a good enough profile.
Based on what I have been told from other people, they spend less than 10 seconds glancing at your profile. Sometimes, it is less than 5.
That means you have a short window to convey a message. The tiny details won’t be seen.
LinkedIn has a Profile Strength indicator as you are editing your profile. It’s irrelevant, but if you want to be super polished like me, you can get it to All Star.
However, this is what you should focus on and it should be more than good enough even if you don’t hit All Star:
Your title is a line you get under your name. It will show up in messages with others. This is one of the most important things as it serves as your elevator pitch to strangers and some people will not even look at your profile and judge you simply on your title and picture.
Keep it professional. Suits and formal clothing work really well. This isn’t the place to be showing your bikini. That will be frowned upon.
Having said that, appearing attractive by smiling and having good lighting helps. It’s natural human psychology.
A funny thing I found is that they show “People also clicked on these profiles” on the side of the page. Usually, it’s always attractive, blonde girls. It kind of shows that attractive people still gather attention on LinkedIn.
Having said that, as you will see, that is not important. Sheer numbers is not what we’re going for. You’re just going to get spammers by doing that. Instead, we will go for quality of connections.
Your LinkedIn Profile functions like a resume. Make sure it’s up to date and polished. Use the best resume advice on the Experience section of your profile. That means you shouldn’t include every little thing you’ve done in the past. Only include experiences you’ve had that strengthen the narrative you want to convey.
2-4 sentences with the elevator pitch you want to convey.
Add any certifications that you have to the certification section that strengthen your narrative, like the Hubspot Inbound Marketing certificate.
Optional but helpful:
Add any volunteering experiences you’ve had in the Volunteering section.
There’s a Skills and Endorsement section. This is where people you know can add a +1 to any skill you’ve added there. You decide which skills to add there. They can be anything from social media marketing to video editing. It caps out at 99 for each skill.
Although it’s cool to see 99+ people endorse you for multiple skills, it’s not going to make or break anything. Many influential people naturally hit 99+ on many skills simply because they’re connected to so many people and a small percent of them will endorse you without being asked.
How To Connect and Form Relationships on LinkedIn
Why LinkedIn Is So Useful
This is probably the biggest thing.
It’s almost impossible to connect with or find a top business executive from the company of your choice on Facebook. Facebook is too casual for someone like that to even accept your friend request.
Society frowns upon doing that on Facebook because it’s not professional.
On LinkedIn, you can get very specific: You can find a person working at a specific company with a specific size, with a specific job title, living in a specific area, and an alumni at your school. And they will be willing to connect with you.
LinkedIn has been out for a long time, but most people still don’t use it right.
I can tell because their profiles are half-done and they usually have less than 200 connections. It shows that they are not reaching out or connecting to people.
I was reading a book by the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman. It’s called The Start Up of You. He’s a billionaire.
The book goes into great detail on advice on how to be successful in your professional life, whether you start a business or get a job.
One chapter stands out. He talks incredibly about the importance of having a network of successful people. He points to people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg (female billionaire, one of the first at Facebook and Google), and others he’s well connected with. He notes how they are successful because of all the people that they were connected with that helped them out.
The point is that forming lifelong relationships with the right people is important.
How To Find Quality People To Connect With
This is what you should spend most of your time on LinkedIn doing.
It’s quality over quantity.
Rather than connecting with everyone, you choose the right people. Who are the right people?
This concept I learned through Ramit Sethi’s Dream Job system.
These are things you should look for:
- People who have the job title you want one day
- People who are in the industry or skill set you’re interested in getting into one day
- People who are in the industry or skill set you’re currently in
- People at enterprising, awesome companies you’re interested in
- People who went to your school
In an ideal situation, you want someone who has all of these things and also lives nearby. But sometimes, that’s tough to do.
The point of this is to surround yourself with awesome people that can open you up to new ideas, help you sharpen your skillset, and open you up to new opportunities in the future.
Note: don’t aim for the most sought after person. The CEO of huge companies are bombarded with hundreds of messages a day. Rather, look to awesome people who are maybe a couple steps ahead of you. They aren’t hit up often and would love to talk.
It’s easy to filter people down like this. Use LinkedIn’s advanced search feature to filter by location, industry, company, area, and/or school. Paying for a premium LinkedIn membership gives you additional filter features and allows you to send a message without waiting for them to accept your friend request first. Having said that, the premium membership isn’t always necessary.
When you request them, hit the friend option so you don’t have to enter their email address to request them. There’s also a space to send a quick personal message when you request. Request slowly at first to see if your message is working. Otherwise, you could be reported as spam.
How To Provide Value To People More Successful Than You
So you don’t want to be a value taker when you reach out.
But how do you provide value to people more successful than you?
Here’s a few things you could do:
- Help them out for free with a service or skillset you’re better at (coding, persuasion, speaking, etc.). No one is the best at everything
- Give them advice in an area you’re better at (Do this one with caution. Make sure you’re actually good at it)
- Show them you are ambitious and simply looking to learn. (You’re not providing value, but people want to help other successful people)
By connecting with an alumni or someone with some past connection with you, it also can increase your chances of getting a warm response when you reach out.
Develop The Relationship
Meeting in person is often worth 10x talking over LinkedIn message and 2x that of talking on the phone.
Try to meet them in person over coffee if you can. Otherwise, get on the phone.
A person has a much stronger connection with you when they meet in person. Having said that, it’s not always possible, especially if they are super successful and busy or on the other side of the country.
Your goal is to find out useful information about the job and industry, provide value back if you can, and develop a long-term relationship.
Most people fail because they stick to LinkedIn message and immediately want something from strangers. Then, they disappear and never continue the relationship. It doesn’t work and this is why networking gets a sleazy name. Don’t do this.
Develop the relationship with occasional pings: a thank you email the day after and an email sending a useful article every 1 or 2 weeks.
After a long term relationship is formed, they become your allies for life. Future job opportunities or introductions not available to the public can be made available. You might also get insider information on how you can develop your skills to succeed better in the workplace.
If you’re looking for a specific job at a specific company or applying, wait until the 2nd meeting before you hint at it with your connection.
Be Focused With Who You Reach Out To
This is probably the #1 biggest takeaway!
A spray and pray shotgun brute-force approach doesn’t work.
Nor does mass messaging tons of people in a related field. You need more focus!
I learned this the hard way. You can end up wasting a lot of time talking to people who are sketchy, had mediocre or poor career success themselves, or do not have valuable information in the field you’re interested in.
My standard is pretty high, which I think everyone should have. Don’t just talk to someone because they are in the space career space as you. Just because they’re in marketing or finance doesn’t mean it’s a good fit.
Look for a steady, upward career trajectory, reputable companies, and successful accomplishments on their profile.
Avoid people with the consultant title or too many fancy symbols in between their titles. If they have large gaps in their experience it could spell that they’re hiding unemployment or were fired. That’s not always a bad thing, although sometimes it is.
Long story short: Keep it win-win so you’re not just taking value in the exchange. Thank them for their time. But it’s better to be focused and strategic in who you’re pursuing.
Example: Narrow down who you want to reach out to on LinkedIn: a reputable C-level manager of a San Francisco-based internet and health themed tech company with a size of 10 to 50 employees.
Although others have said LinkedIn groups are still very useful, I have seen different results.
People are more likely to be on Facebook for some reason. More people are on there.
LinkedIn groups have been, for the most part, completely deserted compared to Facebook groups.
Having said that, others have said that they are quite useful in promoting content and getting leads. They’re not completely dead and you could possibly find a relevant group to your interests to connect with people.
I have found simply advanced job searching for job titles and industries you’re interested to be a better and more direct way of personal connection. However, LinkedIn groups may be of use to form some community bonds.
LinkedIn Job Board
This is better than the generic job boards like Indeed.com
Because the lowest common denominator apply on Indeed. I’ve tested this with my own job posting and found that you will get hundreds of responses and most of them will not bother to even read the instructions for the job posting. On Indeed.com, if you ask them to send a cover letter and a sample essay, most of them will simply send a bad resume. It’s very clear that people are simply spamming resumes on there.
LinkedIn is a bit better in that you get slightly higher quality applicants because you need an account to apply and job posters can examine profiles when they apply. Some people are too lazy to make one.
It’s not perfect though. It’s still a job board. You are better off going through the connections pathway I mentioned earlier.
Through my own research, I have found that most of the successful people I’ve talked to obtained their career by going above and beyond in the required skills and applying through a connection rather than the front door.
LinkedIn has lots its luster and effectiveness in certain areas compared to counterpart websites out there for articles, social feeds, and groups. However, they will still be around and very useful for a long time because of the incredible professional network it has.
With 500+ million people, every job title, and almost every company on there, it is an incredible treasure trove.
It is incredibly useful to be able to search and drill down to very specific people you’re looking to connect with.
I think it prohibits you from searching to much and pushes a bit too hard for you to pay for the premium membership. Having said that, it’s still a valuable resource in terms of forming relationships with people you admire and learning a lot.
If you are failing with reaching out or getting responses, part of it may be that they just don’t use LinkedIn but part of it is probably because you need to work on your outreach social skills. This is something I have talked about in my previous content. It’s a skill that can be acquired and improved.