To rise above the noise level, you have to demonstrate your subject matter expertise. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard me say that before, and I hope you’ve taken my advice to heart. But once you’ve got the goods, what’s next?
Stop waiting for people to find you (you’ve already put lots of landing pads out there for their search planes). Now you have to start your outbound effort. And LinkedIn is a good place to start.
Today a friend sent me a lead on a job at a company I know well by reputation. My first step: LinkedIn. If I didn’t already know about the company, my first step would have been Google – to see what they do.
You should search any prospective company with the LinkedIn search. By default, LinkedIn normally searches for people, but you can also search for companies, groups, and more. If you enter the name of the target company in a people search, you’ll get a list of people who have that company in their profile.
What happens if you don’t know anybody? Have you ever tried the LinkedIn company search? LinkedIn now has a substantial number of company profiles in its database. If your target company is one of them, you can get some valuable information:
- Overview of the company, including ownership if it’s a subsidiary
- Company specialties
Current and past employees
- If in your network (first, second or third level), you’ll get the employee name and professional headline (for most people, title – for people who read me, their personal branding statement)
- If not in your network, you get the professional headline and location
- For employees not directly connected, you see how you’re connected, for example, Adam Smith, Software Architect, through John Doe (what a time saver!)
- New hires – who they are, and where they came from
- Popular profiles (I’m not seeing the value in this – maybe somebody can help me)
- Career path – where people came from and where they went after this company
- Company demographics, news, and stock information where appropriate
So how do you use all this? The most important task you have is figuring out how to get access to the “right” people in the company you’ve targeted. (And your company targeting may be based on your love for their product, their location, or many other things.)
OK, so you’d like a job in software development. Look at the company profile and see if you can get access to somebody in their development department. How? It’s easy if you’re first-level connected. If they’re within your second or third tier, you can request an introduction from whichever first-level contact is in the connection path.
- Second-level connection targets: you ask a first level connection to introduce you. Straight-forward, and everyone knows who’s part of the proposed conversation. You get to write a note to your direct connection to tell them why they should forward your request to the second-level connection you’re trying to reach.
- Third-level: you don’t know who knows your target contact, but somebody you’re directly connected to is second-level connected to your target. So you choose which direct contact you want to make the request through, and they forward your request. You get to leave a note to the ultimate contact and the person who will arrange to get your request passed on. Believe me, this is much harder to describe than to use, but you may not always be successful in your requests!
- Groups – here’s the sleeper. If you find somebody you want to talk to who is in a mutual group, you can InMail them directly (InMail is LinkedIn’s internal email system). You bypass all the introduction stuff. And most people belong to at least one group, and a LOT of the groups will admit anybody – although some have membership requirements. When you do the company search I’ve been describing, the people who are connected to you through groups will show up in the list along with first, second and third level connections.
What does all this imply?
- Join groups!
- Connect with at least one LION (LinkedIn open networker – they link to anybody who requests a link), because that vastly increases the number of people you can contact through an introduction. But it also gives you more names, because anybody past third-level only returns their professional headline. But if you have a name, you have a chance of finding the person and connecting. With a name, you can see the public profile – you can’t do that if you just get the person’s professional headline.
The statistics say that people are much more likely to answer an InMail than a regular email, so when you gain access to your target, you’re much more likely to get an answer.
Who should you target? Depends on what you’re trying to do. It could be the hiring manager for a job you’ve seen listed. It could be an executive to try to arrange an informational interview to gain more knowledge of the business. (Here’s a favorite for me: try the PR department – they like to talk to people.)