I’d like to address LinkedIn and how important it is in your job search from a slightly different angle and share some smart strategies for using LinkedIn as a job searcher that you can do today.
Remember, LinkedIn is your ticket to finding out who works where and who’s hiring. For a job seeker, this is important information.
Here are 3 things to try on LinkedIn today:
TIP #1: Look up your dream company using the feature that allows you to see “people who work at…”. Are you connected to anyone who works there? If yes, send them a message asking for a phone call. It can read something like this:
I hope you’re doing well. I’m considering my next career move and have always been really interested in XYZ Company because my background in project management seems like a great fit for the roles XYZ is currently hiring for. Would you have 15 minutes during the next week or two for a phone call so I could ask you a few questions about the company and hear about your experience there?
Thanks in advance!
If you aren’t connected to anyone there, look at the second-degree connections and pick out someone you know who has a connection at the company. This can be either someone in the department you’re interested in (preferably) or a recruiter. Send a message to your connection asking for an introduction.
Here’s a template you can use:
I see you’re connected to Jane Smith on LinkedIn and Jane works at XYZ where I’m really interested in getting a job. Would you be able to introduce Jane and me via email or LinkedIn? My email address is xxx. Thanks for your help!
Did you try it? It’s pretty easy, right? Now try it a few more times – your goal is to expand your network and this will take work every day. Once you get an introduction or schedule a phone call, be ready with great questions, your elevator pitch, and an offer of “what can I do for you?”
Tip #2: For our next trick, message someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time to keep the connection fresh. Just a very brief “hello” is all we’re after here. Here’s an example:
It’s been a while, but I’ve enjoyed following your success on LinkedIn and hope things are going well for you at XYZ Company. I’m working on my return to work after taking a career break and I’m really excited about the possibilities!
Why do this? Because you never know who Bill knows or what kind of help he may be able to provide. If nothing else, you’ve done what people always say they plan to do (keep in touch with their network) but never seem to get around to actually doing – so good for you! Your contacts will recognize that this is smart networking and give you credit for it. Plus, if you need to reach out to Bill with a specific request in the near future, it won’t be so awkward because you’ve checked in with him recently.
Tip #3: Ask for recommendations! Having multiple recommendations is a great way to fill out your profile and asking for them is easy. Use the “Ask for recommendations” feature on LinkedIn. Or you can send your request via email. Allow me to get you started:
Hi Sally, I’m planning my next career move and filling out my LinkedIn profile as part of the process. Would you write a brief recommendation for me? I was hoping you could reference our work together as project managers/my technical skills/the great teamwork we had while working together at X Company. I’d be happy to do the same for you so please let me know if that would be helpful. Thank you!
A few things to keep in mind about your request:
- Be specific about what you’d like people to comment on. This helps them write something quickly and gets you just what you want on your LinkedIn profile.
- Offer to reciprocate.
- Keep your request brief!
- Don’t shy away from asking people for recommendations even if it’s been many years since you worked together. They’ll remember you and the work you did.
Try these out today. Why today? Because doing this now while it’s fresh in your mind is your best bet for getting it done. Also, because these are things you need to do on a regular basis and you’ll get more comfortable as you do them more often. Start today and then do them again tomorrow.
Remember, your job as a job seeker is to expand your network. If you’re returning to work after a career break you’re going to have to tap into your network to find your next opportunity and LinkedIn is a great way to do this.
When not offering tips on making LinkedIn the focus of your job search…well, actually, because LinkedIn IS that important, Katie can always be found offering LinkedIn assistance to her UNC MBA Candidates and women like her who are returning to the workforce. For more information and tips, check out www.backtobusinessconference.com.
Whether you’re ready to go back to work after taking time off or just thinking about it, my Returning to Work After a Career Break Webinar will be helpful. It’s full of the professional advice that I use in my position as Senior Associate Director, Career & Leadership at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School but geared toward women returning to work. Sign-up to receive the Webinar Replay that you can watch at your convenience — it’s about 30 minutes — and the accompanying Worksheet, and return to work the right way.
Returning to Work Webinar Replay
I'll send an email directly to you with a link to this webinar replay that you can watch at your convenience as well as the worksheet.
I want to address an age-old question asked by women contemplating a professional comeback:
Should I take just any old job or should I hold out for the right one?
This is a question I hear a lot and it’s a question that I asked myself often as I looked for a job after being out of the full-time workforce for many years. Here’s the easy answer: It depends.
The answer to this question depends entirely on what is motivating you to go back to work. Here’s my point: If you need to start earning income for you or your families’ survival now, then you should take the best job you can find quickly. By “best” I mean highest paying. Life is expensive, kids are expensive and it takes money to survive. Pure and simple. Divorce often forces women back into the workforce, or your spouse might have been laid off. Whatever the situation, if quickly earning income has become your primary motivation, then find a job and bloom where you’ve been planted. You don’t have to stay there forever but my personal rule of thumb is that you do have to do your best while you’re there. If you sense that you’re just passing through, work diligently so that when you leave you’ll have a great recommendation and can feel good about the work you did.
While the need for money motivates many women to return to work quickly, others find that their timing isn’t quite so urgent. To you, I say – lucky you! You have the luxury of doing the 3 steps of Reflect, Research and Activate that I think are so important to a successful job search. The Reflection step is of critical importance in a job search because this is the step where you think deeply about your skills, your past experiences and your current interests and add them all up to set a course for your future.
I want a career break to become a very normal part of a person’s career (both women and men) and for employers to view these not as breaks from real work, but as opportunities to develop more deeply as people, as parents, as travelers or as caregivers of aging parents. Your ability to reflect on what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown during your career break is a key part of finding direction for your job search. And setting off on a journey with a destination in mind is going to get you there faster than if you are just wandering through the job search process, applying to something different every day.
If you are motivated to return to work by a desire to re-engage your professional self, to grow as a person in a professional capacity, to put your valuable skills to work and to earn a good income while doing so, then you have the luxury to look until you (a) find the right job or (b) find a job that offers a trade-off that you are comfortable taking. Every decision we make is a trade-off between things that are important to us. If your job search is starting to feel like it’s taking a long time, and you’re considering taking the next job that comes along, here are a few things you can consider:
- Will this job keep me moving forward? Will I learn here? Will I meet people that will grow my professional network? Will I feel good about the work I’m doing?
- Can I think of this job as a stepping stone? Will it get me closer to where I’d like to be professionally?
If you can answer “yes” to any of those questions, then maybe it’s time to take the job.
The second part of this question is –
Do I have to take a job making less money or with a lower title than I held before I took a career break?
My guidance is that I want you aim high, but you must understand that the burden of proving your value to an employer rests with you and only you. How can you prove that you’re worthy of your previous salary and title?
- By demonstrating that you’ve spent your career break learning and keeping your skills fresh
- By taking courses to refresh your job skills
- By becoming active (and being known) in a professional association relevant to your field
- By maintaining a network of influential people in your field
Then develop your personal brand image to illustrate your value.
One final thought: When I was job searching, I realized early on that my next job was going to come from someone who knew me personally and not from a resume that I blindly sent out over the Internet. And this belief changed my job search activities from sitting behind my computer sending out resumes to instead viewing every opportunity to talk to someone as a chance to get one step closer to finding the right job. And, guess what? It worked.
Personal Branding is Important!
As a woman re-entering the workforce, you have a unique opportunity to start over in a career that may be different from the one you left behind when you were last working. This makes your “brand” all the more important because you want to be sure that you project an image consistent with the profession you’d like to enter.
There’s a lot of talk about defining your professional brand, and it can be hard to know just what that means on a practical level. Recently I attended a Forte Foundation Conference for women in MBA programs, and I heard a great talk by a speaker named Lindsey Pollak. She did a nice job of defining 4 key elements of your brand. I share them below along with my own suggested action items for women re-entering the workforce:
The Four Key Elements of Your Brand
1. Visibility – What is your level of exposure as a leader?
Action Item: Be visible to your network by sending a check-in email to see how your contacts are doing and update them on what you’re doing. Be really visible by writing and posting an article on LinkedIn. If you need to work up to that, start sharing high quality articles on LinkedIn with a comment that adds value.
2. Differentiation – What are you known for? What do you offer that others can’t?
Action Item: Determine which of your strengths are most relevant to your intended career field and get comfortable talking about them as you discuss your career search with friends, contacts, recruiters and hiring managers.
3. Consistency – Is your image consistent across various professional situations?
Action Item: Make sure the image you are putting out on your social media sites and in person is that of a good colleague.
4. Authenticity – Are you comfortable in your leadership style?
Action Item: Spend some time thinking about how you describe your leadership style. Then be sure you are not only comfortable leading (this takes practice!) but that you are looking for opportunities to lead. These can be in volunteer opportunities as well as professional settings.
Here’s the challenge
Pick just one of these brand elements to work on this week and commit to doing the action items. Then put a note in your calendar for each of the next 3 weeks to remind you to work on the next brand element. I’m a fan of breaking things into small steps, and I’m betting this will work for you too.
If you’re just getting started relaunching your career, our Return to Work Checklist will come in handy. Information on our Back to Business Women’s Conference is available here.