If you’re new to the world of LinkedIn and professional networks (and most women returning to the workforce are), then this is a good time for you to be thoughtful about your professional network. Hopefully by now I don’t have to convince you that getting to know people and building relationships are critical to your job search and, indeed, your professional success. But if you’re starting from scratch with LinkedIn, you might be wondering how on earth you’re going to amass a number of connections. More importantly, you might be worried that you don’t know the right people or enough of the right people.
Relax – I’ve got your back! Here are some strategies for expanding your network – on LinkedIn and otherwise.
- First, assess the state of your network. How strong is your network and how strong are your connections inside that network? I prefer to think about the strength of a network, instead of its size, because I’m a quality over quantity person. Having 1,000 connections on LinkedIn isn’t worth much if you don’t actually know them and can’t rely on them to help you if you ask.
- Second, realize that your message needs to be clear and will be different depending on who you are reaching out to. Friends and acquaintances are probably fine with a “Hi, here’s what I’m up to” type of message. The people you don’t know may need a more formal and flattering message like “I’ve read your books / saw you speak / admire your position on ______.” I’d like to connect so I can continue to follow your success.”
- Third, reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with via LinkedIn. I love hearing from people that I knew way back when! Carol Fishman Cohen, Chair of iRelaunch, tells re-launchers that they shouldn’t fear reconnecting with former colleagues because those people will remember you as you were when they knew you. In other words, people will remember the “professional you” even if that was from years ago.
After reconnecting, it’s perfectly OK to tap into that network for help. Many of us aren’t comfortable asking for help, but would happily help someone who asked us for a favor. Understand that sometimes in your life you’ll be in a position to give back to your network and sometimes you’ll need to tap your network for help. Both of these are perfectly natural.
Always ask “Is there anything I can help you with?” when you ask someone in your network for a favor. You never know what they might need help with so it’s always good to ask. Plus, both relationship-building and networking are two-way streets, so be prepared to give at least as much as you get.
Building and maintaining a strong network are critical to your successful career. If your network needs work, start today to map out who you know and who you’d like to know. Then reach out and build those relationships. If you’ve got a robust network but have let it go dormant, start reconnecting to people by noticing their successes and reaching out to say hi. Here’s a network map that will help you generate ideas about people you should be reaching out to and connecting to on LinkedIn.
Most of all, make networking and building relationships a habit that you work on every day. Happy connecting
For the longest time, I wanted to know exactly how recruiters used LinkedIn so I could advise the people I coached to be the most attractive candidates they could be on this platform. Then last year I had the opportunity to do some recruiting work myself and was able to gain experience being on the other side of the recruiter – candidate equation.
Here’s what I learned:
- Be open to recruiters – go into your privacy settings and click on Job Seeking Preferences => Let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities. When recruiters do a LinkedIn search, they receive results that tell them (a) the number of people who have the profile they are searching for and (b) the number of people who have that profile and are open to new opportunities. In fact, recruiters start with the people who have indicated they are open to new opportunities and most never go through the others. If you want to be noticed, let the recruiters in! Also, being more active on LinkedIn will land you in more searches.
- Keywords matter – be precise. Make sure the language in your profile is an exact match to the terms you are finding in job descriptions. Reading job descriptions for the job you’d like to have is a great way to do research. The more search terms and keywords you hit on, the better!
- Have an appealing profile – show your energy, your passion and your ability to get stuff done. Your summary is a great place to do this. The language throughout your profile should reflect positivity and convey the idea that you’re a great team member.
- Be clear about what you want to do – again, your summary is a great place for this. Another place to do this is in the job titles that you specify you’d like to be contacted about. If your preferred job titles are all over the map, you’ll appear scattered. If they are focused on one specific thing, you’ll look like a person with a clear plan, which is very appealing to recruiters.
- Respond quickly when a recruiter reaches out to you – the opportunity may disappear quickly. If you’re interested, say yes right away. If it’s not the right offer, tell the recruiter why – giving feedback helps ensure that the next time they reach out to you it will be for something you’re interested in.
There you have it – the inside scoop on how recruiters find candidates on LinkedIn! Use this information to become a better candidate and get noticed for the jobs you want.
One final bonus tip: I’ve been following an Amazon recruiter on LinkedIn who is very transparent about the process for getting hired there and gives great tips for managing the job search and interview processes. Her name is Katherine Dumanoir. Follow her on LinkedIn for some solid job search advice!
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.
Interviewing for jobs can be nerve-wracking! In my role as a Career Coach at a top-20 business school, I hear from multiple recruiters each year about the things candidates did well (and not so well) during job interviews. Here are three things we hear from recruiters that might help you avoid making some common interview mistakes and get the offer:
#1 Bring Your Energy! Maybe candidates are trying so hard to be “professional” that they forget to let their enthusiasm for the company or the position shine through. Or maybe nerves get the best of some interviewees and they just can’t relax enough to show their excitement. Whatever the reason, your interviewers are investing their time and resources bringing you in for an interview and they want to see that you’re excited to be there.
Here are some ways you can show your energy:
- Clearly articulate how happy you are to be interviewing for the position.
- Smile! It sounds basic, but in a pressure situation you might forget this most basic way of connecting with other people.
- Pay attention to your body language – sit up straight, talk with your hands, speak clearly and at an appropriate volume.
#2 Be prepared to talk about why you’re interested in this company. You’ll need to do your research to answer this question well. This is your chance to show that you’re the kind of person who does their homework and comes prepared. It’s also a chance to compliment what you admire about the company and demonstrate that you’re self-aware enough to know why you’d be a good fit for them.
Here’s how you can show your interest:
- Have 3 reasons why you love this company in mind when you walk into your interview.
- Come prepared to talk about how your strengths match up to what the position requires.
- Answer this question in terms of what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
#3 Ask insightful questions at the end of the interview. A recruiter once told us that she interviewed a candidate whose questions for her hit on the three things that kept her up at night. This candidate had so thoroughly researched the company and the position he was interviewing for that he was able to zero in on the business issues that they were grappling with and ask thoughtful questions about them. He got the job!
Here’s how you can ask insightful questions:
- Know who the competition is, what the trends are in the industry and what, if any, threats exist to the way they currently do business. Use this information to formulate questions that show that you did your homework.
- Research online by reading industry blogs and the company’s website and Linkedin page. Supplement this knowledge by talking to people you know who work at the company to get the inside scoop.
- Be sure to mention during your interview that you spoke with people who work at the company as part of your preparation. This shows you went the extra mile to understand their business.
The keys to interviewing well are preparation and practice. Be sure to bring your energy, do your research so you know why you’re a good fit for the company and ask smart questions of your interviewers. Get a list of common interview questions and record yourself giving answers so you can hear how you sound. Enlist a friend to give you a mock interview and some honest feedback.
Then get out there and show ‘em what you’re made of!
When Katie’s not working to place MBA candidates, she’s writing articles, conducting workshops and MeetUps, and preparing courses to help women like her transition back into the workforce. Find out what’s going on at www.backtobusinessconference.com.
Focusing on our job search means updating our resumes….which means a solid review of our skills – determining which relevant skills we already possess and which require an update. Here are the critical skills we’ve identified and then what some experts have to say about them –
Professional Skills: Communication, Leadership, Teamwork
These are interpersonal skills that are so vital, yet not always common, in a work environment. Clear and concise verbal and written communications, the ability and confidence to have others follow your lead and the ability to work well with others as a leader or member of a team are crucial for success.
Business Basic Skills: E-mail, Spreadsheets, Word processing, Budgets, Scheduling
Being proficient on e-mail and in scheduling is probably not that tough for women re-entering the workforce as we’ve just spent the last many years coordinating our families’ activities! But a Microsoft refresher course is definitely in order with recent technological upgrades and advancements.
Technical Skills: Software-specific, Coding
Recruiters and employers are often looking for technical skills. Search job postings in your area of interest and check on LinkedIn to see what skills people working in your intended field possess. Remember that even if you don’t plan to go into a technical field, it can be important for you to understand the language of technology and have a basic understanding of modern technical terms.
Use our Job Re-Entry Checklist to assess your skills and identify any gaps that might need a refresher or training.
What the Experts Say
These skills are so important, that reacHIRE’s comprehensive PowerUpTM training program includes 70+ hours of training in these areas. reacHIRE has a program in Boston and RTP that helps women to successfully re-enter the workforce. Sonja Neiger, reacHire’s Regional Director, Talent & Training tells us that they include finance fundamentals, working with big data and understanding the software development process in their training.
“Most businesses are very interconnected, so strong communication skills are critical” says Leigh-Wallace Hines of The Select Group. “I typically also look for responsibilities listed on a resume where the candidate has given presentations using various methods (in person and teleconference) to groups of people and written documentation or marketing materials. When speaking to a candidate over the phone or in person, I want to make sure that they speak clearly and that their personality will mesh well with the environment that they will work in for our customer.”
Regarding technical skills, Hines says that “if someone is looking to ‘start from scratch’ and enter the technical world as a Help Desk Analyst or a Network Technician, then having some sort of certification (unless they have a Bachelor’s Degree in the field) will demonstrate that they have the baseline knowledge to be successful in the role. For a data analytics role, having demonstrable experience with software relevant to their field (SAP, SPSS, SQL, etc.) is important. If someone has been out of work for some time, candidates should be able to show some sort of effort in keeping their skills up-to-date by attending seminars, conferences, or classes at a local technical school.”
If you’ve been a busy, involved parent, chances are good that you’ve probably cultivated many of the skills that employers find desirable in candidates while you were on your career break. Many women stay active by managing committees through their churches or children’s schools, leading PTAs, organizing events or fundraising. Don’t overlook the value of these activities. Take a good look at what you’ve been involved in and make a list of the tools and skills you used in those situations, even if it wasn’t paid work.
Once you identify those skill areas in which you are relatively weak, make a plan to improve them. Your plan could include attending Back to Business events where you can brush up on some of those critical job skills in a hands-on environment. And if you’ve been putting off volunteering, now is a good time to pick a few activities that will help you strengthen a skill area you’ve identified as important to your next career move.
Communicating that you possess these skills is the next step. We’ve addressed that in subsequent Back to Business articles on effective networking. So keep working on your checklist and stay tuned!
2018 is here! Happy New Year!
Back to Business has a lot planned for 2018 – and I hope you do too. My plan is to try new things to expand our reach and to go deeper with what we currently offer so we can help more women on their path back to work.
I put my plan for the year in an Excel file where I can see what I need to do on a monthly basis and can get to work immediately to realize my plans.
How about you? Did you make resolutions for 2018 – or are you going to make plans instead?
I encourage you to make plans rather than resolutions. Plans are more specific and they have a timeframe associated with them.
For example, instead of resolving to return to work in 2018, make a plan to have your resume done and a target company list developed by mid-January. Then plan to set aside 1-2 hours each day to reach out to connections at your target companies and set up informational interviews and networking calls.
Identifying the steps that will help you progress toward your goals is a good way to ensure that you will take action. Write your plan down – or put it in a spreadsheet so you can reference it often.
Break your plan down into daily or weekly steps so it’s manageable. Add these steps to your calendar and hold yourself accountable to meeting them. Or better yet, share the plan with a friend who will hold you accountable.
Be sure to reward yourself when you meet milestones. Nothing major, but a walk in the park or some “me time” is a great way to pat yourself on the back!
Keep moving forward. When you get stuck, take 1 positive step forward, even if it’s a small step.
We’re fortunate that this is a good time to be looking for a job – the economy is strong, unemployment is low and companies are in a hiring mood. Additionally, companies have heard and understand the message that hiring people with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives is good for business.
This is your year to go get that job! Job searching requires focus, hard work and persistence. Having a community of women to support you and encourage you is a big asset in this process – so don’t be shy about reaching out to the Back to Business community as you progress in your job search. You can get involved in the Back to Business community by connecting with us on Facebook and LinkedIn, reaching out to your group from the Back to Business Women’s Conference and attending our events. We are here for you and this support can be a huge asset.
Good luck in 2018! I look forward to seeing you at one of our events, connecting online and hearing about your success!
To see some of the plans I’m making – MeetUps and Workshop – check in at www.backtobusinessconference.com.