The "Linkedin" Strategy to Networking Through Professional Associations
Ask any seasoned professional or experienced job seeker and they'll tell you the same thing; networking is the No.1 way to find a good job quickly. The fact of the matter is that most of the good jobs are filled before they're ever advertized on the open job market. Not only is networking the best way to find a good job, during a weak economy when many employers have placed job freezes, networking may be the only way to find a good job, or transition into a new career field.
So if you're new to networking, or have run out of people to talk with within your circle of contacts, where do you turn? My advice, professional associations. There are professional associations for just about every career field, trade, specialty, or interest group that exists. At minimum, you should be able to find at least one or two professional associations in your career field. These associations exist to provide their members with valuable services, such as legal support, lobbying, public-relation liaison, establishing and maintaining industry standards and ethics, as well as a forum for interaction and networking.
Becoming a member of a professional organization is a great way of staying up to date on what's going on in your industry and keeping abreast of the newest developments, including career trends and job opportunities. If you're not sure joining a professional organization is the way to go, join one and find out—you'll probably be surprised at the benefit it provides.
Exploring AssociationsBefore you can start networking through professional associations, you must identify which professional association(s) to join. One of the best resources for researching professional and interest based organizations is Associations Unlimited—a reference database and publication that contains profiles for over 450,000 domestic and international nonprofit organizations. This database is organized by professional field and also provides IRS data on on U.S. 501(c) nonprofit organizations.
While access to the database requires a paid subscription, it's worth the investment. It can also be accessed for free from many local libraries that offer digital reference materials. The Associations Unlimited publication offers information on 25,000 international associations, 22,000 U.S. based associations, and 110,000 regional, state and location associations, as well as 300,000 nonprofit organizations. Each association profile includes email address, websites, general contacting information, and links to more information on each association, including conventions, meetings, and conferences the association participates in.
Other resources for researching professional and trade associations include:
Getting Connected Using LinkedInThere aren't many venues that provide a better opportunity to connect with other likeminded industry professionals than professional associations. Members of professional associations include employees, managers and executives who work in the same field, for the same corporations and small businesses where you'll be looking for opportunity. In fact, many hiring managers—those directly responsible for making hiring decisions—also belong to professional associations. So now that you've identified a professional association and become a member, what next?
For starters, get on the mailing list. Joining the association's mailing list will make sure you're in the loop and know what's going on. You'll know what's happening in the industry and keep abreast of all association meetings, gatherings and industry conferences where you can directly network with and get to know other association members.
Now it's time to get serious about networking with other association members by using LinkedIn.
LinkedIn opens up a whole new realm of career networking opportunities for savvy job seekers and career minded professionals. While the same could not be said even two years ago, today's it's pretty safe to say that most—if not all—of the members of any traditional professional association also have a linkedin profile and belong to one or more industry related linkedin groups. Below you'll find my recipe for career networking success using linkedin.
- Step 1 - Create a Highly Relevant Profile Arguably the most important step to leveraging the power of Linkedin to establish a professional network is to create a highly relevant profile. A Linkedin profile is like a virtual resume. You can list your name, contact information, professional experience, educational acheivements and a professional summary online for public viewership. In order to take advantage of everything Linkedin has to offer it is very important you create a profile that is on topic with your industry, professional goals and your target audience. For example, if you're seeking career opportunities in event planning, your Linkedin profile—from your professional summary, to your experience, to your education—should scream that you're highly involved and knowledgeable about the event planning industry.
- Step 2 - Start Connecting With Others Linkedin allows members the ability to connect with other Linkedin members (which represent more than 60% of all professionals in the U.S). Just starting out I recommend that you identify just a few other Linkedin members (industry professionals, professors, friends, family, etc.) who you know will be willing to connect with you and be part of your Linkedin network. Connecting is easy. Just find their profile by searching on their name in Linkedin and then click the blue "connect" button found toward the top of their profile. Each Linkedin member you contact will be sent an invitation to join your personal Linkedin network. Establishing a small Linkedin network of 15 to 20 connections right off the bat lays the ground work for building a larger more targeted Linkedin network down the road—and the ability to reach out to other Linkedin members who you currently do not have a relationship with.
- Step 3 - Get Endorsements Now that you've established a small Linkedin network, it's time to start developing a Linkedin profile that tells a story and communicates that you're a credible candidate or professional. One of the best ways to do this is to gather endorsements. Linkedin allows members to endorse skills from others in their network. Gathering endorsments (e.g., entrepreneurship, financial management, investments, business development, marketing, etc.) from your network helps validate your skill set and will make it easier for you to connect with other Linkedin members within your industry. You can explore several strategies for garnering endorsments at http://www.circled.us/linkedin/endorsements.
- Step 4 - Get More Connections Now that you've built a small Linkedin network and received a few skill endorsements, it's time to go out get more connections. At the bottom of your profile, you'll find a list of all of Linkedin members in your current network. By clicking on any one of the members listed in your network you can view their professional profile and view a list of everyone in their Linkedin network. Now you can strategically invite Linkedin members within your network's network to join your network. Target individuals that have profiles similiar to yours and that are involved in your industry. Try and build your Linkedin network up to about 50 connections. Since you're contacting Linkedin members who already belong to the network of those members who make up your current network, chances are they'll connect to your network when they see that connection. (Note: Be careful with who you contact and how many people you invite to participate in your network. If you send out too many invitations, too fast, and not enough people accept your invitations your profile may be penalized by Linkedin. Take it slow and build your Linkedin network gradually and strategically.)
- Step 5 - Join Linkedin Professional Groups - Now that you've created a modest Linkedin network it's time to join some Linkedin professional groups. Linkedin has thousands of professional groups, with thousands of members. Joining relevant industry groups on Linkedin lays the ground work for future self promotion opportunities and helps you gain additional credibility you'll need to grow your network. Each Linkedin groups has a group moderator. To join a Linkedin group you must apply by clicking the "join" button associated with that group. Before you're accepted to a group, the group moderator must review your profile and allow you to join. This is one of the reasons that it's important to develop a "Highly Relevant Profile" (Step 1) that is on topic. If for example, you apply to a investment finance group but your profile is all about psychology, the group moderator may deny your application. As mentioned, joining relevant Linkedin professional groups helps you gain the level credibility you'll need to grow your personal network. Each time you're accepted to a group, that group's icon or avatar shows up prominently in the "Groups" section of your profile.
- Step 6 - Start Connecting With Professional Association Members - Now that you have a somewhat credible Linkedin profile, it's time to start reaching out and connecting with members of your professional association who are also Linkedin members. Most professional associations furnish memberships lists. Look up each individual on your association's membership and use Linkedin's search feature to see if they're a Linkedin member. Chances are that most of the members of your professional association will also belong to Linkedin. You can now start inviting each association member you find in Linkedin to connect with you and join your personal Linkedin network. As more and more members join your network, more and more connections will be made and it will become easier and easier to get other association members to connect with you and grow your network. Within a few months you should be able to grow your network to include many hundreds—if not thousands—of industry professionals.
- Step 7 - Join a Few More Linkedin Professional Groups - Each association member who joins your network is also going to belong to one or more Linkedin groups. Review all of the profiles for the members in your network and identify which groups are the most popular. Once you've identified one or two of the most popular Linkedin groups among association members make sure you get accepted to these groups. If you've created a highly relevant and on-target profile, and have built an impressive Linkedin network, getting accepted shouldn't be a problem.
- Step 8 - Get Involved - Everything you've accomplished so far has prepared you for this moment. You've created a stellar Linkedin profile. You've established a large and targeted professional network. And now you belong to the same industry Linkedin groups as the members of your professional association. It's time to introduce yourself and really let the world know who you are. So how exactly do you do this? Very easily. First, you participate in group discussions by asking controversial questions and making thoughtful insightful comments. Second, you "like" the discussions and comments made by other group members. And finally, you start group discussions that get noticed and other group members participate in and "like". Each time you participate in group discussion, "like" a discussion or start a new group discussion your name, avatar and comments will appear at the top of the group forum for everyone participating to see. If you belong to a professional group with 5,000 members, made up of employees, managers and executives for the same corporations and small businesses where you're looking for opportunity, everyone who's anyone in your industry will know who you are and what you're all about in a matter of a few months—whereby paving the way in gold to job interviews, job invitations and a myriad of possible career opportunities down the road. To learn more career networking through linkedin, just go to Google and perform a search on "Linkedin Networking Strategies" and take some time to review all the tips and strategies that can help you develop the perfect networking strategy to meet your job search goals.
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