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How to Find High-Value Networking Contacts with Social Media

By Martin Yate, CPC

A Special Offer from Martin Yate

The focus of a winning job search is to engage in conversation as quickly and as often as you can with people who can hire you. Social media outlets including Facebook and LinkedIn have made finding and opening dialogue with these people much easier. The most valuable networking contacts for your job search are the people who:

  • Hold job titles one, two, and three levels above your own
  • Hold job titles similar to your own
  • Hold job titles that interact with yours
  • Work as corporate recruiters and headhunters

These are the people who are most likely to know of suitable job openings, and are the most likely to have the authority to hire you. This is common sense -- the challenge, of course, is how to find them.

The New Social Networking Attitude

You might be asking yourself, “Who wants to connect with someone like me?”

The answer is that professionals have always known that strong networks are crucial to any smart job search or career move. But before social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, no one had the time for extensive networking, and even if they did, they had no idea where to go for it. That has since changed.

“Most people now are professionally connected in some fashion, and increasingly through their social networks,” says Mike Squires, a senior technical recruiter at PayPal.

Connections aren’t just revealed through social media. Building professional connections that might otherwise have been impossible is now a very real possibility. Doing so takes the right attitude, though. Be bold, but not brazen. Strive for a goal you aim to reach via social networking. Whether that goal is to land a new job, or establish a relationship with a seasoned professional allowing for picking his or her brain, don’t get discouraged if you reach a dead-end. The beauty of this newly interconnected landscape is there are numerous other outlets to explore if one proves fruitless. That’s the attitude.

LinkedIn & Facebook Groups

The people who join LinkedIn have awoken to the fact that deep and relevant professional networks are not only desirable — for reasons that extend far beyond job search —but also are surprisingly easy to foster. One of LinkedIn’s strengths is its thousands of special interest groups that encourage you to communicate and connect with other professionals who share a common interest. On LinkedIn, you can join up to 50 different groups. Networkers on Facebook also have the invaluable asset of specialized group pages. Businesses and professional organizations host Facebook Like pages that allow the like-minded to congregate and share ideas and news.

Twitter also can be used similarly for connecting with professionals of similar drive and interest. Some groups engage in “tweets-ups,” conversations with a particular hash-tag

You get on board with this new way of networking by becoming a member of groups relevant to your profession, but don’t just sign up and troll for contacts. One of the best ways to utilize LinkedIn is to participate in the many discussion forums within the groups you join -- the people you want noticing you. Make time to follow these discussions. Participation in discussion forums gives you a way to advertise who you are and what you do without appearing to do so. With LI groups, anyone can start a discussion and join in.

Other ways to boost your social media presence include:

  • Make comments and “like” the posts of people who are high-value networking targets, then ask them to connect.
  • Start discussions of your own. The easiest way is to post a link to a professionally relevant article, blog or video. Then connect with the people who comment -- that they clicked on your link demonstrates a common interest.
  • Search the group’s membership list for high-value job titles, and request a connection based on a shared profession and group. You can’t connect to just anyone on LinkedIn. You need to share a group or a contact in common with your target if you wish to connect with her.

* You can also make high-value networking contacts by searching the LinkedIn database and keying in a job title and location. For example, an accountant living in Boston might use these search terms: “Manager Accounting Boston.”

The profiles that show up in your search — and there will be thousands —will include people holding this and similar titles, plus headhunters and recruiters who work in either this same location and/or area of professional expertise. Your next step is to check relevant profiles to see if you have mutual connections that can justify a connection request. Sometimes these profiles will contain an e-mail address. This makes contact even easier.

Shared membership in a group counts as an existing connection, and LinkedIn will tell you about group memberships you have in common. If you don’t have a group in common, you can simply join one of the groups in which your target “accounting manager” belongs. Remember to check the person’s “contact info,” listed under “education” at the top of the profile.

Cross-Reference Companies and Job Postings

When your research identifies companies of interest or you come across relevant job postings, you can also perform a LinkedIn database search. For example, you find a job for an accountant in Boston at Citibank and do a search using “Accounting Manager Boston Citibank.” You will likely find people with the exact title or one similar who worked with Citibank in Boston – or, at least have connections to someone who does.

These results will often give you direct contacts to potential hiring managers, or at worst the people who know the potential hiring managers. Make a connection request, and you are very close to getting into a conversation with someone who has the job opening and the authority to give you a job.

*  *  *

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Martin Yate, CPC, author of Knock 'em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, is a New York Times and international bestseller of job search and career management books. He is the author of 11 job search and career management books published throughout the English speaking world and in over 50 foreign language editions. Over thirty years in career management, including stints as an international technology headhunter, head of HR for a publicly traded company and Director of Training and Development for an international employment services organization.

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