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LinkedIn: the must-do networking tool
published July 29, 2010

Christie (BA ’03), communications director at a fitness centre in Canada

York grads can get a lot of networking help

If you don’t have a profile on the social networking site LinkedIn yet, chances are your co-workers do. Today over 36 million people use the site – over one million in Canada – and with so many people nervously navigating the economic crisis, it is growing at a staggering one new user every second.

Like so many people these days, York grad Jason (surnames in this story have been withheld at the request of interviewees) was looking for work, cold-calling prospective employers. After many such calls, he got a break and landed an interview. But while he’d read all about the company on its Web site, Jason knew nothing about his interviewer. So he turned to LinkedIn.

One of the top social networking sites, LinkedIn.com is designed to help people like Jason build their professional networks and make important connections. “I threw my interviewer’s name into LinkedIn and it turned out that somebody I knew, knew somebody who knew him – a ‘third degree’ contact. And because of this connection his entire CV popped up in front of me,” recalls Jason, who graduated with a BA in international studies in 1998. What he uncovered next was like striking gold.

“My interviewer had posted one of the recent deals he had done with a particular company. This was perfect because I had just completed an internship at that same company,” says Jason. When he got to the interview, Jason could demonstrate his direct experience and establish a personal connection with his prospective employer by highlighting his internship. This won him a second interview and, eventually, the job.

While sites like Facebook and MySpace are great for staying in touch with friends old and new, LinkedIn is very much a professional tool – and it’s being used by York grads in a whole range of industries.

Christie (BA ’03) is the communications director at a fitness centre in Canada. “I use LinkedIn to blast out info about our newest corporate training programs to my connections and groups. This is a new endeavour for the studio, but we’re getting calls from people who we otherwise would not have reached,” she says.

Like Facebook, LinkedIn enables people with common interests to come together in professional forums called “groups” – there’s even a group for York grads. According to Christie, “The groups are the best part of LinkedIn. They allow you to connect with dozens of like minded people at once.” She also makes good use of the blog application, which allows her to feed to her network her daily blog on getting fit. LinkedIn’s groups are also home to private job and event postings, as well as polls and business-oriented discussions between members. “I’ve had great success using it to get answers to specific HR questions that I don’t have expertise in, especially if I’m looking for answers that are US or international specific,” says Corina (MBA ’98), a self employed human resources consultant.

But groups can do more than just connect you to colleagues in your industry. “It’s important to ensure that you have some breadth in your network – because otherwise you can get tunnel vision,” says James Allan, York’s director, alumni. “It’s always good to join a couple of groups that connect you to a broad range of people across a variety of industries, and alumni groups are great for that. After all, sometimes it’s an outside perpsective that can give you the greatest insight into a problem.”

One of the unique aspects of LinkedIn is the way in which your contacts can recommend your work. These references then become part of your profile. Corina says having recommendations “helps lend credibility to my work as a self employed consultant. I’ve even utilized the recommendations as part of testimonial marketing literature.” Corina has also been approached by recruiters, in part, she believes, due to the recommendations she’s received. LinkedIn also has an “Answers” section where you can post questions for all users to respond to, or lend your expertise to others’ questions.

LinkedIn is fast becoming an essential tool for people looking to find new professional connections and to build on the ones they have. With thousands of York grads on LinkedIn already, alumni have a built-in community just waiting for them to join in and get down to business.

originally published in YorkU magazine, May 2009