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Conquer LinkedIn. Get Your Dream Job. Own Your Future.
By Jeremy Schifeling
Foreword by Lindsey Pollak
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- Trade Paperback $19.95 $24.95 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 3, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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No one disputes that LinkedIn is the world’s biggest job market. So it’s about time that someone with the inside scoop explained how to make the most of it. Here, from two LinkedIn experts and former employees, is the definitive guide that demystifies the massive site and gives every reader—from the newly minted college graduate to the midlife career-changer—the most important strategies to win the modern job search game.
Clear, lively, and decidedly practical, Linked shows how to burnish your personal brand so recruiters come to you. Tap the power of the network effect and turn anyone into an invaluable referral. Think like employers and focus your profile to get noticed, get considered, and get hired. And game both the search algorithm and Applicant Tracking Systems used by nearly every employer in every economic sector.
The result: not just a great job, but the future of your dreams.
The Old Game—and the New
Understand the shifts to play the right game the right way
Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. —HOWARD THURMAN
The Job-Seeking Majority
The first and most important thing to know is this: Though seeking a new job can feel frustratingly isolating, you're not alone. Not by a long shot.
In fact, most people are in your seat. Studies show that more than seven in ten employees in the United States want a new job. Four in ten want to quit their current position. Job dissatisfaction is arguably at national-crisis levels—63 percent say their jobs significantly impact their mental health and have induced unhealthy behaviors, such as drinking or crying regularly.
It's even worse for the largest part of the workforce, millennials (often defined as people born between 1981 and 1996): Nearly three-fourths are disengaged at work. These workers, along with those of Gen Z coming up behind them, are more willing than previous generations to change jobs in pursuit of personal meaning and other nonmonetary factors. Estimates show that they will have at least twenty and as many as forty jobs, each with their own searches and transitions, in their lifetime. This is the new normal.
A huge slice of society wants something very different out of work.
There are many factors at play here, including globalization, automation, wage stagnation, and underemployment. Then there are shifting attitudes about what workers want out of their jobs and how they derive a sense of purpose and identity from what they do. (Millennials and Gen Zers, for instance, are society's most passionate advocates for change—and they don't want to separate what they do from what they believe in.) And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic sent a fundamental shock throughout the global economic system, changing both where and how we work in dramatic ways. But the end result is that a great many of us want something very different out of the thing that occupies more than a third of our waking lives.
So do us a favor, right now. Put down this book for ten seconds and take a deep belly breath. Exhale for as long as you're able. Ground yourself in the knowledge that you're not the only one struggling to make the most of your one wild and precious life. Try to visualize this huge community of fellow seekers. Breathe in the thought of being surrounded by immense possibility, and breathe out feelings of loneliness and unworthiness. You might think this is totally corny, but it's so worth it.
(*Rest of page left blank intentionally to ensure deep breathing and positive visualization. Do it!!!)
How Hiring Has Changed
Okay, now that you've (hopefully) reached a wiser place, you're ready to launch forward into unknowns with greater calm, confidence, and clarity. We'll soon explore how to stand out given the new rules of the job search. But first, let's immerse ourselves in the four main ways in which hiring dynamics have shifted since the Great Recession of the late 2000s and the global pandemic, both of which have only accelerated paradigm shifts that were already in progress. Perhaps some of these new realities are all too familiar to you.
New Reality #1: Technology and persistent economic trends give employers more power.
Digital tools (ahem, LinkedIn) allow recruiters to be more proactive. Companies have cut out many of the traditional hiring processes and can search for exactly who they need. Most inefficiencies have been erased.
The most in-demand employers—the places you really want to work—no longer waste time tabling at job fairs or sifting through uninvited resume piles. And, on average, you only get a six-second scan even when your resume does get a look.
Another cause of heightened employer power is underemployment, a nasty relic of an economy hit by the one-two punch of the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic just twelve years later. Underemployment typically afflicts college grads who find themselves in jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree. More than forty percent of new grads fit that bill, and the trend line isn't encouraging: About three-fourths of those new grads remain underemployed a decade later.
Wages in the United States have been mostly stagnant for decades and are now only increasing in the hospitality and retail sectors, specifically due to a dearth of workers. (Indeed, in recent years, the so-called "Great Resignation" has given workers a little extra breathing room in industries historically rampant with underemployment.) This all, in turn, drives the high levels of disengagement and dissatisfaction we mentioned earlier.
You (probably): "Umm, major buzzkill, guys! I know, it's rough out there. So what does all this mean and what can I do about it?"
Well, for starters, you need to accept that there are no silver platters in the job search, regardless of your career stage—whether you're in a top MBA program, super experienced, or just starting out. You may be thinking, "Yeah, that goes without saying." But it's actually a massive change over only the past fifteen or so years, so . . . it's worth saying it. The strategies we lay out in this book are centered on effectively responding to these changes. You may be highly educated and/or highly qualified on paper, but, sadly, the modern world of work is anything but a pure meritocracy.
So let's take the power back!
New Reality #2: In this brave new world, a personal brand isn't a mere nice-to-have, or something just for "influencers." It's a necessity. For everyone.
According to CareerBuilder and the Harris Poll, 20 percent of employers expect job candidates to have an online presence. While this number is steadily ticking up, the more significant statistic is this: Nearly half of employers (47 percent) report that they are less likely to bring in a candidate for interviews if they "can't find" the candidate online. They're simply seeking more information before making the interview decision, and two-thirds use search engines to do so.
And what are they looking for when researching potential interviewees? Half say, "A professional online persona," which includes confirmatory (or detractive) information about a candidate's fit for the job, as well as recommendations from clients and colleagues. Employers prefer a clear and coherent narrative for your academic and career pursuits, primarily on LinkedIn and then reinforced by other web hits (like on-brand things you've written elsewhere). They of course also want to ensure that you don't have any red flags online (so you might want to make that Instagram feed private, and shut down or rename that flamethrowing Twitter account). A Jobvite survey of 1,600 recruiters found that 93 percent of them look at a candidate's social profile.
Says DeAnn Sims, a social media consultant:"Whether it's intentional or not, not having a [strong] profile always feels like you have something to hide. Either you've specifically taken steps to make sure you can't be found, or you're using a childish byname—neither of which feels very professional."
Remember, recruiters and hiring managers often do plain old Google searches of applicants before the serious consideration process even starts. And what's the ideal first search result when they do so? You guessed it: your LinkedIn profile. (Not those random tweets, party pics, or blog posts about the best burrito in town.)
How do you build or enhance your brand to ensure that your professional profile rises to the top? And how do you search-engine-optimize yourself? In a nutshell, it entails:
- Weaving a good story
- Carving out your own niche
- Creating a custom LinkedIn URL
- Reaching profile completeness (but disavow yourself of the idea that there's such a thing as the "perfect profile," or even "All-Star," to use LinkedIn's terminology; there's only a perfect profile for a specific job)
- Utilizing strong keywords
- Showing not just telling (i.e., the original content that Google loves)
Let's hit pause right here to highlight the criticality of the first item: storytelling in the digital world.
Your task is to capture the limited attention of recruiters; you'll soon be learning and using sophisticated tactics to land at the top of their algorithm-dictated searches. But the very first thing to realize about recruiters is that they are humans. And like all humans, they're built to love stories. Our brains, since those cave-dwelling days around the fire, are wired to respond to compelling narratives. (In fact, stories trigger the release of the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is the foundation of human trust and empathy—and ultimately connection.)
Simply put, your story is your professional brand. So it's worth spending the time to make sure it's uniquely you. Of course, we're all works in progress. But recruiters and hiring managers are perpetually overwhelmed, so they need an easily discernible narrative onto which they can latch. A surefire way to not stand out is to expect the recruiter to connect the dots of your career.
The best narrative is one that checks their boxes while helping you stand out. This takes massaging, testing, and refinement, but when it comes to your unique professional brand—expressed mainly in places like LinkedIn and on your resume—it's all about condensing. Because a key tenet of job searching in a super-noisy world is this: Less is more. You cut through the noise only by being found, and someday even known, for a specific thing. Even if you think of yourself as a generalist (say, a Project Manager), perceived specialists are the ones who get traction in the job market. Perception is reality.
So ask yourself: What do you want to be known for, to be found for? What are you awesome at doing, now or perhaps sometime down the line? In other words, don't worry about trying to be great at everything (a pretty unrealistic goal to begin with—after all, there's only one LeBron James!). Instead, you want to pick a lane (like Steph Curry's three-point shooting prowess) and be great at that one thing. Or, more commonly, show up appearing to be great at it, and then just figure it out as you go!
And so, it's all narrative. There are excellent methods to create a stellar self-brand, but at the end of the day, nothing beats the power of a great story—one that makes sense, connects threads, feels focused, and plucks specific professional examples that bring that compelling narrative to life (and leaves out the stuff that doesn't).
Here's the hopeful part: No matter who you are—whether you're a dropout, a new grad, an MBA, a veteran transitioning into civilian life, or in your professional twilight with employment gaps—you have a story to share!
New Reality #3: Networking—and ultimately getting a referral—is your ticket to the most sought-after jobs in the world.
We've all heard it a million times: "It's not what you know, it's who you know."
Clarification: It's not who you know, it's who they know.
This is also known as network effect. Think about it. If you build a network of 500 LinkedIn connections, and each of those connections has 500 (or more) connections, you're now only one degree removed from millions of people. You can be the node of a network that spans geographies, industries, and companies. (500 connections, by the way, is the threshold at which LinkedIn's ridiculously smart data scientists have found that you're harnessing the power of network effect. It's why LinkedIn just shows your network as "500+" when you cross that specific milestone.) Owing to that sheer volume, these seriously useful "weak ties"—connections of connections—are how an estimated 80 percent of jobs are found.
This element of the modern job search is what's so exciting about LinkedIn. Never before in human history could one build an easily visible, quantifiable, highly searchable professional circle. We like to say that this makes LinkedIn The Great Opportunity Democratizer: It gives a leg up to anyone who's willing to put in the effort to build a network, using shared affiliations, interests, or connections as a wedge to get in the door. It matters less which school you went to, or if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. It does matter what you can do, and that you value relationships. That old, narrow path is giving way to greater access to opportunity, driven by the hunger of hirers to find the best people and of job seekers to break down barriers.
Gap's Global Head of Talent Acquisition, Meghan Kelly, wants to democratize opportunity:"We're always looking for more inclusive pathways for qualified talent."
Still, we work with many job seekers who have negative connotations—or at least hesitations—about networking. They think it's some combination of unnecessary, slimy, confusing, and/or complicated. If you harbor such sentiments, please, please, please let go of them by the time you . . . finish . . . reading . . . this . . . sentence. All better?
Not only is networking the real way most jobs are found and filled, but it's also a strategy that's available to everyone. And if you're not making the absolute most of it, you can be certain that someone else who wants the same job is. Someone who really knows the value of developing relationships—and knows that LinkedIn is the new business card.
Part of why the focus-on-your-resume-alone game isn't paying off the way it used to is that every job search is now network-based. It's what college career centers sometimes still call "off-campus." By that they simply mean you've got to navigate your own way by building your personal brand and connections. If you're still in school, that's even true for the rapidly disappearing "on-campus" opportunities where jobs arrive directly at a student's feet. Someone must get you in the door and validate you.
Old vs. New Processes
Have you been out of the job search game for a while? Well, there have been seismic shifts and the rules of the game have changed forever. And even if you're a career starter, it's helpful to know how these changes have cohered into a new reality for every job seeker.
Here are the top ten ways the reality of the job search has shifted over the past decade or so:
1 Submitting a resume
Getting found online
2 Trusting in a meritocracy
Trusting in the power of weak ties
3 Attending job fairs and info sessions
Being the needle in the (smaller) haystack
4 Submitting an application when it's super polished
Getting a warm lead and getting in right away
5 Tedious, inefficient networking (exchanging business cards after a forced conversation)
Purposeful, efficient connecting (saying "I'll find you on LinkedIn" and then paying for coffee)
6 Writing a thoughtful, custom cover letter
Writing a thoughtful, keyword-laden About section on LinkedIn
7 Expecting employers to pick out what's relevant
Purposefully connecting your professional dots
8 Shotgunning: quantity over quality
Focusing: quality over quantity
9 Learning the hard way what a job is really like
Identifying insiders in order to vet a job before you take it
10 Finger-crossing and wishful thinking
Constantly improving and having a growth mindset
And this people-first approach is most definitely true for each of the dozens of jobs you'll have throughout your career. So here's an essential, lifelong career mindset: Think of the job search as a process that hinges on your network, and figure out how to use that fact to your advantage at every professional transition point.
We, your trusty authors, came to this realization quite suddenly. As we both graduated from top-ten MBA programs about a decade ago, on-campus recruiting was robust and most of our classmates—roughly 80 percent—found internships and jobs using that old-school route. Heck, we did, too. We all thought, "Yeah, that's what we paid for!" But only a few years later, business schools started calling us up, knowing we had led the student and university team at LinkedIn, and explained that things were changing rapidly.
Here was their new reality as of the mid-2010s and continuing to this day: Even at top-tier programs, the ratio had been flipped upside down. As many as 80 percent of students were now finding jobs off-campus via networking (often within their alumni base), whereas only 20 percent were doing so through traditional on- campus recruiting. (We've verified this with our clients and in multiple presentations at the global conference for MBA career centers.) LinkedIn had become such a powerful sourcing and networking tool that even the world's best business students (at least, those without an optimized online presence and network) couldn't expect results in the traditional on-campus job search. So our business, The Job InSiders, was born, and helping job seekers get noticed and find leads that could turn into referrals was our goal.
Ah, the almighty referral. Referrals usually ensure your resume gets a look—even if it's only for an average of six seconds. They are the single biggest predictor of whether you get an interview. And shared connections that might ultimately lead to referrals help you both sit atop search results and pass through the filters on LinkedIn Recruiter that most every recruiter uses all day long.
A screenshot of candidate search results in the LinkedIn Recruiter product. How are you going to stand out?
Here's the rub: Although at least 70 percent of people get hired at companies where they have a personal connection, a whopping 51 percent of millennials (remember, the largest part of the workforce) are uncomfortable reaching out to connections for a referral. Tragically, 40 percent avoid this step altogether during their job search. To which we say: What's the point of having connections if you're unwilling to use—ahem, ask—them to help you?
Though referred candidates make up only 7 percent of total applicants, 40 percent of new hires are referrals. That's an amazing return on your relationship-building investment! (And it's also why companies throw lots of money at current employees to make referrals; they all know that referrals are the best source of talent.)
New Reality #4: Surprise, surprise—LinkedIn is the default tool for job hirers and job seekers.
With nearly a billion members (just under half of whom access it on a daily basis), 50 million corporate clients, tens of millions of jobs, and heavy engagement from nearly every recruiter in the world, LinkedIn has cornered the job-seeking-and-finding market, matching supply to demand at massive scale. It's why Microsoft and Salesforce got into a bonkers bidding war over the company (Microsoft won, at the hefty price tag of $26 billion).
Recruiters are all-in on LinkedIn. They pay a lot to be able to slice and dice information about passive and active job seekers in myriad ways. They're deeply invested in the site's Recruiter tool—to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars a year per user. In fact, LinkedIn takes in the lion's share of its revenue from this subscription-based product that recruiters spend their entire workdays using. So the company is constantly endeavoring to make the platform ever more valuable to this very specific audience: those looking to fill open roles.
The whole idea is quite ingenious, really. Give job seekers (and let's face it, we're all job seekers on some level) a place to network and post their professional details; then charge recruiters and hiring managers an arm and a leg to find and reach them.
Even so, the value outweighs the cost. Year after year, nearly every recruiter, at nearly every firm on the planet, utilizes LinkedIn as their primary tool. They know it works. So LinkedIn's business model works. (But we won't tell you about the company's gourmet food or pricey parties!)
You, again (probably): "Okay, but what does that mean for me?"
It means there's only one place that matters for the modern-day job seeker. Only one set of tools to learn. Only one site to build a network, to search for (and be alerted to) jobs, to explore career paths, and to build your brand.
It's more than just an online resume. It's a job board, a Rolodex (Google that word if you must!), a repository of professional content, and an advertisement for yourself, all rolled into one. And, just like for the recruiters, it works beautifully for the job seekers. Think of other competing sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, or Glassdoor as one-trick ponies: They might have lots of job listings but very few ways to help you win those jobs. Or they might be social networks that try and fail to move beyond purely social networks, or only focus on niche industries or types of talent.
Think of LinkedIn the way recruiters do: as your "resume-PLUS." It's your resume PLUS a human narrative that ties together your experiences, skills, and passions. Your resume PLUS additional details such as your professional blog, the causes you care about, your job experience (reflecting back), and your aspirations (looking forward).
So amidst the chaos of the new job search, there's this bit of good news: We at least know the single place where recruiters and hiring managers congregate. Getting to them would be infinitely harder if they were dispersed all over the internet, and fortunately this is not the case. Armed with that knowledge, you're going to learn how to take some of the power back to get into the job that you want, both now and as your career progresses. So how do we do that? By gaming both the recruiter and the algorithm on which they rely: the human and the machine.
The Best Coaches Rely on LinkedIn
Liz Cohen, Founder and Head Coach at Next Step Careers, is one of our favorite career coaches—sharp, savvy, seasoned, and sensitive. Here's why she finds LinkedIn so central to the success of the job seekers with whom she works. In Liz's words:
As a career coach, LinkedIn is a key tool that I help my clients leverage to advance their careers. Clearly, it offers an unparalleled number of job opportunities and features for exploring career paths, companies, and individuals. But most importantly, LinkedIn gives my clients the opportunity to turn strangers into friends—making job searching more human and effective.
I hear it every day: "Liz, job searching is about who you know, and I don't know anyone." For even the most accomplished job seeker, and especially for individuals struggling with impostor syndrome or the possibility of workplace discrimination, the barriers to entry can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. But LinkedIn allows my clients to strategically identify and reach out to people who work at the organizations they most want to join. It allows them to start a conversation based on shared experience, identity, or interest, instead of an already-established relationship. A message begets a phone call, which begets a referral, which turns into an interview, a job offer, and oftentimes a new, lifelong connection.
One client of mine, Janie, wanted to work at one of the most competitive, hard-to-break-into tech companies. She was inspired by their mission but feared that as a woman of color having spent her career in higher education, she wouldn't be given the time of day. With LinkedIn, she identified a fellow woman working on the team she wanted to join. Janie reached out to connect and share her story, and five weeks later she received an offer to join the company.
So even if job searching is about who you know, with LinkedIn, you can get to know just about anyone. Which means the possibilities are endless—if only you're willing to muster up the courage to try, and to say "Hello."
Playing the New Game
Some employers' haystacks are more like hay mountains. Hay Himalayas, even. Google, for example, gets 3 million applications each year for just 7,000 openings. It's expensive and inefficient to hire an army of recruiters to read every single resume. So, just as companies have been doing since the Industrial Revolution, they bring in machines to help out. In fact, the CEO of ZipRecruiter, Ian
“Of all the books that give job hunting advice, this is the most essential.”
—Jeffrey Selingo, New York Times bestselling author of There Is Life After College
“One of the best things you can do to secure a prosperous future is proactively manage your career. This book shows you how.”
—Farnoosh Torabi, financial author and host of the So Money podcast
“Finally! The ultimate guide to the LinkedIn-fueled job search. A must-read for any job seeker.”
—Manny Contomanolis, Director of Career Services, Harvard University
“Unparalleled insights on the job search and a down-to-earth approach that makes even the hardest of steps seem easy. Invaluable as recruiters now only use LinkedIn to connect to candidates."
—Jennifer Bridge, Sr. Director of MBA program, UC-Berkeley Haas
- On Sale
- May 3, 2022
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Workman Publishing Company