Unless you’re new to the job search game, you’ve probably heard that saying that goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Okay so if that’s true and you need to know the right people, before you can get to know them, it stands to reason you have to identify who they are in the right place. So how do you do that?
You could just randomly start asking everybody you talk to if they know somebody that could help you get where you want to go. But that would be what’s called the buckshot approach. It’s not targeted at a specific audience, and it’s like putting a bunch of small pieces in a shotgun and firing to spread as wide a shot as you can. But boy does this approach have a lot of down side. You would be asking anyone from the guy who makes your sandwich at lunch or the woman you pay for gas to the guy you see hitch-hiking or the woman you meet buying mushrooms in the store. It’s a lot of effort for some very small chance that the person you ask is even remotely interested or able to help you out.
So what would be really helpful and much more productive is to get a bunch of people all in one place who either work in the field you are interested in already, or better yet, work in the companies you want to work with, and have inside information that they’d be willing to share. Inside information doesn’t mean that they will whisper in your ear and tell you all the dirt on their employer and how to grease the right wheels. Inside information could be what it’s like to work in that setting, some real insight into the daily responsibilities that go beyond what you’d see in a job description.
So what would you expect to pay to tap into this kind of experience? Years ago, you might spend $300 or so to go to some conference at a hotel. And while you were hoping to network and bump into the right people, it seldom worked out that way. The reason? Well your agenda didn’t mesh well with the agenda that those people came with. They were there to learn something new, meet their colleagues from other organizations, and in their spare time just have fun and socialize. They turned off the ‘work’ switch so to speak, and if you did corner them, they weren’t always appreciative of having it turned back on.
Fast forward to the present.What if I suggested you could walk into a room packed with people who were working in your field, or the field you want to break into. And of those people, a large majority were interested in sharing what their experiences are, how they got to where they are, what they like about their job, what it really takes to succeed and possibly, just possibly mind you, they could give you some insight into openings in their own companies? Would you be willing to pay for that? How much? How about….free.
While it sounds like I’m a used car salesman with something to gain by misleading or hoodwinking a gullible customer, would you feel I was more legitimate if I told you that I personally would be gaining nothing financially from what I will suggest to you? Because it’s true, I’m not on the payroll of any company other than where I work and it’s not with LinkedIn!
So here’s my pitch. Join LinkedIn and create a strong profile – it’s free. Sure you can pay to upgrade, but I’ve never paid them a cent, and you can do what I and many others are doing for free too. That alone won’t do what I’m suggesting however until you join some discussion groups. Discussion groups are made up of professionals around the globe, who are united by the theme of a group, it’s purpose; and the members of those groups can be diverse or work in the same line of work.
Over the weekend I was demonstrating this to a young woman who is near to completing her Personal Support Worker program. She had heard about LinkedIn but obviously wasn’t motivated to do anything about coming on board. And why? Couldn’t really see the benefit. I showed her however my own profile, and then the groups I’m part of. In my case, the groups bring me in contact with others working in my field or people I can help who could make use of my employment counselling advice. And I learn from others daily in addition to sharing my own knowledge.
So I clicked on ‘groups’ on the LinkedIn page, and typed in, “Personal Support Worker’. Up came a number of discussion groups. It was like being in that hotel I mentioned earlier and being escorted up to the floor and the specific room where all the PSW’s were hanging out. And like anytime you walk into a room, you can just mill around and listen and observe, or you can interject a thought or two and have a say. You can also meet others, and connect with them and through some conversation get some guidance or advice pertinent to your field.
And if that group isn’t working out, you leave. Finding the right group of people that fits your area of interest puts you in touch with who you need to know. And who you know is what it’s all about sometimes.